As registered dietitian nutritionists, we get a firsthand look at some of the lies clients tell themselves when it comes to rationalizing what they eat. Unfortunately, these little untruths can quickly sabotage a healthy diet. Could you also unknowingly be ruining your healthy eating plan by telling yourself these little white lies? Read on to learn the truth.
Food Lie #1: I need to snack frequently to keep my metabolism up.
You may have heard that you shouldn’t wait too long between meals to prevent your body from going into “starvation mode”—a time when your body conserves calories to prevent depleting its energy stores. Think back to the caveman days when humans wouldn’t eat for days; their bodies would become efficient at holding on to what they ate so they could survive until the next time they were able to have a successful hunt. The theory is that this may be happening on a smaller scale when you wait too long to eat.
So you try to prevent this scenario and overcompensate by making sure you eat something every few hours. The problem is, if you’re attempting to eat several mini-meals throughout the day, the calories add up. Even a couple of energy bars throughout the day can add an extra 500 calories, contributing to a body-fat gain of 1 pound per week! You may think that bar is keeping your metabolism revved up—but even if it is, the additional caloric burn won’t contribute 500 calories (or anything even close to that!) each day.
Solution: If there is more than four to five hours between your lunch and dinner, allow yourself one small fiber- and protein-filled, mid-afternoon snack—but no more. A hardboiled egg and a piece of fruit, for example, would be a great choice.
Food Lie #2: I can eat whatever I want because I just burned off a lot of calories during my workout.
Although the treadmill or the elliptical (or your spin teacher) may all tell you that you burned 800 calories, this is usually not true. Unless you weigh 200 pounds and run for an hour, you won’t burn close to that many calories. If you are eating without much restraint after a workout, this is likely having a negative effect on your waistline. For many people, not only do they rationalize that they can eat a lot of food after a workout, they also feel hungrier after working out and tell themselves it’s because they burned a lot of calories. Unfortunately, appetite after a workout tends to increase to a much greater degree than the amount of calories you actually burned.
Solution: Eat to fuel your workout and refuel, not to replace the calories you think you burned. If you notice that your hunger increases a lot after you exercise be sure to drink extra water and fill up on veggies to help to satisfy your appetite without consuming too many calories.
Food Lie #3: It was just a few bites.
Just because you didn’t order it and it wasn’t on your plate, doesn’t mean those bites of your significant other’s burger, fries or dessert won’t add up. Ditto for the small piece of cake in the break room. A few daily extra bites may seem forgettable, but they can easily set you back 100 calories (or more!) each day. Although that may not seem like much, over the year that will set you back ten pounds!
Solution: If you find yourself having those little bites here and there, cut them out completely for two weeks and track your weight. If you are like our clients, you’ll notice a difference on the scale.
Food Lie #4: The bag (carton, box, or whatever you just finished off) was almost empty.
Plow through an already opened bag of chips, box of cookies or carton of ice cream and it’s easy to believe there wasn’t much in there. If you don’t portion food out on a plate first so that you can see how much food you truly are eating, it’s easy to tell yourself you didn’t eat much.
Solution: Easy! Simply portion your food on a plate and eat from that—you won’t be able to trick yourself into thinking you ate less than you did!
Food Lie #5. You need that electrolyte drink.
Sure, that brightly colored, sweetened drink filled with electrolytes might seem necessary, but unless you’re exercising intensely for more than an hour (and most people aren’t) you really don’t need it. It just adds extra calories.
Solution: Stick to water, seltzer or another calorie-free fluid, unless you are exercising for more than an hour.
Food Lie #6. You ate it because it gives you extra nutrients.
Every food seems to be fortified these days. Even if it has extra calcium, additional B vitamins or added fiber, it’s still not reason enough to eat it. After all, cookies with added calcium are still cookies. Don’t justify eating the chips because the label claims they have added fiber.
Solution: Get your nutrients from your food. If you want a small indulgence, choose it because it’s an indulgence and not because it’s providing you with nutrients.