If your goal is to lose weight, dieting and exercising are useless if you don’t track your calories. Weight loss only comes from a negative energy balance. That means you have to burn more calories than you eat. It is that simple. The larger the deficit, the greater the weight loss.
So if you don’t know how many calories you are actually eating, how can you know if your hard work is actually going to pay off?
Eyeballing or estimating does not work. Most people dramatically underestimate how much they are actually eating.
I experienced this myself recently. I like to eat a little hommus with my veggies at dinner. I buy a low calorie, low fat hommus, and the serving size is two tablespoons. That’s 34 calories and only a gram of fat. Not bad at all and it fits within my macros for the day.
On Monday I opened the new package of hommus. Even though I know better, I thought, I’ll just eat a little bit, I don’t need to measure it out. I did this for three days. On Wednesday, the hommus was all gone. I said to my husband, “Wow, we ate a lot of hommus this week! I can’t believe we ate the whole package in just three days.” Imagine my surprise when he said he hadn’t had any. I had eaten the entire package, a whopping 10 servings, in just three days!
Let’s do the math on that. Even though this is a very low-cal hommus, 10 servings contains 340 calories and 10 grams of fat. Had I eaten the serving size of two tablespoons a day instead, it would have been just 102 calories and 3 grams of fat. That’s an added 238 calories and 7 grams of fat that I didn’t account for and hadn’t planned on eating.
Imagine if you did this at every meal, every day, for weeks, months or even years. It is easy to see how pounds begin to creep on. If you’re dieting and exercising and wondering why the scale won’t budge- it could be you are not being honest with yourself about how much you’re eating. Refer to the page on meal planning for more on this.
On a side note, if you, like me, are a lover of hommus, a word of caution. Authentic hommus is made from chick peas, lemon juice, and tahini (sesame seed paste.) A staple in the Mediterranean diet, it has now found its way into mainstream America.
The thing you have to be careful about with hommus is depending on how it is prepared, it can be relatively healthy, or very unhealthy. Some hommus is prepared with a heavy cream that adds loads of calories and saturated fat. If you go to a restaurant and the hommus is very thick and creamy, it has probably been prepared with cream. Don’t be afraid to ask your server.
The brand I buy is Oasis, I get it at Kroger. It has very few ingredients which fits our eat clean model, and is low in calories and fat.