One of the most challenging aspects of fat loss, for both the client and the coach, is handling the underreporting of food.
Underreporting isn’t always conscious. Sometimes it happens without us knowing that it’s happening.
Here’s a quick list (not exhaustive) of ways that underreporting can happen:
-Using an inaccurate option in a food tracker app (like MyFitnessPal, Lose It, etc.)
-Using eyeball measurements of food, drinks with calories or cooking oils
-Relying solely on measuring cups and spoons when a food scale would be more accurate
-Forgetting to log grazing and random bites, licks, and nibbles of food throughout the day
-Not having access to accurate calories from menus when dining out
-Weighing cooked meats the same way that raw meats would be weighed (cooked meat weighs less due to the loss of water during cooking, not necessarily a loss of calories).
-Not being cognizant of the fact that food labels can be incorrect
-Consciously not submitting foods due to embarrassment and/or feelings of guilt/shame over food choices
One of the best pieces of advice I can give to anyone is that, if fat loss is the goal, and you’re trying to track your calories as accurately as possible but you’re not seeing results, start with the question: Where could I be wrong?
Step back and look at places in your tracking and in your eating behaviors where things might not be on point.
Also, do your best to not judge food choices. Foods are not “good” or “bad”, they simply exist.
Yes, some food choices are more nutritious than others but we don’t always gravitate to those.
Sometimes, we just want to eat for hedonic pleasure and not for nutritional benefit.
I should also mention that you do NOT have to track calories to be successful with fat loss.
For many of my clients, we can look at some patterns of eating and determine what to improve on.
That might mean that a client who snacks three times a day on average can reduce down to one and see fat loss results.
It might mean that a client who consumes alcohol every evening can reduce the amount of alcohol or can reduce how many days they imbibe.
And yes, some clients legitimately need to spend time learning how to accurately weigh, measure and/or track food for a short period of time so they can be better aware of where they’re struggling.
While it’s never a demand that we have to be 100% accurate with our intake, denial of intake is a different matter altogether.
I will say, as much as it pains me to type it, that some coaches legitimately shame the food choices of their clients. I don’t understand it and I wish it didn’t happen but it does and this can influence the accuracy of tracking as well.
A point of consideration is that, if I were to look to my accountant to help me better manage my finances, they would need access to bank statements and credit card statements to understand what’s happening with my expenses.
Everything is clear-cut and in black and white.
However, with our food, it’s not clear-cut and it’s definitely not black and white.
That being said, if you have hired someone to coach you on your fat loss journey, ask yourself: How precise can I make my data so that my coach has every advantage in helping me?
If you identify with a history of food that includes an eating disorder, calorie tracking may do more harm than good. I wrote more about that HERE.
If you’re going to track your food, by any measure you deem appropriate, you owe it to yourself to be as accurate as you can.
Underreporting is normal and the more you can minimize the errors involved with it, the better your results can be.
I should also add in conclusion that whether or not you underreport says nothing about your worth as a person. Tracking food intake can be time consuming, cumbersome and genuinely sabotaging for some individuals.
If you get stuck, ask for help.
2 thoughts on “A Short Read On Underreporting”
I like the varied list for the causes of underreporting. The fact it doesn’t revolve singularly around calling the person a liar, makes the information very valuable to me as a trainer. Yes, the Ginny Sacrimoni’s of the world do exist-but they don’t explain everyone in every situation. Thanks for writing this-it was a big help.
Thanks for reading! I wanted to use as much care and tact as I could with this one. There are legitimately clients who are trying their damnedest to make the numbers add up and it’s not always clear why they don’t. I think as much as we can level the playing field and explain how normal underreporting can be, the better it is for both coach and client.