Your diet is important for a number of reasons that go beyond weight loss. For example, there’s some evidence that reducing the amount of saturated and trans fats you eat can reduce the risk of heart disease. Eating more fiber, which can come from fruits, vegetables, and grains, can boost your heart and digestive health.
Of course, nutrition is important for weight loss and muscle gain. The simple theory is that, to lose weight, you simply need to burn more calories than you eat. If only it were that simple. Research shows time and again that losing weight and keeping it off is challenging. There’s a seemingly small but significant problem that researchers frequently encounter that could be derailing your progress: awareness.
The most hardcore and reliable studies involve taking a group of test subjects and placing them in a room for days on end. Researchers bring them food, which has been carefully weighed and measured. They can do things like reduce the number of calories they feed subjects, give them high or low-carb diets, or give them plant-based foods only.
These studies are highly reliable due to the simple fact that researchers can control exactly what the subjects eat. The big problem with these studies is that nobody wants to live in an isolated room for days on end just to help scientists figure out whether or not carbs make you fat.
Most nutrition studies are conducted in the real world for this reason. Subjects will be given a specific meal plan to follow, or are even provided premade meals. Other studies look at self-reporting of food intake. That means the researchers have to trust what their test subjects say.
As it turns out, people are incredibly bad at reporting their food intake. It’s not uncommon for a subject to misreport their calorie intake by 30 to 50 percent. That’s not surprising, since reporting your food can be tricky.
It’s hard to figure out how much food you’re having at each meal. Next time you eat, try to estimate the number of grams of chicken breast you’re eating, or how many cups of pasta you have.
However, it’s important to be aware of what you eat and how much. Without changing your diet habits, try to log your food intake for a couple of days. You can write it down or use an app like MyFitnessPal. If you’re interested in changing your diet, it can help to simply be aware of what you eat.
Many people sit down to eat and are surrounded by distractions, which makes it hard to think about their diet. Ask your friends or colleagues what they ate for dinner the past few nights. You might be surprised to find that most people are simply unaware of what they’re eating.