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Forgotten Calories Add Up Fast

A Special Feature from

Healthnotes Newswire (February 28, 2008)—A couple of M&Ms from the office candy bowl, a sample of cheese at the grocery store, a few bites of your kid’s unfinished mac and cheese. How many times have you grabbed a little here and there and not thought much about the impact on your weight? Most people consider these quick indulgences free calories or they simply choose to forget they ate them.

The body remembers what the mind forgets! In fact, those forgotten calories add up to about 245 calories. That may sound insignificant but consider this: We are eating an average of 200 more calories per day than just 10 years ago but exercise has remained the same. Without exercise those extra 200 calories per day become 20 pounds in a year! When thought of in that light, the obesity crisis isn’t such a mystery after all.

It’s incredibly hard to stay conscious of your calorie intake without keeping track. How do your finances look when you don’t pay attention or track your spending? The answer to that question is fairly clear and why would you expect any different from your weight management?

To stay in control of your weight, which includes losing and staying the same, you need to write down the calories in everything you eat and drink. It sounds simple, and it is, but it takes discipline to make it happen on a daily basis. Researchers call this behavior self-monitoring.

Call it what you’d like but know that it is critical for successful weight management. In fact, self-monitoring is the cornerstone of any behavior change program regardless of what you want to change. It brings awareness to current habits and awareness is the key to doing things differently.

Research proves that this habit works both for losing and keeping it off. The National Weight Control Registry, a database of successful weight “losers,” indicates that people who are maintaining their weight loss for the long haul are still journaling their calories long after they’ve reached their goal. It becomes a lifelong tool for weight management.

People resist this behavior change for a variety of reasons, like lack of time or because they think it’s too tedious. Some make a half-hearted attempt by “keeping track in my head.” These excuses, or barriers to change as many behavioral counselors call them, become roadblocks to success. Writing it down certainly isn’t rocket science, but those of you who have struggled to lose weight know that there is no magic solution. Writing down what you eat and tracking your calories is something you can start doing right now, it doesn’t cost you a dime and you’ll take control of your weight-loss effort.

To track accurately, you’ll need to know the calorie amount of the foods you’re eating. You can find this information on food labels, company websites and at

Tips for tracking accurately

• Write it after you bite it! Otherwise you will forget.

• Be specific (for example, “2 oz ham, 1 slice provolone, 1 tsp mayo, 2 slices whole-wheat bread,” NOT “ham sandwich”).

• Take your journal with you.

• Subtotal after each meal or snack. This prevents the “I ate that much!” surprise at the end of the day.

• Measure portions to be as accurate as possible (for example, measure out your cereal with the appropriate measuring cup).

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