All we ever hear in the news these days is that Americans are getting heavier and heavier and that we have a huge obesity epidemic on our hands. However, according to a survey done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we are actually eating less.
Researchers found that adults’ daily intake decreased by 74 calories between 2003 and 2010, compared to the time from 1971 to 2003 when consumption rose by 314 calories per day.
Wouldn’t it then make sense that if we were eating less, we should be losing weight, not gaining? Many experts who have looked at the data claim that maybe more time is needed to see actual results from this calorie reduction. I think, however, that many factors need to be taken into considering when looking at this data to begin with:
1. Truth in reporting intake. “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” I have been in a private practice setting for many years and have come to the conclusion that not everyone is honest. Too many of my patients want to please me or get a good “grade” (which is crazy since I have am neither their parent nor their school teacher) and report only the healthy items they've eaten. Or some conveniently or maybe unconsciously don’t remember their poor choices at all.
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2. Accuracy in calories. Remember the Seinfeld episode when Jerry and Elaine couldn’t understand why they were gaining weight from eating nonfat frozen yogurt? Kramer took it to a lab and got it analyzed, only to find out they were eating more calories than told by the company. If you question the calories listed on packaged foods, you are probably right to do so. According to a 2011 study by Tufts University, 20 percent of foods tested at 42 restaurants actually had at least 100 more calories than what was listed on the menu. So maybe instead of eating 74 fewer calories, we are actually eating 74 more?
3. Laziness. We should never leave physical activity out of the equation. If indeed we are consuming less, is could also be possible that we are moving less. I truly believe as a nation our physical activity has declined greatly. In 2011 the CDC found that fewer than two in 10 Americans get the recommended levels of exercise. Today more people are also glued in front of their computers and televisions, the ability to shop online for food and clothing causes us to sit more instead of walking, and ordering in meals has become much more predominant so we don’t even need to get off the couch to eat dinner.
I do wish that I could believe that as a nation we are staring to eat less. But until we can honestly report what we eat, think more about the actual food on our plates instead of calories, and get off our comfy couch more, I am not too hopeful.