Calorie-wise, that is. In a just-released study, researchers have found that EVERYONE – large, small, fat, thin – were pretty well accurate in estimating the number of calories in a standard meal, but consistently underestimated the number of calories in a large meal. Here’s a link to an abstract of the original paper . (It’s not in Medline yet.)
Interestingly, even though all sizes of people underestimated the number of calories in the larger meals, the thinner people chose the smaller meals and the heavier people the larger ones.
The authors concluded that their study did not support the commonly held wisdom that heavy people are less accurate at estimating calories than thin people.
What was TRULY interesting to me, however, was that the authors tested a strategy to improve calorie estimation among the heavier people. Deconstruction of the meal!
Obviously, if you have 1/2 c tomatoes, 3 oz chicken, 1/2 c acorn squash, and 3 cups of french fries, the calories in the meal are tomatoes + chicken + squash + fries + plus whatever fat + condiments. It’s not ‘this is a 9 inch plate and it’s half full of food and oh look there are two veggies, so I can deduct their calories and divide by 2.’
And, oddly enough, I’ve found myself doing this very thing over the past couple of years. And I’m sure you have as well.
The authors concluded that
BMI cannot be linked to an individual’s inability to estimate calories. Efforts to promote counting calories as a way to lose weight may therefore be misguided, and authorities should look for alternative methods that have a better chance of success.
We constantly talk about the need to re-educate ourselves about our portion size, about what we’re actually eating, and why. I’m encouraged about this study. It’s not possible to make lasting change without facts. And research is catching up to us!
As a final note, many of the study participants are in France. Heavy people in France? We in the US have been trained to believe that there ARE no heavy people in France. What happened here?