Thursday, May 26

How many calories do you eat in a day? Six people share their diets



Britons are increasingly under-reporting their daily calorie consumption according to a new study. This not only hampers the efforts of health experts to cut rising obesity levels, but can also leave people wanting to lose weight bemused as to why they’re not making progress.

Researchers suggest that when people under-report the number of calories they consume in official surveys, it causes health experts to suggest increasing physical activity, rather than cutting calorie intakes. If calorie counts were correct, they say, the UK population would actually be losing weight.

Although increasing physical activity is central to human health, researchers suggest that obesity-reduction efforts must focus mainly on less consumption.

We asked six people to share how much they ate over 24 hours. A lack of awareness of the amount of calories contained in snacks, difficulty keeping track of how much they ate and the surprising regularity at which people ate were all common concerns of those who responded.

‘I forgot about the late-night peanut butter sandwich’ – Gemma, 52

What did you eat and drink over 24 hours?

Drink: three large espressos, two litres fizzy water throughout day, two cups of tea with splash milk.

Food: one large orange, 250g mushrooms sautéed in olive oil, two large tomatoes, carb-free noodles, 100g cheddar cheese, half a jar of pesto, handful blackberries, piece of celeriac bake (1/4 grated celeriac mixed with about 70ml cream, garlic and nutmeg, topped with 50g chopped nuts and about 25g hard white cheese), large green salad dressed with two tablespoons hummus, small bowl roasted nuts, two pieces vegan mint chocolate, one slice of bread with peanut butter.

Were you surprised by how much you ate?

I work hard to only drink that much coffee, and I do drink a lot of water. But I was surprised at how much food I’d eaten when it was all written down. I forgot about the late night peanut butter sandwich until I started writing. I try not to snack in the late evening but often fail.

I’m fairly active, I do 30 minutes of exercise a day on a rowing machine and walk about two miles every day. I was a very overweight child but lost most of it as a young adult when I stopped eating meat. I’ve been about 10lb overweight for most of my adult life, give or take, then when I gave up smoking about a decade ago I gained about four stone. I managed to shift it by cutting out all sugar and exercising more but it took years longer to shift than it did to gain. I am back to the size I am happy with, but I have to work at maintaining it.

‘I no longer crave sweets and bread and I have started eating offal’ – Siobhan, 37

What did you eat and drink over 24 hours?

Drink: 1.5 litres water, two large cups coffee, broth.

Food: one rasher of bacon, one fried egg yolk, one fried tomato, two tablespoons sauerkraut, 50g chicken liver pate, one tbsp coconut fat, one egg white mixed with linseed flour, hemp flour, chia seeds and 1/2 tablespoon baking powder and salt fried as a kind of bread patty, 30 grams of butter and some olive oil, one avocado, 30g olive oil, lemon juice, homemade stock, four brazil nuts and four almonds, 30g smoked salmon, 50g of chicken curry, spinach.

Were you surprised by how much you ate?

I had put on a lot in the last three to four years, but I used to be very slim. But I went low-carb a year ago and lost 15 kg. Now I have a low BMI. My weight dropped straight to what I weighed in my early 20s. My weight has been very stable for the last 10 months (60kg, 1.77m). I would like to gain a bit of weight but it is almost impossible on a very low-carb diet. I am cycling to increase muscle mass.

Sometimes I only eat two meals. I never feel tired or ravenously hungry during daytime as long as I am in ketosis. I can eat a large fatty breakfast and cycle 10 miles to work immediately after without feeling sick like I used to after eating muesli or sandwiches. Sometimes I eat nothing before cycling and feel just as energetic.

Last week I fell out of ketosis after being invited to a Chinese restaurant. It didn’t taste good and I felt dreadful for two days. Dry, fat-free meat and sickly sweet sauce with vegetables. Disgusting. Some people think my diet is restrictive. It’s not really, I’m just missing out on tasteless, dry stuff that hardly contains anything really useful.

My research into nutrition has changed my life. I am absolutely stunned by the results of changing my diet. It has had amazing health benefits – energy, sleep, mood stability, memory. It has been like turning the clock back 20 years. I no longer crave sweets and bread and I have started eating offal. The effects were so astonishing that I have started craving things like liver and veal brain. Never ever would I have even considered trying something like that a year ago. I still can’t believe I gave that a go.

I am finding it increasingly difficult to take any aspect of nutrition science seriously. It is full of over-simplifications and irresponsible advice. I am very shocked about what I have learned by digging a bit deeper than most people would. I cannot make up my mind whether current nutrition advice is driven by profits, stupidity or the mental inflexibility.

‘I wouldn’t usually eat so much popcorn but I went to the cinema’ – Ruby, 21

What did you eat and drink over 24 hours?

Drink: Lots of water throughout the day, few cups of tea (no sugar), glass of orange juice.

Food: Bowl of fruit and fibre and semi-skimmed milk with banana. Slice of malt loaf, banana, less than a quarter of a cheese and pickle sandwich , 10/12 chocolate buttons, mocha with skimmed milk. Three potato wedges, half a breaded cod fillet, carrots, broccoli, small half potato skin with cheese. Four to five handfuls of “skinny” popcorn.

Were you surprised by how much you ate?

I usually have somethings sweet with lunch but the chocolate buttons were because I don’t sleep well and it’s been getting worse. I remember professor Lupin making Harry Potter eat chocolate when he fainted so I had some when I thought I was going to pass out.

I’m not employed at the moment so I’ve not been out and about much. I’m going to the gym for an hour every day with at least 30 minutes intense cardio and about 15 minutes of weights and 10 minutes of lighter cardio to make up for the lack of moving around.

I try not to snack but almost always do. If lunch is bigger than the above, I try to keep some of it for later in the afternoon and snack on that. I still live at home and when I’m at home there’s always biscuits in the cupboard. I eat more when the Great British Bake Off is on because I love that show and always end up in a baking frenzy.

I do put weight on easily. My metabolism is pretty slow for a fairly active young woman. Whenever I put weight on it sits around my middle so it’s really obvious. If I put weight on, I find it quite hard to loose it healthily so I have to be careful. My partner is very tall and naturally slender and could eat the provisions of an army without putting on any fatty-weight. I try and cook as much as I can for my family and partner from scratch so I know what’s going in the food.

A bikini-based holiday is coming up soon so I’ve been trying to be careful because of that too. Being the small, round, white-as-snow potato next to a tanned, tall, athletic guy on the beach is not funny. That’s not a sum of my self-worth but rather to explain how annoying it is that he will eat ice cream all day and still look like he’s wandered off Mount Olympus.

‘At work there is always chocolate and sweets around’ – Sally, 37

What did you eat and drink over 24 hours?

Drink: I only drink water during the week – unless it’s a day I go out and have alcohol.

Food: Two boiled eggs, two heaped tablespoons of greek yogurt, handful of blueberries and one tablespoon chia seeds, one massive sausage in a bun with ketchup and mustard small piece of chicken, pork chop with green beans in oil and vinegar.

Were you surprised by how much you ate?

I don’t calorie count but know when I’m eating too much of something. Normally I have a salad containing leaves, three slices of parma ham and a chunk of cheese cut into pieces with a plum or peach. I only had the hot dog because I was out and about with work. I tend to have a snack of cheese or maybe four or six mini chorizos but I had a busy day at work and didn’t buy any.

At work there is always chocolate and sweets around so if I wasn’t being good I’d have had maybe three chewy sweets or a smallish piece of chocolate.

I tend to pay attention to what I eat and drink, although I was surprised how little it was. I have a day during the week where I drink and then at the weekends I’m more relaxed with what I eat and normally have alcohol on a Saturday – a fair amount and much more than recommended.

I want to get more toned which means losing fat, but as long as I feel good about my size I’m not worried too much about weight. Muscle weighs more than fat so that must be considered.

‘I feel better so now I don’t want to comfort eat my way through a tonne of chocolate’ – Sian, 38

What did you eat and drink over 24 hours?

Food: 50g muesli, 150ml semi-skimmed milk, chopped banana, two dessert spoons natural yoghurt, two slices seeded bread, slice of ham, tomato and cucumber, blueberries, chicken gratin with mushrooms and courgette, three new potatoes, green vegetables, berries, natural yoghurt.

Were you surprised by how much you ate?

I have a four-month-old baby plus an older child. I’m trying to lose the baby weight slowly and not comfort eat in response to feeling tired or frustrated with looking after a baby and a child with additional needs.

I want to lose at least 3kg and then 3kg more so I can fit into my ski gear. I have just started exercising regularly in the last five weeks and I feel better so now I don’t want to comfort eat my way through a tonne of chocolate.

I am trying to avoid eating between meals but if desperate due to sleep deprivation, I try to eat an oat cake or fruit. I know perfectly well what I put in my mouth but I was quite often ignoring these facts. We don’t drink fizzy drinks or consume fruit juice preferring to eat the actual fruit. We do make a lot of our food and try to minimise salt and sugar.

‘Sometimes I eat a cooked meal and am a bit horrified about how much oil or fat there is’ – Helen, 51

What did you eat and drink over 24 hours?

Drink: five cups of milky instant coffee, water.

Food: one piece of brown bread toast, low fat spread, one large bowl of tinned fruit – grapefruit, peaches, mandarin segments –, two medium-sized brown bread rolls with wafer thin ham, low-fat spread on one side of the roll, two medium apples, one plum, half a bag of mini cheddars, Tesco ready meal – hoi sin duck with noodles.

Were you surprised by how much you ate?

If I eat lunch in the canteen at work, I have no idea of the calories I’m consuming. Sometimes I eat a cooked meal and am a bit horrified about how much oil or fat there is, but I can only tell once it’s on my plate.

I need to lose weight, I haven’t weighed myself for a while but judging by the fact many of my clothes don’t fit any more, and having been to weight loss class in the past, I estimate I need to lose about three stone. I’m therefore making much more of an effort to eat less at the moment.

I know I don’t get enough exercise. I sit at a desk most days and I work long hours so often don’t even get to go for a walk at lunchtime. I did try putting half an hour in my diary every lunchtime to create time to go for a walk but it didn’t seem to make any difference, I still never got out at lunchtime.