Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cognitive dissonance in estimating calorific intake.



This is rather a great video and there is a possibly epiphany inducing part just a few minutes in. He's talking about how the brain kind of just takes in little pieces of information, and fills in the gaps with what it EXPECTS to come up with the big picture. Often enough, what it comes up with isn't accurate or correct.

Relative to us people trying to manage our weight and see great results from training... very often people are certain that they're hitting a particular calorie target, but they're not actually logging / otherwise keeping track of their intake. Just like in the example in the video, it's a lot like flying blind. If you don't use the instruments available and trust in them even if your intuition is telling you other wise... you could soon find you're spiraling out of control.

Relative to calorie targets I had an interesting conversation a week or two back with some industry people.... and I won't drop names but there would few you may have heard of who are rightly quite well respected and influential. We were discussing the idea of INCREASING calorie targets for weight loss, rather than just slashing them lower and lower. It was one of those sort of "we agree that it is the right approach, but we disagree on WHY it works out like it does" conversations. I talk a lot about how if your calorie targets are too low, you don't have the resources available to get results from training, and your body just wants to store energy. The point the other (more experienced and better educated, if i am honest with you) guys made was that in their experience and also according to research, in such cases the problem is with dramatic under estimating / under reporting of calorie intake. So, we have a calorie target which is too low anyway, and we think we're hitting it but in actual fact we're still way over our required intake.

I'm humble enough to accept the possibility that from time to time I might give the wrong target to someone, but I was told there's really not much variance from one human being to the next... assuming their physical statistics (height, age, activity level and so on) are the same. Aka the mathematical formulas don't lie, and if you really test it under clinical standards you'll find without exception people's actual intake corresponds quite precisely with what you'd expect to maintain their body weight. Well... that's the expert opinion but in my observation and experience, I still think you can throw that off by restricting to dangerously low calorie intake, forcing your body to compensate.

Either way, I like to think that my approach of setting targets as MINIMUMS will address both of these possible issues. By being focussed on exceeding a minimum target, I feel we're more likely to report our intake accurately... "hmm I'm still below target, oh wait i just remembered that snack", that sort of thing.

Still, I want people planning ahead to ensure success rather than just tracking retrospectively to explain why they're not seeing progress. And if you're STILL not seeing progress... consider the possibility that your perception of how much you're really taking in might be a little skewed.