What Is under Reporting?

Tue, 10/23/2018 - 16:07 -- Jamie

What is under-reporting?


People unknowingly underestimate the number of calories that they are eating.

If someone is overeating calories without realising it, this can impact on their weight loss.

This can make people feel like they are working hard but not seeing the results from it. Some reasons/examples of why this is are as follows-



Amounts of food

Forgetting about food that you have eaten


People subconsciously do these things like adding oils etc to your food also adds more calories to you meal etc. As humans, all of us are inherently biased to believe that we eat less than we actually do and that we perform more exercise than we actually do.

This is about survival which is what the body knows about, our body doesn’t know that you want to lose weight to look good in a bikini or want to lose weight to feel fitter to play in the garden with the kids etc. The body tries to keep calories high and exercise low in order for it to survive.

Research shows that people underestimate how many calories that they report that they’ve had and they overestimate how much exercise that they’ve done.


What I think that I’m eating vs What I’m actually eating


If your maintenance calories are at 2,500 yet you are eating 2,000 calories then you are in a 500 calorie deficit.

What I actually eat may well be the 2,000 calories that I’ve mentioned but if I have added things like oils and sauces in my cooking then this adds more calories which you may have forgotten about.

Sauces and oils- Some olive oils for instance that you may have added to your salad but forgotten that you had done well this is extra calories which you’ve not accounted for or even if you add some mayonnaise on your salad well this is still calories that add up to more than you thought or had forgotten about.


Drinks- Some drinks can have lots of calories in them, some of them even have as much as a Mcdonald's Big Mac burger, yes would you believe it! So around 400-500 calories. For example, a medium(Grande) signature hot chocolate which comes with cream and sauce drizzle from Starbucks is around 431 calories.

Other drinks can contain quite a lot of calories too like fizzy drinks and even other drinks that you may consider as a healthier option. An example of this is orange juice, whilst you will get more nutrients out of orange juice than you would out of fizzy drinks well orange juice can contain the same amount of calories as fizzy drinks.


Amounts of food(portion control)- Unless you weigh/measure food out(food should be weighed when its raw by the way), then you could be putting more on your plate than you think that you are eating. This then leads to extra calories which you may not have thought that you were consuming.

We may think that a portion of rice is correct but we may be eating a portion that’s the recommended amount for 2 people. This can be easily done especially if you don’t weigh things out etc, an example is peanut butter what one spoon of peanut butter is for one may be different to what one spoon of peanut butter is for another as some people used heaped spoonfuls etc.


Forgotten foods- Most of us will not think that we are doing this but actually, we all do it.

For example- that biscuit that you snacked on whilst you was waiting for your tea to cook in the oven or that hot chocolate that you drank whilst you waited for your kids to brush their teeth.

This all means that we may actually think that we’re eating 2,000 calories yet we’re actually consuming 2,500 calories which could mean that if you are eating at maintenance calories every day instead of deficit calories then you are not in a calorie deficit which means that you are not going to lose weight, you will just maintain your weight. In this example above its 500 calories that haven’t been accounted for. What does this mean and what happens?

It means that we think that we’re sticking to our calories/diet and eating 2,000 calories but in fact, we are not. Them extra 500 calories is why you won’t be losing weight.

This makes people feel downhearted on their diet because if they’re thinking that for example, they are eating 1,300 calories a day yet realistically it could be closer to 2,000 calories then as long as we can start to understand all of this then we can help to get more accurate with our diet in order to lose weight.


Unknowingly non- adherent people don’t realise that they are not sticking to their plan. People will under-report in many incidents when they know that their calorie intake can be verified.

If when someone is recording their diet and they know that it can be verified through scientific methods they still tend to under report their calories. People aren’t trying to lie but it’s because they know that they can get caught out, this is because they honestly believe that that’s how many calories that they have consumed.

If you know that you are overeating then you should speak to your Personal Trainer or someone similar. No one will judge you or be angry or upset, the more information that you Personal Trainer has then the more that they can help you.

As well as under-reporting when eating more than you are saying/telling, well some people also under report knowingly as they may feel like they don’t want to let their Personal Trainer/Coach down or disappoint them and they may actually feel guilty about what they have been eating.

The more that you can speak to your coach though the more that they can help you.

Even in studies done people like dietitians/nutritionists who are professionals at these kind of things, have under-reported as well, these group of individuals in this study under-reported by 22o calories a day when they were writing down/reporting what they had eaten.

On other studies, some people have even under-reported by 2,000 calories.

Someone could be reporting that they have had 1,000 calories yet it could be 3,000 calories that they have consumed a day.

Studies have also shown that women tend to under report more than men do.

Obese people tend to under report more than non-obese people. For example, if we took a non-obese male and compared it to an obese female, the obese female on average will under-report far more than the lean male.

It is not that people are immoral, it’s just what tends to happen.


We don’t just under report with food but we over report when it comes to exercise too. A study that was conducted with people has shown that people thought that they had burnt 1,022 calories had in fact burnt 771 calories. This is why we must also be careful when we look at things such as exercise fitness trackers like tracker watches etc as they aren’t 100% accurate.

We all do it but it tends to be higher in individuals who are overweight and say that they struggle to lose weight. It’s not because of a slow metabolism or anything medical like they may say or think, it’s just because they simply tend to overestimate how much that they do.

Under-reporting food intake and thinking that they’ve burned more calories than they actually had was the reason why these people in this study hadn’t lost weight.


When we are aware of under-reporting we can then start to make/have a plan of action for it. This is can be done by-

Recording foods with a diary such as by using the app myfitnesspal.

Take photos of your meals/food to check the accuracy of your recall.

Shoot lower on your calories so if you think that you need 2,000 calories to lose weight then maybe aim for 1,700 calories because in reality we all tend to over eat a little bit and under report. This method might actually get you bang on the 2,000 calories.