Official statistics reveal that back in the 1970s we were consuming more than 2,500 calories a day. By the 2000s that official figure had fallen to under 2,100 calories a day, and yet obesity levels have increased significantly.
The maths, clearly, wasn’t adding up. So it’s not surprising that earlier this week the Government’s Behavioural Insights Team released information about how the average British adult actually consumes 50% more calories than recommended daily allowance.
Their report, Counting Calories: How under-reporting can explain the apparent fall in calorie intake, revealed that calorie intake wasn’t being reported properly for a number of reasons including: “snacks being difficult to track, fewer people taking part in surveys and consumers desire to lose weight making them less likely to be honest about their eating habits.”
The report also dismissed a suggestion from the Food and Drinks Industry that higher rates of obesity were due to a lack of exercise. It stated: “Reductions in physical activity do not provide a realistic explanation for the change in weight… There needs to be a greater focus in reducing calorie consumption to reduce obesity.”
However, the report did lack a solution to identifying the reasons behind why people overeat and how these calories are misreported.
Vicky Robson, 33, from Berkshire has a good idea about how she gained weight. She says: “After being promoted at work, I ended up having to do a lot more travelling around the country. Before I knew it I had gotten in to the habit of grabbing a chocolate bar every time I stopped for petrol, and indulging in coffee and cake every time I went to a service station. I never thought about the extra calories and before I knew it I was over 18st. If I hadn’t had have had someone help me identify why I was overeating I’d never have realised where I was going wrong.”
Tanya Pryer, 49, from High Wycombe had a different experience: “As a child I found comfort in eating in bed. After I became a mother myself I found that I had reverted back to my childhood eating habits. After a hard day I would find myself eating alone in bed. If no one saw me, the calories didn’t count.”
Michael Hallsworth, co-author of the paper and director of health at the Behavioural Insights Team, said: “Counting Calories suggests that strategies to reduce obesity should focus on reducing calorie consumption. Our analysis shows that it’s unlikely that calorie intake has dramatically decreased in recent decades. Instead, it seems we are reporting our consumption less accurately. We should look at new ways of helping people report what they eat.”
We hope that as part of this strategy they will also looking in to the root cause of people’s emotional eating. Alcoholics don’t drink because they’re thirsty so why do people eat when they aren’t hungry?