A RECENT report in
stated that only 9 percent of Americans can accurately estimate the number of calories they should eat per day, and only that same low percentage track their daily calories.
That means a whopping 91 percent of us are simply clueless regarding our calorie consumption.
According to the International Food Information Council Foundation, which surveyed 1,000 people for this report, the majority of the respondents thought calorie tracking was extremely difficult and some suggested it simply didn't matter much.
To the contrary, as any good personal trainer will tell you, to maintain a healthy weight, 80 percent is nutrition, 10 percent is genetics and 10 percent is exercise. Yup, there's just no substitute for poor nutrition, and when it comes to calories, they count.
For years, I have told everyone who would listen that calories (or put another way, portion control) matter for both your health and your waistline.
Of course, many people think I exaggerate the importance of caloric intake and foolishly believe that because they work out they can eat whatever they want. Of course, you can do that, but there are consequences.
The fact is, people who manage their calories lose twice as much weight as those who do not.
All the research seems to show that we are clearly losing the battle on adult and childhood obesity, and worse, creating a nation of sick adults and children who will be chronically ill, likely disabled, and have a lower quality of life and a lower life expectancy.
That's the bad news. The good news is we can turn the table on obesity with a low-tech solution like calorie counting combined with exercise. Only 21 percent of American men and 16 percent of women exercise regularly - four hours per week - according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
I think it's best to write down your exercise, food and calories in a daily diary. There's something about physically recording those facts that makes it more concrete than just typing it into a computer program. I think you become more conscious when you keep a handwritten diary, though some people swear by online or app versions.
Of course, do what you prefer. But keep a record.
Additionally, the other low-tech, but effective, thing you can do is weigh yourself daily. I guarantee this will keep you on your toes, and if you're honest with yourself, you'll begin to see results.
Not surprisingly, the survey also discovered that when deciding which foods and beverages to consume, most Americans ranked taste and price as their priorities, not quality and healthiness. Go figure.
They say patience is a virtue, and although this is true, nothing will test your patience like trying to maintain your weight-loss goals and a healthy lifestyle.
Like everyone else, I'm tempted to indulge in all sorts of forbidden foods at various birthday parties, graduation parties, anniversaries and holiday gatherings. For that reason, I generally bring my own little goody bag to these events, so I can stay on track.
Nevertheless, sometimes you just want a piece of carrot cake. So go ahead and have a small piece and then get back to your normal routine. A small indulgence every now and then is manageable.
Don't expect things to change overnight . . . it takes time. Just remember, small steps to big success. I encourage you to think progress, not perfection, and one day you'll be pleasantly surprised when you have reached your goal.
Be patient and never give up!
Kimberly Garrison is a certified personal trainer and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia (www.1on1ultimatefitness.com). Email her at