Inaccurate Tracking Methods and Solutions

“I eat 1800 Calories”… but I’m not losing weight

It’s important to question how true a reported intake is because there is often a discrepancy between perceived/reported intake and ACTUAL intake. Research shows that even dietitians under-report their intake, with even greater inaccuracies in the general population. [1]

Why is this?

  1. Reporting and tracking methods are unreliable. Apps like MFP are full or inaccurate data entries. 

  2. People are not as good at tracking as they think they are. Properly, accurately and reliably tracking is a skill that takes time with practice and learning. Most folks don’t have the time and patience to learn it to the level required. 

  3. People aren’t honest with MFP and themselves. The little things you ‘didn’t think of’, or ‘forgot to enter’ add up resulting in your intake being far different to what you report. 

With the above in mind. It can be a big red flag for unknowing non-adherence when you hear “I eat (insert very low intake relative to requirements), and I’m not losing weight”.

Well, the reason why you’re not losing weight is that you’re not in a deficit. But it might be because you’re massively under-reporting your intake. 

So how can you improve the accuracy of your macro/Calorie tracking to reduce the risk of misreporting.

1. Weigh individual ingredients - It may seem neurotic and often it's not required, but in the game of minimising variables weighing foods as opposed to 'eye-balling' will be worthwhile. Doing so will also allow you to enter ingredients into your preferred tracking app under grams instead of 'a portion'. 'A chicken breast', 'a small apple', or a handful of nuts' are all examples of loose subjective terms that can carry much inaccuracy.

2. Reliability of data - As mentioned a massive pitfall of apps like My Fitness Pal is the accuracy of data. Searching for a particular food will often result in hundreds of versions all with different macros per a given amount. To combat this use the barcode where possible on packaged foods (but still check against the package), and use reliable entries of fresh produce and meats which brings me to point 2a.

2a. Use NUTTAB - When searching a food, search for (insert name of food) followed by 'NUTTAB'. NUTTAB is a government database containing reliable food data. If the food has been entered under the brand name NUTTAB, chances are it contains accurate data with the Calories, macros, and fibre being correct. However, it's a good idea to check and compare by searching for the particular food in the website yourself.

3. If the food you wish to track isn't in MFP, or you can't find a reliable entry. You can manually add foods to the MFP database yourself. Use NUTTAB to obtain reliable data and enter said foods under the brand name of 'NUTAB' so other users can use your entry in the future. Once a food is saved it's in your history, so you can easily re-enter it often with one click. This is really helpful for foods you eat on a regular basis.

4. Be aware that eating out will never be anything better than 'ballpark' - Eating out with friends plays a vital part in social health. This isn't to say eating out is 'bad', it's simply saying accurate tracking is difficult when you can't prepare and weigh all ingredients yourself. For a high-level goal where variables need to be tightly controlled and/or lack of result troubleshooting is required then moderating eating out for a period of time may be required for accuracy purposes.

5. Raw weight v cooked weight - One or the other isn't correct. What matters more is whether the data entry reflects either raw or cooked as well. When seeking best accuracy raw weight and tracking is best, as cooking method is a big variable that can change the content of a food. So where possible weigh raw, track using raw food entries, and then cook and serve.

If you would like more guidance on tracking your intake or would like to learn about our tracking and non tracking methods used with clients, head to this link to tell us more about yourself and your health and fitness goals.


[1] Energy intake and energy expenditure: a controlled study comparing dietitians and non-dietitians