why listing exercise on food labels is a bad idea

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The reason why I discourage my clients from inputting their exercise into apps like MyFitness Pal, or estimate the amount of calories they burn, is because it’s inaccurate. People overestimate the amount of calories they burn doing exercise, and underestimate the amount of calories they eat. This is one reason why it’s difficult to lose weight, is the perception that they are hardly eating any calories, while burning a ton of calories. I don’t like the idea of listing on a food label, how long it would take to burn off those calories, such as running 22 minutes to cancel out a 229 calorie milk chocolate bar (1), because it may not be true.

While it might take some people about 22 minutes of running to burn off 229 calories, it may take other people, who are smaller or more fit, an hour or more to burn the same amount of calories. How hard, or how long that run is, if the run is on sand or on asphalt, if the run is uphill or on a flat road, all those variables affect how many calories will be burned off.

While there is a “…push to include food labeling that describes the amount of exercise needed to burn off calories consumed…” and 14 studies “…found that people make healthier choices and ate less when confronted with exercise equivalents,” (1) if this strategy is adopted, my hope is that the number of calories expended will be a range, such as “30-90 minutes,” in addition, my desire is that it would also include the intensity of the exercise, such as “walking at a fast pace with heart rate around 130 PBM.” With this additional information on food labels and menus, people may be more likely to eat less, make healthier food choices, and exercise more, while losing excess bodyfat…one can dream!

  1. Source: “Listing Calories as Exercise Amounts Can Influence Food Choice.” The San Diego Union-Tribune, Health day News. Jan 14, 2020. Pg 1. Print.

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