Eating Amnesia
Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Eating Amnesia

How good is your memory? Do you have "eating amnesia? " This is not a technical medical term, and I am sort of joking with the phrase. But it is something that I am always on the lookout for when I evaluate someone’s diet. I have had many clients in my years of individual consultations who have kept detailed records of what they are eating, counting calories, logging their exercise and weight, and can’t figure out why they aren’t losing weight. For example, they may come to me with a food log saying they ate 1400 calories and burned 300-400 calories in exercise, and yet they don’t seem to be losing weight. The math doesn’t add up: on paper it looks like they should be losing a pound a week (depending on the size of the person in question) at that rate! Usually the problem is eating amnesia.

Eating amnesia comes in two forms. One is eating something and forgetting that you ate it and not writing it in the log at all. Classic examples:

  • A handful of jelly beans (or other candy) out of the candy jar at work
  • Three French fries off of your child’s plate
  • A bite of hot fudge sundae from your spouse’s dish
  • You forget you had a piece of bread from the bread basket
  • You don't think the creamer in your coffee needs to be recorded

The other form of eating amnesia is forgetting how big the portion was when you go back later to log your food. Examples:

  • You estimate 1 tablespoon of mayo on your sub, but they really squirted on 4 tablespoons.
  • You write down a small cookie for 80 calories and it was really 250 calories
  • You think your bagel was 250 calories but it is really 340 calories
  • You estimate that you ate ½ cup of mashed potatoes but it was really 1 cup
  • You think you only used 1 tablespoon of oil to dip your bread, but it really soaked up 3 tablespoons

Eating amnesia is not conscious and can really be a cause of major frustration for a lot of people who are trying to lose weight. I am sort of joking when I call it amnesia, but it really is a serious problem.

Tips to combat eating amnesia:

  1. Measure your food so you know exactly how much you are getting
  2. Overestimate the portion size when in doubt
  3. Write down what you eat as you are eating it or immediately afterwards
  4. Eat only from your own plate and don’t “steal” food from other’s plates
  5. Go to restaurant websites and look up what you ate to get an accurate count
Photo courtesy of chewywong
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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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