Oils are as high in calories as fat is. They are both composed of triglycerides. But in small quantities they seem so innocuous. We have different mental models for oils than for fat. We also mentally segregate many things that have a high oil content into separate and different categories such as “Mayonnaise” or “dressing” or “I can’t believe it’s not butter” which have high oil contents. We’re taught that olive oil is “good for us” and so many people don’t much consider its caloric content even though it’s the same as fat.
Examples of the mental deception:
- StacyN and EthanN used to go out and order a really nice juicy salad each. They discovered that each had 2,000 calories! They had been buying the salads because their mental image was that it was lower in calories than Cheeseburger and fries. It wasn’t! Now they often share an entree (1/2 the cals per person) or order something they know is 1,200 cals instead of 2,000.
- Several very overweight people have told me they’ve done all they can and eat healthily. They are consuming too many calories and you can find out where and how by just asking them some details about what they eat and how much they eat.
A simple mental model works best: You need your minimum daily requirements. You can get these by taking a multi-vitamin, a few other supplements and eating healthy combinations and amounts of vegetables, grains, nuts, fruits and meat and reducing the amounts of flour, sugar, salt, butter, oils and other processed foods. I found a bottle of multi-vitamins at CVS for 5 cents each.
Quantifying oil, fat, butter and margarine intake is not easy unless you’ve prep’ed everything yourself but you can at least learn to estimate how much you are getting. That will tell you about a potetnially big to huge component of your calories.