Lets face it. Weight loss has become such a gimicky “catch phrase” in the media today that it is hard to know where to turn or who to follow. There is a new and better diet everyday, and each one will prove all the others wrong. Weight loss books are one of the fastest growing genres in print, and biggest money making businesses. That being said, most of what’s out there does NOT work.
Here I’ll lay out six common myths about weight loss and why they are misleading.
1. Calories in = Calories out
This is one of the biggest misconceptions in the health and nutrition world. While it is true that each calorie has the same energy content, each calorie is not created equal, and definitely not when it comes to weight. Your body metabolizes foods differently, and a calorie of carb is not equal to a calorie of protein. Foods have varying levels of “nutrient density” and the type of food ingested will affect hormone pathways. High fructose (sugar) consumption, for example, will lead to insulin resistance and diabetes, as it doesn’t turn off the hunger sensing hormone telling us we are full. Protein digestion, on the other hand, uses 30% of the calories in digestion of it alone, and leads to longer satiety.
2. Eat less, Move More
Weight loss experts have been studying this one extensively. Wouldn’t it make sense that if we just spend an hour in the gym that we would burn those extra calories and that those would add up and contribute to weight loss? The answer is no. Turns out the food you eat holds much more weight (no pun intended) on your metabolism that your daily workout. Don’t get me wrong as an athlete myself I am a big proponent of exercise for many reasons, but weight loss is not one of them. When I have had periods when I wasn’t exercising but was eating carefully, I did not gain weight.
3. Weight Loss Diets Work
How many of you have tried the Paleo Diet, the Keto Diet, The Low Fat Diet, the Vegan Diet? The other day I heard of someone doing the “freegan” diet — she would eat anything that was free! The weight loss industry has a lot of money backing it, and will do anything to market that information to you.
There are several things wrong with this “right diet” focus. First, it focuses on the nitty gritty of excluding certain foods, often at the expense of those beneficial nutrients. For instance, the grain and dairy free paleo diet has been critiqued for lacking calcium, as much of the calcium in our diets will come from those sources. Unless you are amazingly intentional about calculating your daily calcium intake, you are likely falling short from being so exclusive. Eating a whole food, primarily plant based diet free of refined and processed food “products” is a good general guideline to clean up the bad and keep the good.
4. Fat Makes you Fat
Fat has long been blamed for our obesity epidemic. In fact, have you ever realized how hard it is to find full fat low sugar yogurt in the grocery store? In fact, since the food industry started demonizing fat, people have started eating more processed, refined and high sugar foods and our society has become sicker. Our bodies need good healthy fats to thrive and some would even call them superfoods! Dark chocolate, nuts, coconut oil and chia seeds are some healthy fats you could introduce now and maybe even use to replace the low fat high sugar counterparts.
One of the main problems with these propositions — the calorie in equals calorie out, fad diet, just eat less and move more, and fat makes you fat approach is that it ignores most of the other issues that lead to increased weight. It ignores the behavioral aspects of mindless eating, the “food on the go” mentality, and the eating to live approach.
Weight balance is much more complex than that and is often related to emotional issues and even childhood trauma that was out of our control. Its often when we are not trying so hard to lose weight and when we are focusing on what the Institute of Integrative Nutrition calls the “primary foods” — what’s not on the plate, we lose weight, are happier and create sustainable habits.
There will be a post on intermittent fasting for weight loss and other benefits, keep a look out!