There’s so much data available on the internet it’s sometimes difficult to know what’s accurate and what’s not. A claim isn’t accurate just because it’s on the internet. Here are several weight-loss myths that are always bandied about, but aren’t true.
Eating at night makes you fat: While some research has associated late night intake with a higher BMI, it doesn’t matter what time of day you eat. As long as you eat only the total calories that you burn each day, you will not gain weight. Although eating earlier offers the opportunity to increase activity if you splurged. You may feel fuller if you eat late, and it can contribute to indigestion, but not weight gain.
As I stated in my GRADE diet, eating every 2-3 hours and not within 4 hours of bedtime is a helpful way to stay full, maintain a healthy glucose level, and not overeat.
If you exercise a lot you don’t need to watch what you eat: Exercising is integral to any well rounded weight loss program. But once you’re working hard keeping up a regular routine, it’s tempting to treat yourself as a reward. Unfortunately the amount of calories you burn from exercise is often modest when compared with the calories you can impact by just changing your diet. Thirty minutes of running, for example, burns around 320 calories—you could cancel that out with one frozen margarita or a bagel with cream cheese. It’s important to develop healthy habits that involve both nutrition and exercise.
Only a radical exercise program will help you lose weight: This is absolutely not true and the primary reason people never even start, “why try if it won’t help?” Anyone successful at maintaining long-lasting results will tell you it’s much more effective and sustainable to gradually build muscle and tolerance, and do those exercises you enjoy.That means being more physically active in your daily routine. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of physical activity – such as fast walking or cycling – every week, and those who are overweight are likely to need more than this to lose weight. But again, as I said in my GRADE diet- just move! Any amount is a good beginning. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. This can be achieved by eating less, moving more, or, best of all, a combination of both.
Healthier foods are more expensive: It may seem that healthier foods are more expensive than their unhealthier alternatives. However, if you try replacing ingredients with healthier alternatives, you’ll probably find your meals will work out costing less. For example, choosing cheaper cuts of meat and mixing it with cheaper alternatives such as beans, pulses and frozen vegetables will make it go further in casseroles or stir-frys. Sometimes making your own salad dressings rather then store bought can be healthier and a lot less expensive.
Skipping meals meals helps to lose weight: Crash diets are unlikely to result in long-term weight loss. In fact, in many studies they can lead to longer-term weight gain by increasing the potential to overeat. The main problem is that this type of diet is too hard to maintain. You may also be missing out on essential nutrients as crash diets can be limited in the variety of food consumed. Your body will be low on energy, and may cause you to crave high-fat and high-sugar foods. You’ll consequently be more likely to snack on high-fat and high-sugar foods, which could result in weight gain. There is a lot of talk about intermittent fasting as a means to losing weight. I’ll discuss this specifically in future posts.
Labels don’t lie: Be cautious. Foods labelled “low fat” only have to contain a specific amount of fat to legally use that label. If a food is labelled as “low-fat” or “reduced fat”, it should contain less fat than the full-fat version, but that doesn’t automatically make it a healthy choice. Check the label to see how much fat it contains. Some low-fat foods may also contain high levels of sugar. According to FDA guidelines, the caloric and fat content of a product can vary by up to 20% from what’s printed on its nutritional label. This means that, say, a 100-calorie snack pack could actually ring in at 120 calories—and if you’re counting calories based mostly on package foods, you could be way off by the end of the day. That doesn’t mean you should ignore the labels entirely. Research indicates that people who check out the back of packages lose more weigh.
Fat makes you fat: In trials lasting a year or more, high-fat diets consistently beat out low-fat diets for weight loss,” says Mark Hyman, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine and author of Eat Fat, Get Thin. “Fat, it turns out, cuts your appetite, boosts your calorie burning and prevents fat storage, while sugar and refined carbs do the opposite.” Cutting out sugar and refined carbs, eating mostly vegetables with some fruit, and then consuming fat (in the form of olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, coconut butter, and grass-fed or sustainably and organically raised animal foods) is “the fastest and most effective way to create sustained weight loss.
Carbohydrates make you gain weight: Eaten in the right quantities and as part of a balanced diet, carbohydrates will not, on their own (that is, without butter, creamy sauces, etc, added) lead to weight gain. As long as the carbs are kept low and protein intake is high, people lose weight. Eat whole grain and wholemeal carbohydrates such as brown rice and wholemeal bread, and potatoes with the skins on to increase your intake of fiber and don’t fry starchy foods when trying to lose weight.
The truth is, refined carbohydrates (like refined grains and sugar) are definitely linked to weight gain, but whole foods that are high in carbs are very healthy.
Stopping all snaking helps to lose weight: Snacking isn’t the problem when trying to lose weight- it’s the type of snack. Many people need a snack in between meals to maintain energy levels, especially if they have an active lifestyle. It’s a matter of choosing something like fruits or vegetables instead of potato chips, chocolate and other snacks that are high in sugar, salt and fat.
All calories are equal: The calorie is a measure of energy. All “calories” have the same energy content. However, this does NOT mean that all calorie sources have the same effects on your weight. Different foods go through different metabolic pathways and can have vastly different effects on hunger and the hormones that regulate body weight. For example, a protein calorie is not the same as a fat calorie or a carb calorie. Replacing carbs and fat with protein can boost metabolism, reduce appetite and cravings, while optimizing the function of some weight-regulating hormones. Also, calories from whole foods (like fruit) tend to be much more filling than calories from refined foods (like candy).
Losing weight is a linear process: This is not true. Some days and weeks you may lose, while during others you may gain a little bit. This is not a cause for concern. It is normal for body weight to fluctuate up and down by a few pounds. For example, you may be carrying more food in your digestive system or your body may be holding onto more water than usual. This is even more pronounced in women, as water weight can fluctuate quite a bit during the menstrual cycle. As long as the general trend is going downwards, no matter how much it fluctuates, you will still succeed over the long term.
Eating breakfast is necessary to lose weight: Studies show that breakfast skippers tend to weigh more than breakfast eaters. However, this is probably because people who eat breakfast are, on average, more likely to have other healthy lifestyle habits. This was recently tested in a controlled trial, the largest of its kind. This was a study of 309 men and women that compared recommendations to either eat or skip breakfast. They found no effect after a 4-month study period. It didn’t matter whether people ate or skipped breakfast, neither had an effect on weight.
Weight loss diets actually work: The weight loss industry wants you to believe that “diets” work. However, studies show that dieting almost never works in the long-term. 85% of people end up gaining the weight back within a year. Additionally, studies show that people who go on a diet are actually the ones most likely to gain weight in the future. In reality, dieting is a consistent predictor of future weight gain – not loss. The truth is that you probably shouldn’t approach weight loss with a dieting mindset. Instead, the goal should be to change your lifestyle and become a healthier, happier and fitter person. If you manage to increase your activity levels, eat healthier and sleep at least 7-9 hours a night, then you should lose weight as a natural side effect. Going on a diet and starving yourself probably won’t work in the long-term.
I don’t eat that much and I still gain weight: I hear this all the time in my practice. Most people underestimate how much they eat. In a 2007 study in which diners at an Italian restaurant were filmed on a hidden camera, 31% couldn’t remember afterward how much bread they ate, and 12% who were filmed eating bread said they hadn’t had any at all (how’s that for selective amnesia!) If you feel like you eat minimally, but don’t lose weight, give a food diary a try and compare your notes to what you recall eating after around a week. Seeing the reality on paper may help you put a stop to mindless munching.
People with obesity are unhealthy, thin people are healthy: It is true that obesity is associated with an increased risk of several chronic diseases. This includes type 2 diabetes, heart disease, increased risk of some cancers, and others. However, there are still plenty of people with obesity who are metabolically healthy, and plenty of thin people who have these same chronic diseases. It seems to matter where the fat builds up. If you have a lot of fat in the abdominal area, around the organs, then this type of fat is much more strongly associated with metabolic disease. The fat that builds up under the skin, the subcutaneous fat, is more of a cosmetic problem. But also remember that a normal BMI is 22-25. Many patients are adamant they’re “fat” when they are not. In this culture of “you can’t be too thin” and digitally altered representations of stars is seen everyday, check out what your weight should be to remain healthy and make that your goal.
Competition helps to keep you motivated: It might be helpful when encouraging each other to exercise, but it’s essential not to compare yourself to others. Our bodies are like a fingerprint; no two are remotely the same. Not only can trying to match someone else’s weight loss goals be way off from what is realistic for you, but it can be discouraging. The best guidepost for your goals is, logically enough, your own “best version” of yourself; working your way back into your own favorite pair of jeans makes infinitely more sense than worrying about your gym buddy’s progress.
Cheating on your diet is bad: On the contrary: By intentionally building a couple of so-called “cheats” into your weekly eating plan—high-quality sweets like a scoop of premium ice cream, cocktails with your girlfriends, a slice of your favorite pizza, or even bacon on your salad—you can enjoy your meals more and avoid feeling deprived, making you much more likely to stay on track long-term. Budget 200-300 calories for each indulgence, and you won’t derail the virtuous decisions you’ve been making the rest of the week.
Diet foods can help you lose weight: A lot of junk food is marketed as healthy. Examples include low-fat foods, fat-free foods, processed gluten-free foods and disguised high-sugar beverages like Vitamin Water. However, you really can NOT trust these foods. The labels and health claims are usually put there to deceive, not inform. Some junk food marketers are really immoral. They will lie to you to get you to buy super harmful, fattening junk food for you and your children. A good rule of thumb: If the packaging of a food tells you that it is healthy, then it’s probably bad for you.
Sweating out weight works: In an effort to cut weight fast, some people turn to steam rooms or saunas in an effort to “sweat it out.” While you may notice the number on the scale change, you’re only losing water weight. Your body can easily add that water weight back on after a salty meal or a glass of wine. Plus, raising your body temperature for an extended period of time can be dangerous; be sure to consult your doctor before stepping into a sauna or steam room.
Going gluten-free is the solution to weight loss: In reality, many commercial gluten-free items are higher in calories and carbs, and can lead to weight gain over time. Gluten-free foods are often lower in fiber, too, which leaves you feeling less satisfied and can lead to more overeating. Gluten free diets are medically necessary for anyone with celiac disease and can lead to weight loss if done properly, using whole, non-processed foods. They should not be used as a weight-loss strategy. Check with your provider to see if this medical diagnosis applies to you.
Food that tastes good is always bad for you: If you think that healthy foods taste bland and that highly processed, sugary and fatty foods taste good, then your taste buds may need a tune-up. Many people who believe healthy foods don’t taste good don’t know how to prepare them to enhance their natural flavor. Added sugars, artificial sweeteners and man-made fats can hijack your taste buds. Once you start eating more natural foods, your taste buds come to appreciate the subtle sweetness of berries and the tartness of cherries, cranberries and citrus. You’ll love the way garlic, onions, peppers (hot, mild and sweet), turmeric, ginger and nut- or seed-based oils (peanut, sesame, almond, flaxseed, pumpkin seed) enhance flavor. Learn how to get the most from these natural flavors when preparing meals, and you’ll give your taste buds the treat they deserve.
And last but not least –
Obesity is about willpower, not biology: It is completely false that weight gain/loss is all about willpower, or making a “choice” to do this or that. Obesity is a very complex disorder with dozens, if not hundreds of contributing factors. There are numerous genetic variables that have been shown to associate with obesity, and various medical conditions (hypothyroidism, PCOS, depression) that can increase the risk of weight gain. The body also has numerous hormones and biological pathways that are supposed to regulate body weight. These tend to be dysfunctional in people with obesity, making it much harder to lose weight and keep it off. There are even infants that are becoming obese these days. How can anyone blame that on personal responsibility or a lack of willpower? It is very clear that there are biological and behavioral factors at play. But using the resources presented in these posts can give you a workable, real path to a lighter, healthier you in the new year.