When it comes to weight loss, there is a ton of advice out there. The problem is that most of it is terrible, outdated and scientifically disproven. Weight loss programs owned, funded, supported and marketed by huge food companies are purported to have the one and only solution to the growing obesity epidemic. The media splashes these claims everywhere, in enticing ways, and if you believe it, it could likely be getting in the way of your fat loss goals.
There are so many myths that need to be dispelled before we as a nation and a society can begin to realize what true health really entails:
- A Calorie Is A Calorie
The idea that as long as you burn more calories than you consume you will lose weight is simply DEAD WRONG. The lie is that losing weight is all about energy balance or calories in/calories out. Just eat less and exercise more is the mantra heard over and over again from the medical establishment, the diet industry and government agencies. You just need to practice moderation. I am sure you have noticed how well that has worked!
The truth is calories from different foods behave differently in your body. It is plainly obvious to most that 100 calories of broccoli are not equivalent to 200 calories of soda. This is more than a simple math problem.
When you eat, your food interacts with your biology, which is a complex adaptive system that instantly transforms every bite. Your hormones, brain chemistry and metabolism and all affected. Sugar calories cause fat storage and spike hunger. Protein and fat calories promote fat burning. The quality of the calories is the determinant.
High quality calories are found in whole, fresh, real foods. They are not found in processed shakes, bars and pre-packaged meals and snacks. They include good quality protein from grass-fed animal products (not factory farmed), organic eggs, chicken, small wild fish, nuts and seeds; good carbohydrates found in vibrantly colored vegetables; seasonal fruits like wild berries, apples and summer stone fruits and good, naturally occurring fats like avocado, extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds, coconut butter and omega-3 fats from wild caught, oily fish.
- It All Has To Do With Willpower
This is one of the most insidious myths around weight loss which comes along with the mantra of eat less and exercise more. The implicit message in this idea is that the real reason you are struggling to lose weight is that you are a lazy glutton. If you just stopped stuffing your face, got up off the couch and moved your body, you would lose weight. It is your moral failing, weak psychology, apathy or worse that prevents you from moderating your food intake and exercise. This is nonsense.
If you try to control your appetite with willpower, you will undoubtedly fail. Humans have short-term voluntary control and can starve for a while but then the body compensates by slowing metabolism and dramatically increasing appetite. Starvation is unsustainable. When your taste buds, brain chemistry, hormones and metabolism have been damaged by excessive consumption of ‘healthy’ processed, nutrient poor foods, willpower alone will not support your weight loss goals. If you are addicted to sugar and refined carbohydrates you need to retrain your entire system. You have to naturally reset your brain chemistry and hormones so your body will automatically self-regulate. This is when the cravings disappear and your hunger will be in balance. Your appetite will automatically regulate without willpower when the body is nourished and satisfied with whole, real, nutrient dense foods.
- It’s Your Genes
You may think your weight challenges are due to the fact that your parents and grandparents also struggle to lose weight. You clearly have the ‘fat gene.’ In reality there are 32 genes associated with obesity in the general population and they only account for nine percent of obesity cases. So even if you had all 32 obesity genes, you would put on only about 22 pounds.
Your genes evolve relatively slowly and only change about 2% every 20,000 years. It is projected that by 2030 over 50 percent of Americans will be obese (it is currently 35%). This is not due to genetic shifts.
Fat accumulation and the ability to lose weight are caused by many factors, but the least of them is your genetics.
- Fat Makes You Fat
Fat is not a 4-letter word! Eating fat is a critical component of health and weight loss. Studies comparing an identical calorie high fat diet to a high sugar diet had totally different effects on metabolism. The higher fat diet caused people to burn an extra 300 calories a day - the equivalent of running for an hour without doing any exercise. Fat speeds up your metabolism. Sugars and processed carbohydrates slow it down.
In studies of animals eating identical calorie diets of low fat (high sugar) or higher fat and protein show that the higher sugar diets lead to more fat deposition and muscle loss, while the higher fat and protein diets led to more muscle mass and fat loss.
The right fats are actually the preferred fuel for your cells, especially the medium chain triglycerides that come from foods like coconut butter. You do need to avoid man-made, highly processed fats like trans-fats, but good fats including extra virgin olive oil, coconut butter, avocado, nuts, seeds and nut butters keep you full and make sure your metabolism is humming. Do not fear fat – it is your weight loss ally.
- Hunger = Weight Loss
You do NOT have to starve to lose weight! When following a Paleo-type diet and eating real, whole food, hunger signals are normalized and you are left feeling satisfied for hours. There is no way even the most diligent of calorie counting can accurately determine your calorie intake. Following the calories in/calories out theory eating one extra mouthful of food a day, over 30 years will result in massive weight gain. You have to let your body naturally regulate itself by eating the right foods. Counting your way to health or weight loss is self-defeating.
When eating the right combination of proteins, healthy fats, unprocessed carbohydrates and phytonutrients, you can not only lose weight without starving, you can lose weight without craving all the junk that was making you fat!
- Milk Is A Health Food
Milk is nature’s perfect food only if you are a calf! For many people, dairy causes inflammation, allergies, congestion, postnasal drip, sinus problems, eczema, asthma, acne and irritable bowel. It also may increase the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis, increase the risk of type 1 and type 2 diabetes and causes certain kinds of cancers. Furthermore, it spikes insulin, causing you to deposit fat in your belly (or struggle to lose it).
There are many conflicting messages surrounding dairy consumption, but the bottom line is when it comes to weight loss, there is nothing perfect about milk!
- Low Fat And Whole Grain Foods Are Healthy
The low-fat craze of the last 40 years has paralleled the dramatic rise in obesity as well as the doubling of sugar consumption. When food companies took the fat out of the products it was replaced with sugar. Fat is a satiating nutrient that curbs your appetite and is not immediately converted to body fat (as certain diet myths would have you believe).
With the latest diet buzz phrase of ‘whole grain,’ food companies are able to add a miniscule amount of what may be considered a ‘whole grain’ and try to convince you of its health benefits. Grains are processed foods, no matter how ‘whole’ they are made to look. The offer little in terms of nutrient density and come packed with a host of potential problems.
A good basic rule for food is to avoid a product that has ANY health claim on the label. It will not be supportive of your health or weight loss efforts.
- Fast Weight Loss Is Unsuccessful Long Term
Slow and steady is what you are told will lead to long term success. No quick fixes like trying to lose more than a pound a week. Studies show the opposite . A jumpstart can lead to more weight loss over time. If you reboot your metabolism with a quick detox from sugar, processed food and junk, you will reset your hormones and your brain chemistry making it much easier to sustain the changes. The key is to use a healthy, sustainable strategy for weight loss that balances your hormones and brain chemistry and does not elicit a starvation response.
- Exercise Is the Key to Weight Loss
Exercise is really great for your health.
It can lower your risk of many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and some cancers. Working out on a regular basis can lower your risk of dying from many of these illnesses by a whopping 50%. Exercise is also incredibly good for your mental health, and it can help you manage stress and unwind.
If you think you can exercise your way to weight loss, you are probably in for a big disappointment. Do you treat yourself to a post workout sugar-laden smoothie, muffin, or other ‘healthy,’ Paleo friendly snack? Relying on exercise to lose weight without changing your diet is asking for failure. You can change your diet and lose weight, but if you exercise and keep your diet the same, you may gain some muscle, improve endurance, and be healthier overall, but you will most probably still be struggling to lose your weight.
Even if exercise is not an effective weight loss tool, it still has other benefits that are just as important (if not more). However, the simple fact is that you cannot exercise your way out of a bad diet.
Most weight loss myths ignore the power of eating real food that will nourish and support changes and learning to once again, listen to your body. It is time to put many of these myths to bed!