3 Weight Loss Myths That Need to Go Away
Even though I didn’t get into nutrition because I wanted to help people lose weight, it was the number one reason clients would book appointments with me. Even today, I get messages almost constantly asking about calories, macros, cleanses, and other questions related to weight loss. There are a ton of really harmful myths out there, so I thought I would round up the worst of the worst and bust them all at once.
First, I want to say that I think weight loss is an exhausting goal that I think distracts a lot of really smart people from pursuing greater things in life. I know that there are medical situations where weight loss gets prescribed, but even in those situations… taking the focus off of weight loss and teaching nutrition science and strategies to apply it to real life works just as well as making weight loss the goal.
I also know and respect that some people choose careers which require them to maintain a certain physique. But if no one is shooting you for a magazine cover or paying you to maintain a dangerously low body fat percentage, you’ll have to divert resources (time, energy, mental attention) from other areas of your life. Everyone has to run their own cost/benefit analysis, I’m here to make sure your decisions are based on good information.
Okay, that said… let’s get some myth busting!
Myth #1: It’s All About “Calories In vs. Calories Out”
Okay, so this isn’t completely a myth… it’s basic physics.
The problem is that your biology can’t really be reduced down to basic physics. Your body isn’t a basic bank account where it’s just money in and money out based on a set salary and expenses. Your body is more like the stock market where values fluctuate and increase or decrease over time. If you know what you’re doing, you can invest in the right areas and have great results. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can end up crashing and stuck with massive debt to repay.
While it’s true that your body will store unused energy as fat, it’s not possible to accurately estimate how much energy an individual will use in a day. The only way to accurately determine this is to put them in a metabolic chamber for 24 hours and measure their breath and urine. We have calculations that can provide rough estimates, but they don’t take biochemical individuality into account… so basically, that number your calorie calculator recommended for you is sketchy at best. Your body knows way more about what it needs than an app on yoru phone does!
My approach to weight loss is to delete the calorie counting apps. Instead, fill your plate with as much fibre rich food as possible, because high fibre food burns more calories during digestion than low fibre food. Certain fibres, like resistant starch, also stay in the gut and lower the glycemic response of your next meal. This leads to less insulin needed to keep blood sugar levels healthy, and insulin is directly linked to fat storage.
Fibre also increases satiety, keeps your gut healthy, reduces your risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Instead of focusing on what you can cut back on, focus on what you can add in! I’ve found that simply adding 35-50g per day of fibre to someone’s diet typically results in weight loss (if their body wants to lose weight) as well as protecting long-term health.
Include some of these foods at every meal:
Beans and lentils
Nuts and seeds
If you eat like this, your body will find it’s happy weight without you needing to push it.
Myth #2: Weight Loss is Healthy
I’m not talking about cases where weight loss might improve cholesterol levels, blood pressure, or blood sugar control. I’m talking here about the “last 10 pounds” because the vast majority of clients who came to me for help losing weight only wanted to lose about 10-15 pounds.
First of all, research consistently shows that what women living in urban areas with middle-high socioeconomic status consider an “ideal body type” is typically of lower weight that is considered optimal for health.
Because of this, when we are talking about losing the “last” little bit of weight, we are usually talking about pushing the body to an unhealthy place for the sake of our self-esteem. I would always tell my clients the same thing: if your “last 10 pounds” aren’t coming off, it’s because there is nowhere for it to go. You already lost the last of it, and this is not up for grabs.
Weight loss is a huge stress and trauma for the body. Think about it from an evolutionary perspective… people lose weight because they’re sick or starving. It’s not necessarily a healthy decision to focus on weight loss, and by no means should you assume someone is healthy or unhealthy because of their size.
Common side effects of losing weight include:
Increased appetite and cravings
Sex hormone imbalances
At the end of the day, your “last 10 pounds” can come at the expense of your health.
Myth #3: Carbs Make You Gain Weight
This one is probably the most pervasive of all! It’s even perpetuated by a lot of health professionals. But it’s totally a myth, guys!
First of all, a single nutrient cannot control weight loss. Research consistently finds no difference between low carb and low-fat diets in terms of long-term weight loss. In fact, research in general finds diet ineffective for weight loss… which reaffirms my belief that most people can just eat more fibre and chill out more.
Beyond that, fat is still preferentially stored as fat. Yes, insulin plays a role… but at the end of the day, it’s not carbs that end up as body fat. While “fat doesn’t make you fat” still rings true in the context of a healthy diet, and fat should not be avoided, if there is an excess of energy available to be stored, fat is preferentially stored as fat.
If you cut carbs from your diet, you risk feeling tired and depressed since carbs provide energy and are an important component of serotonin production. If you have ever eaten a low carb diet, you have probably experienced this first hand.
Choose high-fibre carbohydrate-dense foods like:
Beans and lentils
Root veggies (sweet potato, beets, parsnips, etc.)
When you eat a balanced diet (that means carbs, fat, and protein) and your body is actually having all of it’s needs met, you will have fewer cravings. You have to trust that nature and thousands of years of evolution know a bit more than your favourite lifetsyle blogger.
First and foremost, you need to have bigger goals than weight loss. If you are measuring your self-worth by your ability to empty out fat stores on your body, you lose even if you win. There will come a time in your life when your body needs to gain weight, to support a pregnancy, to support hormonal needs, or to support your health on old age. When that time comes, what will you have to fall back on to measure your value?
Teaching nutrition is one small, fine line away from enabling eating disorders. I hope that the information I share does the former and never the latter. We are amazing, complex organisms that co-evolved with thousands of species of plants and animals on this Earth. The way that our environment can nourish us is deeply fascinating to me, and I hope it is to you!
There is so much more interesting science that how you can starve yourself more effectively, and that’s the stuff I want to talk about here.
Need more info? If you’ve believed any of these myths for years, it can be hard to let go! I’m happy to answer any of yoru questions or share more resources, just leave a comment below with your questions.