Societies are full of myths, urban legends, and folklore. From Pegasus, a mythical winged horse who served companion to Hercules, to Bigfoot, we have all been raised on stories and legends. But what do you do when you are trying to improve upon yourself by following advice that, unbeknownst to you, is based on myth?
Weight loss myths are a prime example of these lies. While they are often based on the scientific evidence available at the time, these myths persist even after the science has been proven to be antiquated.
Below are five weight loss myths that persist today despite the fact that theyare false.
1. All calories are equal
Not all calories are created equal. While a calorie refers to the amount of energy contained in a food item, the source of the calorie determines how it will be metabolized in the body. Calories consumed from an apple will be metabolized differently than calories consumed from a piece of chicken. They will each enter a different metabolic pathway and have a different impact on the hormone levels of the body. Therefore, the source of the calorie matters.
Calories that come from whole foods tend to have a more filling effect compared to calories that come from processed and refined foods. In other words, calories from fresh fruits and vegetables will make you feel fuller than calories that come from chips and candy. Not only are the processed and refined foods generally more calorically dense but you also tend to eat more of these less filling foods. In addition, calories from refined foods are more easily absorbed by the body than calories from whole foods.
A diet high in refined sugars and processed carbohydrates causes your body’s insulin levels to spike. As a result, lipase, the enzyme needed for the release of triglycerides from fat tissue, turns off. This causes more calories to be stored in the fat cells instead of being stored in the blood. When this happens, the brain sees too few calories in the blood stream which causes the brain to think that the body is hungry. In response, the brain activates hunger and craving sensors and slows down the body’s metabolism.
Understanding the physiological impact that a diet high in these foods can have on the body clearly demonstrates how all calories are not created equal and that it does matter where your calories come from.
2. Eating fat makes you gain weight
1 gram of fat contains 9 calories compared to 1 gram of protein which has 4 calories and 1 gram of carbohydrates which also has 4 calories. From this mathematical process, you’d be inclined to think that eating fat would make you gain weight since it contains more calories per gram when compared to the other macro nutrients. But this simply isn’t true.
When it comes to dietary fat, what matters most is the type of fat you’re eating. Newer research actually shows that healthy fats are beneficial and necessary for health. There are vitamins that can only be absorbed in the presence of fat and they’re known as fat-soluble vitamins. They are vitamins D, E, K, and A. If you do not have fat in your body, you cannot absorb these nutrients and your health will slowly fail over time. So fat is truthfully quite vital for life.
Not only is fat necessary to sustain your life but when food manufacturers create “low fat” products, they tend to replace the fat with sugar and refined grains. This is digested very quickly in the body which affects your blood sugar and insulin levels and ultimately leads to weight gain. Once you consider the impact that these supposedly healthier low-fat foods have on your body then you can see why you’re better off sticking to the full fat product.
Rather than eliminate fat completely, focus on eating healthier fats, limit consumption of less healthy fats, and avoid trans-fats entirely.
Healthier fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable oil, olive oil, canola oil, and sunflower oil. An easy way to identify unsaturated fat is to ask yourself if it’s liquid at room temperature. Fats that are liquid at room temperature are unsaturated. Unsaturated fats are also found in nuts, seeds, and fish.
Less Healthy Fats
Limit your intake of less healthy fats like saturated fats. Saturated fats are those fats that are solid at room temperature like those found in butter, cheese, ice cream, and the marbling of fat in your steak.
Transfats should be avoided all together. A vast majority of the transfats in the food supply are industrially created and not naturally occurring. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are a perfect example of this. Fortunately, much of it has been eliminated from the current food supply and FDA has even taken steps to remove artificial trans fats from the nation’s food supply.
3. To lose one pound of weight, you need to burn 3,500 calories
You’ve likely heard that one pound of body fat contains 3,500 calories. So logically, if you want to lose one pound of body fat, then you need to create a 3,500 calorie deficit.
As it turns out, many of today’s experts are now acknowledging that this just isn’t true. The number of calories needed to sustain one pound of body fat varies from individual to individual. The 3,500 calorie statement largely ignores the makeup of that one pound of body fat. Is it purely body fat or is there some muscle tissue involved? And although this rule generally works for individuals seeking weight loss in the short term, the 3,500 calorie rule tends to fall apart for those looking to lose weight over the long term.
Despite what you may have been told, or even taught, weight loss is not linear. If that were the case, then every time your super thin friend binged on that bag of Oreos, they’d gain pound after pound over the course of a year. But we know this simply isn’t true because we are all different from a metabolic and biochemical perspective. Given this knowledge, it is less than fair to assume that every single one of us requires 3,500 calories to sustain one pound of body fat.
4. Eating breakfast helps you lose weight
This is a false teaching based on scientific research which found that individuals who ate breakfast generally had healthier weights. But just because there is a link between two factors does not mean that one causes the other. Every night when you go to bed, the moon is in the sky but this doesn’t mean that you’re going to bed is causing the moon to rise.
The reason why eating breakfast may “cause” people to lose weight is simply because individuals who eat breakfast may generally practice healthier dietary habits. A majority of the research claiming that breakfast helps with weight loss and maintenance are observational studies that have not actually tested the claim. Instead, they have observed a link between individuals eating breakfast and maintaining healthier weights.
But the truth of the matter is that eating breakfast can actually cause you to consume excess calories. If you’re eating when you’re not hungry, just eating for the sake of eating, how is that helping you lose weight? Your body isn’t telling you you’re hungry, you’re just eating because you think you’re supposed to do it. From this perspective, you are doing more harm than good. But it’s important to note that skipping breakfast can also cause weight gain if you’re hungry and simply ignoring your body’s hunger cues. Doing this will result in a lunch and dinner binge or can cause mindless snacking all day.
5. If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t eat before you go to bed
Frankly speaking, it isn’t the time of day that matters when it comes to weight loss. What matters is what you’re eating. If you eat a cucumber before going to bed, do you really think you’ll gain weight? But if you eat a slice of cake before you go to bed, then your waistline may suffer.
Let’s recall myth 1 and what we learned about the impact that eating highly refined foods will have on our blood sugar and hormone levels. Because the type of calories we’re eating impacts how our body metabolizes and stores the nutrients, then we need to choose our pre-bedtime snacks accordingly. This doesn’t mean you can never eat cake again. You’ll just want to make adjustments to your diet and exercise throughout the day to accommodate that cake. At the very least, just understand the physiological implications of eating cake.