A lady walked into my office. Let’s call her Joanne. Joanne had been dieting off and on for her entire adult life but nothing was working. She had religiously counted calories, exercised every day and deprived herself of cake on her own birthday for years. What was happening to Joanne? Well, she was following a whole bunch of weight loss myths without even realizing it!
Doesn’t it seem like everywhere you look there is a magazine or celebrity promoting some new weight loss miracle?
“10 Foods to Melt Away That Belly”
“What I Ate for 2 Months to Lose All My Baby Weight!”
I’m sure you’ve seen these claims to weight loss at the supermarket, on TV or even on those targeted Facebook ads. (Ever noticed that if you look up “belly fat” on the Internet, suddenly every second ad on Facebook is for a miracle belly fat program?)
Weight loss myths arise because we just don’t know the science behind how to properly and sustainably lose weight…until now.
A Little Backstory
Weight problems weren’t really an issue with too many people prior to the 20thcentury. If people were a bit plumper than others before this time, it usually signified wealth. Makes sense, right? Wealthier people could afford more food, and you’ll notice that paintings of kings and other rich people depict chubbier people than the peasants around them.
In the 1950s or so, this new food called ‘sugar’ was introduced to our food, AND the concept of food preservation and packaged foods came to be. This also meant more chemicals and salt were added to foods so that people could eat meals in less time. It’s all about saving time and getting more done, right? (Oh, how I wish this weren’t the case…)
Anyway, with the introduction of sugar, more salt and packaged foods came an increase in obesity. And, if you look at statistics comparing the increase in sugar use with the rise in obesity, you’ll see they are very statistically significant!
So, as people ate more sugar, they got fatter.
To ensure that the sugar industry, which was doing very well financially, did not lose out, ‘experts’ began telling people that they were simply eating too many calories and probably not exercising enough.
Enter probably the most prominent of weight loss myths.
Myth #1 – Calories Cause Weight Gain
Of all the weight loss myths out there, this one is still very widely held by a lot of people. The idea that calories are the most important part of weight loss is a huge misconception. Not to mention a large cover-up for the sugar industry!
This idea is that if you eat more calories than your body needs, it’ll store those calories for later.
This isn’t untrue – if you do eat too many calories, you will probably gain weight. But where those calories come from is way more important than just the number of calories in a food.
In other words, think of eating more calories leading to weight gain as the ‘symptom’, not the ‘cause’. Which means there must be an underlying cause to this, right? You bet!
This most common of weight loss myths is designed to make you focus all your attention on calories. And, prompts you to keep eating those packaged, processed foods that are higher in sugars, sweeteners, chemicals and salt!
Because, think about it: if you’re counting calories and you have the option between a 100-calorie granola bar or a 100 calories worth of avocado, you’re probably going to choose the granola bar. The bar is bigger and feels more like a real snack, right?
I know that’s how I thought when I believed these weight loss myths! And like you, I just didn’t know any better.
Myth #2 – Exercise or Move More
Weight loss myths 1 and 2 go hand-in-hand, really. It’s kind of the same idea.
When you expend more energy through exercise or active living, your body will be less likely to hold onto extra calories.
And, don’t get me wrong, exercise is very important. AND it definitely needs to be a part of a healthy weight management system. However, too many people use this premise to work out too often, too hard, too fast, etc., which can actually backfire on them.
Plus, once again, you aren’t really getting at the root cause of the weight gain in the first place (more on this later, I promise!).
Myth #3 – All Calories are Created Equal
Ugh, this is one of my BIGGEST issues with the weight loss industry! Weight loss myths abound because THIS idea, that all calories are created equal and it doesn’t matter where you get them from, is one of the main contributing factors to weight gain!
First of all, the nutritional value of foods is more important than the calorie count. Many of the weight loss myths help feed (no pun intended) the idea that the calories you get from, say, an apple are the same as the calories you get from a processed, 100-calorie chocolate snack pack. Unfortunately, this is not true.
The apple provides fiber, vitamins and minerals, plus antioxidants and phytonutrients, that your body uses to keep itself healthy and alive. The snack pack spikes your blood sugar and causes inflammation and insulin resistance over time.
Second, some foods can increase your metabolism just by eating them. High quality protein has a higher thermic effect of food (TEF) and uses calories for its metabolization.
Third, different fats are metabolized in different ways. Medium chain triglycerides (or MCTs) are metabolized in the liver before hitting the bloodstream and thus aren’t stored or used the same as other fats. (This is one reason why coconut oil is so great for weight loss.)
Myth #4 – Buy a Magic Pill!
Okay, here’s the truth: Weight loss isn’t something that happens quickly. It takes time. It takes patience. You need to be motivated. It also takes effort.
One of the biggest weight loss myths out there is that you can simply buy an expensive supplement or magic pill and your body will start losing fat. Um, nope. It does not work this way!
You MUST change how you eat in order for weight loss to occur. People who fall for these magical cures usually end up eating more junk and creating an environment for disease.
When I was younger, I fell for this. I was struggling with changing my diet so I started taking Herbalife products. Because I figured this Herbalife stuff would magically reduce fat, I also ate more fast food because I subconsciously thought I could! Boy was I wrong!
There is NO magic pill for weight loss.
Weight Loss Myths Busted
Okay, now I’m sure you’re wondering what you CAN do to promote weight loss right? After I just busted all the popular weight loss ‘tricks’ out there!
Remember that most weight loss shakes, supplements, so-called healthy foods (i.e. low-fat yogurt, granola bars, etc.) and meal plans have considerable amounts of junk in them. Check the ingredients on any popular protein shake and you’ll probably find sweeteners, chemicals you can’t pronounce, questionable added flavors and more garbage. We call this “marketing gold”!
Another common marketing strategy is to stick words like “made with real fruit”, or “whole grains” or “high in fiber” on the front of a packaged food. Meanwhile, on the back, where the ingredients are listed in teeny tiny font, you’ll see all the garbage that you’re really going to get!
Emotional factors play a huge role in weight problems too. How many times have you turned to ice cream or pasta when you’re sad, lonely or stressed? How many times have you drowned your sorrows in a bottle of wine? (Hey, I’ve been there, too, so there is no need to feel ashamed about this!)
We just need to learn how to manage our weight in a healthy manner. That may mean involving a psychologist or therapist in your program to help you overcome overeating issues. I eat when I procrastinate, which happens a lot! I’m totally an emotional eater.
How to Successfully Lose Weight
Now the good stuff!
Weight loss will happen when your hormones are balanced. Many of the weight loss myths I mentioned above actually create bad hormonal imbalances in your body. And when this happens, you are virtually at the whim of them. Cravings are strong, your willpower doesn’t work, and you are controlled by your out-of-whack hormones.
Not fun, but I bet you didn’t know this, right?
Neither did I until I started researching and studying this stuff.
Calories don’t really matter; it’s still best practice to eat a moderate amount and not overeat. However, too many women actually eat too few calories in their efforts to lose weight. And this won’t work. You need to eat at least as many calories as your basal metabolic rate, or your current weight (in pounds) with a 0 added to the end. So, if you’re 200 pounds, you need 2000 calories. This is a good start.
Exercise is important BUT if you’re stressed or chronically exhausted, it’s really easy for you to exercise too much. If this sounds like you, if your energy is in the toilet, dial it back for a few weeks and work on feeling more normal and energetic first. Walking is a very effective form of exercise if you fall into this category.
And calories are not created equal. Get at least 80% of your diet from real food – fruits, vegetables, good quality protein, legumes, whole grains, healthy fats, etc. These foods not only have calories but they have nutrients your body desperately needs! Plus, these foods will help to rebalance those hormones so your body is set for weight loss.
Weight loss is hard! There are lots of celebrities and popular fitness experts out there who claim to have the best and more effective weight loss programs. While they may have something, they generally aren’t designed for women with hormonal weight issues.
It doesn’t need to be expensive or exotic or difficult. All you need to do is focus on getting at least 80% of your diet from real, whole foods. To hopefully make this concept easier, eat healthy food every single meal of the week except for Friday and Saturday dinners, where you can enjoy your favorites. So, 2-3 meals per week can be ‘special’. This is doable, right?
Please stop falling for these weight loss myths. They’ll only set you up for failure and I don’t want that for you.