The internet is full of weight loss myths; everything from you should exercise to lose weight (caught you off guard there, didn’t I?) to juice cleanses will somehow rid your body of toxins. But there are some more pervasive and common weight loss myths that I think most of us still believe.
Here are my top three weight loss myths:
Weight loss myth #1: If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight.
The human body is a complex machine. Body weight is regulated by a plethora of hormonal cascades, which are affected by not only the quantity of food we eat, but the type of food as well. This weight loss myth also relies on the concept that the amount of calories we burn is independent of the calories we take in. And that’s just not true. So please, STOP counting calories.
What you should Do instead:
Focus on high-quality food like fresh or frozen vegetables, fruit, full-fat dairy, and whole grains. Avoid processed foods that contain flour and sugar. Rather than counting calories, your goal should be to stop eating when you are full, but not uncomfortably so. Your body has mechanisms to tell you when to stop, but they get out of whack when we eat a lot of processed food containing flour and sugar.
Weight loss myth #2: Eating low fat food is good for you.
There is very little science to support a low fat diet. There are three main areas where dietary fat has been labelled “bad”. First, dietary fat, and especially saturated fat, has long been taught to be a cause of heart disease. Yet decades of research have not found evidence to support this. Second, we have also been taught that dietary fat increases cholesterol levels. But 80% of the cholesterol in our blood is actually made by our bodies. It does not come from dietary fat! The last reason fat is thought to be “bad” is because it has more calories than protein or carbohydrates, the other two macronutrients. But here’s the thing: our bodies evolved to eat fat. They release hormonal signals that we’re full after eating fat. This is not true for eating flour and sugar, which are relatively new food sources on the evolutionary scale.
What you should do instead:
Eat plenty of saturated and unsaturated fat. Fat-containing foods such as olive oil, butter, coconut oil, and avocados will keep you feeling full longer. But this does not extend to trans-fats. Trans-fats are artificially created saturated fats, and unlike natural saturated fats such as lard, they do increase the risk of heart disease.
Weight loss myth #4: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
We’ve long been taught that eating breakfast increases your metabolism. Like the myth of the low-fat diet, there really isn’t much evidence to support this. The other big problem with breakfast is that most common breakfast foods in the U.S. are total junk disguised as healthy food. Cereal, muffins, instant oatmeal, and even yogurt all contain loads of sugar.
What you should do instead:
If you’re hungry first thing in the morning, choose unprocessed foods like eggs, regular oatmeal (not instant or quick oats, as these are processed into smaller particles that the body handles differently from a hormonal perspective), cheese, or bacon. A veggie omelette is a great start to the day. And if you’re not hungry, simply don’t eat. I promise you this will not slow down your metabolism or make you gain weight.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about my favorite weight loss myths. If you’d like to learn more about how our bodies respond to food from a hormonal perspective, I highly recommend the Intensive Dietary Management website by Dr. Jason Fung, a Canadian kidney specialist who treats obesity.
Disclaimer: This webpage is for general information only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical illness, or give any specific medical advice. Because medical knowlege is constantly evolving, I cannot guarantee the accuracy or timeliness of any information in this blog.