Weight loss has become a hot commodity. Businesses are making millions off it; scientists are constantly disproving each other; even celebrities are entering into the discussion. The result – a myriad of mistruths. From the confusing to the downright false, here are 5 common myths you can finally put to bed.
Myth 1: “Carbs make you put on weight”
Carbohydrates tend to get a bad rap. And consequently, many people think that dropping a dress size relies on a strict low-carb (or no-carb) mantra. In fact, carbohydrates don’t directly cause weight gain. The issues come to down to amount of calories you eat, whether that comes from fat, protein or alcohol. However, when it comes to carbs, it’s easy to overeat the refined types, such as white bread, white rice, and added sugar found in processed foods. If you stick to whole foods that are fibre-rich and slow-digesting – like wholegrains, legumes, fruit and vegetables – you receive essential nutrients for sustained energy to help you stay full and zap cravings without the excess baggage.
Myth 2: “You’ll get fat if you eat fat”
When you consume fat, it’s stored as body fat. That’s because fat is higher in energy (calories) than any other nutrient (protein, carbs, alcohol) and so it seems like a no-brainer that reducing the amount of fat you eat will reduce the amount of body fat you store. But it’s not quite that clear cut. Dietary fat is an essential part of a balanced diet and we need a certain amount of fat for many body processes. For example, it helps to move some vitamins around the body and also helps with making hormones. As with carbs, choosing the wrong types of fat can add a few notches to your belt. Saturated or trans fats found in higher amounts in processed goods and takeaway foods are easy to overeat. Alternatively, essential, healthy fats found in foods like avocado, nuts, oily fish and olive oil are less likely to be stored as body fat. So avoid going low-fat, just switch up your fats to the healthier varieties.
Myth 3: “You can eat your way to a fast metabolism”
Metabolism is the chemical process by which your body functions – from breathing to repairing cells to breaking down food for energy. While a ‘faster’ metabolism does correlate with a greater ability to convert food into fuel, it depends on several factors outside of your control, such as your size, gender, age and hereditary. While increasing your muscle mass will also ramp up your base metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn at rest), there is little to no proof that certain foods, like chillis, green tea or supplements speed things up – and if they do, they don’t work in the long-term.
Myth 4: “Skipping meals makes you skinny”
It’s easy to think that one less meal a day can keep the bulge away. But depriving your body of breakfast, lunch or dinner does far more harm than good. Your brain, muscles, organs need nutrients to function. And when you miss a meal, your brain misses out on a primary source of fuel – glucose. If it dips too low, your brain can struggle with basic tasks like concentrating and memory. Low blood glucose can also trigger surging levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), which makes you prone to losing your cool or becoming “hangry” – a dangerous combo of hungry and angry. Result? Your “hangry” brain craves sugary or a highly processed foods to lift your blood glucose back to a healthy level – but a quick spike is soon followed by a blood sugar crash. This meal skipping cycle can unfortunately repeat itself, doing no justice for your waistline long-term.
Myth 5: “Calorie counting works”
All calories are created equal, right? Wrong. Calorie counting can be a misleading way to track your diet, as many foods with similar calorie counts are vastly dissimilar in terms of nutrition. For instance, a chocolate brownie and a handful of nuts both have roughly 714 kJ (170 calories). However, nuts are clearly the better choice, providing healthy fats, fibre and protein and no added sugar. So if you merely judge a food by its calorie count, you can easily end up hoeing down a brownie with 10 times more sugar and three times more saturated fat. The big lesson here is that food is not just a collection of calories, because calories tell you nothing about how nutritious, or satisfying a food is. Some foods can be low-calorie, yet high in salt or sugar – which actually have negative effects on your appetite and the hormones that regulate weight. So instead of obsessing over calories, it’s important to understand foods holistically.