Whether it’s through an acquaintance or a celebrity, someone is always someone dishing out advice on how to slim down. Get to know the truth about these top 3 weight loss myths with nutrition Expert Rachael Hartley, and why they don’t matter in the long run.
Dieting and weight loss: it seems to always be the conversation de jour. There’s no way to escape it – trust me, I’ve tried!
From social media to advertising magazines and on TV to coworkers just dying to tell you about their new 5 AM tone and shred bootcamp and 14-day juice cleanse, everyone is still hopped up on the slim-down wave of motivation.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of really bad diet advice out there, promoting things that are unproven, proven to not work, or even harmful. Most of that bad advice boils down to one of these three biggest diet myths that most people presume are true.
Let’s get to some myth busting:
1. TO LOSE WEIGHT, EAT LESS AND MOVE MORE.
Most people’s understanding of weight loss is that calorie deficit is king – eat less calories (by cutting food groups or portion control) while burning more calories (through intense exercise) and you’ll lose weight. Maintain a calorie deficit, and you’ll keep it off. Because of this understanding, to lose weight most people try to maintain the greatest possible calorie deficit without keeling over from starvation or hurting anyone else in a hunger induced range.
While creating a calorie deficit, especially a major calorie deficit, will result in short-term weight loss, in the long term, this method poses some problems. To understand why, it is helpful to redefine our understanding of metabolism. Most people think of metabolism as something that solely exists to maintain weight, but in reality, our metabolism is the sum or every single energy requiring process in our body – cell turnover, energy production, digestion and absorption, muscle contraction (including while you breathe, pump blood, move, etc.), hormone production, brain activity, and detoxification. All of these activities, and more, are ruled by metabolism.
Essentially, our metabolism powers all the activities our body must do to survive.
We need energy through the food we consume to fuel metabolism. No matter what you eat, your body still needs to do the same basic metabolic activities. Create a significant calorie deficit and your body will interpret that as a threat to its ability to complete it’s basic metabolic activities. It responds by slowing metabolism and increasing hunger hormones, one of the reasons why dieting is actually a predictor of weight gain. So while yes, if you regularly take in much more calories than your body uses, you’ll gain weight. However, if you go the opposite way and undereat, and you’ll likely gain weight in the long run too.
Because there is no accurate way to calculate your precise calorie needs, drop the numbers game and instead focus on making it a habit to choose mostly nutritious and satisfying foods, savor them mindfully, and stop when you’re satisfied. This is by far the best way to eat the right amount for you!
2. THE RIGHT DIET FOR YOU IS OUT THERE, YOU JUST HAVE TO FIND IT.
There are a million different opinions on what’s the “right” way to eat. If you’ve dieted in the past, you know what you’ve already tried doesn’t work, but you might still think the right diet is juuuust around the corner.
So, you keep trying.
This is exactly how fad diets become popular, through our constant attempts to find something new and different that will hopefully work. Eventually, in the diet industry’s attempts to come up with something new to sell, they come up with some pretty nutty fad diets. How else can we explain the cabbage soup diet – bleh!
The truth? There is no single diet out there that’s right for everyone.
That’s because as a species, we humans were designed to adapt to our food environment. Some cultures thrive on a carbohydrate rich plant-based diet of mostly starchy tubers and fruits, while others thrive on mostly fatty seafood and meat with very little plant substance. The one thing all healthy diets have in common? Variety and a food source of all three macronutrients – fat, protein and carbohydrates.
Instead of trying to find the “right” diet, pay attention to what foods make you feel good to discover the pattern of eating that works for you. Once you discover what feels best for you, there is no need to follow it strictly as a diet. It’s simply information that helps you make the best possible food choices for yourself.
3. WEIGHT LOSS IS THE BEST WAY TO GET HEALTHY.
Think the path the health is by achieving a number on the scale? Think again. When the focus is on weight loss, it’s easy to turn to unhealthy behaviors (hello 5-day juice cleanse and crazy restrictive fad diets!).
But health isn’t a number on the scale – it’s the outcome of our behaviors.
Engage in health-promoting behaviors and you will be healthy, no matter the number on the scale! The best way to get to your healthiest weight? Forget about weight entirely and instead focus on your health. Your body will settle at its natural point, rather than fluctuate up and down as you hop from diet to diet.
Adapted from the original article.
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Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE is a private practice dietitian, food enthusiast, and nutrition expert based in Columbia, SC. By guiding others to rediscover the joy of nourishment rather than deprivation, Rachael helps men and women alike improve their health and well-being through delicious whole food recipes and practical advice. To begin living your healthiest days ahead, connect to work with Rachael by visiting Avocado A Day Nutrition.