Going into the New Year and with many of us setting health & fitness goals we wanted to clarify some facts about weight loss and dispel some of the false information that's out there.
Thanks to social media, celebrities, the media and the internet, there’s a LOT of information about fitness and dieting. Everyone has an opinion on what is right or wrong for weight loss, which is great! It means now more than ever, people are eager to learn.
But the problem with having SO MUCH information available is that it can get really hard to tell what’s real and what’s not.
To help prevent you from falling into the traps of bad advice, we’re debunking five of our ‘favourite’ diet myths...
MYTH: Carbs make you gain weight.
While low-fat diets were incredibly popular in the 80's, by the early 2000's, carbs became the new "bad food" in town. Even today, you’ll still hear plenty of new dieters and fitness gurus announcing that they’re "giving up carbs" in order to lose weight.
FACT: In reality, studies have shown that you can lose weight despite still eating carbs -- it's all in the balance, for example, lowering your fat intake or ensuring you're doing a sufficient amount of cardio exercise. At the end of the day, calories will always be the most important part of weight loss. Of course, if you feel better eating low-carb and it helps you stick to your diet, then go for it! But if you have insulin resistance or cutting carbs from your diet just makes you miserable, keep eating carbs (in moderation).
MYTH: Don’t eat after 6 pm.
You’ve probably been warned that eating after 6 pm will cause everything you’ve eaten to magically turn into fat. I'm not even sure how this would supposedly happen but last time I looked my food didn't change composition at certain times of the day!
FACT: meal timing isn’t going to make or break your diet; however, your overall calorie balance will. If you want to lose weight, focus more on what and how much you eat -- instead of when.
MYTH: Certain foods are ‘bad’ or ‘fattening’.
This is something I hear a lot of. Have you ever described foods as naughty or bad? Red meat, butter, cheese, bread, and cake -- these are a few items from a long list of foods demonised by the "gurus". The reasons behind how each food is ‘bad’ might be different, but the idea is the same: don’t eat ____ because you'll gain weight
FACT: There’s no such thing as ‘bad or good’ food –– food has no moral compass. It cannot BE bad or DO good. You can gain weight eating vegetables if you eat enough of them! but that would take A LOT of eating. Some foods make you feel more full for fewer calories, making it easier to prevent weight gain. For example, if you eat lots of vegetables and lean protein, you’ll feel more full and eat fewer total calories by default. Meanwhile, high-calorie foods like biscuits, sweets, takeaways, ready meals are not fattening or bad in their own right -- it just happens to be easier to eat more calories because they make you feel less full for more calories.
MYTH: A slow metabolism will cause weight gain.
Your metabolism is the way in which your body uses energy and burns calories. The speed of which is mostly determined by your genes and age. There is variation in metabolism speed but it is VERY MINOR in terms of weight gain/loss. Some people blame their slow metabolism for their difficulty losing weight or they think eating too few calories will force them into "starvation mode" -- which slows down your metabolism and causes your body to store fat.
FACT: Your metabolism rate changes all the time due to changes in your eating habits and activity levels and it will slow down during/after a diet, hence those "weight-loss plateau's". But it’s not because you’re eating too little -- it’s actually a result of weight loss. The less you weigh, the less energy (calories) your body needs to function. This effect (metabolic adaptation) is why so many dieters hit a wall with weight loss if they don't change their calorie intake as they lose weight. So if the number on your scale isn’t budging or is moving up, there’s a chance you might actually be eating too much (not too little) for your current weight. By reassessing your BMR every 4-6 weeks or changing your calorie intake by approximately 50-70 calories per 5kg or 10lbs lost you can prevent plateau's affecting your goals.
MYTH: Hormones can prevent weight-loss.
Throughout our lives, we undergo many hormonal changes for various different reasons, such as stress, exercise, ageing, menstrual cycles, pregnancy and menopause Often these changes are linked to weight gain, especially around our waistlines.
FACT: Changes in our hormones often go hand in hand with changes in our lifestyle and more often than not it is these lifestyle changes that are affecting your weight gain or inability to lose weight. If you're not losing weight, then chances are you're not actually in a calorie deficit. In fact, most people who feel like they’re eating too little are actually eating 25-50% more than they think. The most effective way to monitor this is to keep a food diary or to track your calories. When tracking food or calories ensure you are also consistently measuring your portions properly and diligently enter all your meals and drinks (planned or not).
The internet is never short on diet advice and while there’s an abundance in evidence-based research, there’s also a lot of false information. Remember, not all information is created equal.