If there is an area of health and fitness that is truly confounding, it is weight management. Dozens of messages from TV, radio and Social Media flood our minds daily about which weight loss strategies work best. Many of those strategies are countered by medical precautions against them for various reasons.
So what do people most often believe about weight loss, and how far off the mark are those beliefs? Here are seven of the more common weight loss myths, and the truth about them:
Myth: I will lose weight faster if I eat mini-meals throughout the day.
Fact: This one has been around for awhile, on the premise that it keeps your blood sugar at an even keel so you won’t be tempted to binge. But for most people, maintaining high blood sugar means maintaining high levels of circulating insulin, which can lead to insulin resistance and metabolic disease. And if you’re trying to lose weight, eating all day long won’t cut it.
Myth: I can eat my way thin if I eat only certain foods.
Fact: Many diets are restrictive in the foods allowed, and some of them work for some people. Low carb regimens like Paleo and Atkins have a high success rate for those who can keep them up. However, they are often not sustainable for people with families and busy schedules. If it works for you, go for it! But remember that you can still eat too many calories, even if you stick to the plan.
Myth: As long as it is organic whole food, it won’t make me fat.
Fact: If you are eating whole organic food, good for you! You are probably avoiding many health pitfalls brought on by eating chemicals and refined macronutrients. However, too much food is too much food, no matter how healthy. Overeating any food has the potential to make you fat.
Myth: If I exercise hard every day, I can eat what I want and I won’t gain weight.
Fact: This may be true for some people, especially younger people with high levels of growth hormone. However, for older folks, heavy exercise generally is not enough to lose weight. Plus, more mature people often have time limitations that make sustaining a high volume of daily exercise impossible.
Myth: Slow weight loss is healthier than rapid weight loss.
Fact: When you have a lot of weight to lose, seeing the scale drop a pound or two a week can quickly undermine your motivation. Rapid weight loss that shows tangible results in a short period of time works best for many people who lack the drive and motivation to stick to a long-term weight loss plan. For obese people, losing weight is always a healthy intervention, fast or slow.
Myth: It doesn’t matter what food I eat, as long as I don’t eat too many calories.
Fact: Eating a low calorie junk food diet may help you lose weight, but you will compromise your immune system and overall health. Your body needs certain micronutrients to function at its peak. Feeding it toxic poison will set you up for declining health, and junk food typically makes you crave more, so a long-term junk food diet is generally unsustainable.
Myth: If I fast, I will lose muscle and not fat.
Fact: In reality, fasting is one of the fastest and least complicated ways to lose unwanted body fat and shed extra weight. Your body is smart about which tissues to spare, and which are expendable. During a fast, you switch energy pathways from glucose-burning to ketosis, which is fueled by fat. Your lean mass is not in danger unless your body fat approaches critically low levels.
The science underlying fitness, weight loss and nutrition is fascinating, and it helps fitness professionals better understand their clients’ needs, and how to help them. Some courses that support knowledge of weight loss include Certified Personal Trainer, Nutritional Concepts, and Fundamentals of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. Growing your knowledge will grow your career by making you an expert in your field.