Every year it is estimated that about 45 million Americans go on a diet and collectively spend $33 billion on weight-loss products, yet two-thirds of American adults are considered overweight or obese. So are we doing wrong? There are 4 main myths perpetuated by the diet and weight loss industry that hinder lasting results.
The Quick Fix Myth
The collective mentality towards dieting and weight loss seems to revolve around what can get you results as quickly as possible. There’s a few issues with this mentality. First off, any dramatic change that occurs in the body in a very short amount of time will cause stress. And we all know that stress is the enemy. It’s important to keep in mind that that in a state of stress the hormone cortisol is released. If the stress becomes chronic or extreme, our body will produce an excess of cortisol which can have a myriad of negative consequences such as weaken our immune system, affect our mood and energy, spike blood sugar, and even prevent weight loss.
Another issue with the quick fix mentality is that you are not learning new behaviors and methods for creating a sustainable level of health or weight loss. How many times have you crash dieted, done a juice cleanse, or some form of over exercising to lose weight, only to gain it right back? These quick fixes don’t really fix anything. They simply perpetuate the frustrating back-and-forth weight loss and gain we all hate.
Sustainable health and fitness does not come from trying every new diet, cleanse, or workout program that hits your news feed. It comes from educating yourself with what works for your body and your mind to create lasting habits to harbor your individual success.
The Eat Less Myth
How many times have you heard “calories in calories out” or “eat less, burn more” or any other saying that emphasises the “simple” task of just consuming less food. I imagine if you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve implemented some form of this strategy. I know I did. Many times. And it has worked from time to time. But here’s the thing…it never lasts. How many of you have simply just cut your calories, kept them low indefinitely, and maintained a steady “goal” weight? Probably not many. It is not realistic to simply cut your calorie intake forever.
Aside from the fact that cutting calories almost inherently means cutting your supply of necessary vitamins and nutrients, this method fails to consider the the process of human metabolism. When simply cutting calories, especially with little-to-no thought into the type or quality of calories being consumed, we disregard our body’s need for calories as energy, and fail to consider the long-term consequences of limiting our body’s energy source.
Consider this: I can eat a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin for breakfast and consume just 300 calories. OR I can make a breakfast salad containing two pasture-raised eggs, grass-fed beef, fresh spinach, arugula, tomatoes, carrots, avocado, and a sugar-free dressing which likely will contain over 300 calories. But which one do you think will contribute more to weight-loss? Probably not the McDonald’s breakfast sandwich filled with preservatives, poor-quality ingredients, and insulin-spiking processed carbohydrates. THIS is the biggest issue with focusing on calories–a complete disregard for food quality, micronutrients, and hormone response which includes the biochemical processes our bodies have to undergo to successfully shed weight and keep it off for good.
The Low Fat Myth
The ever-popular notion of the low-fat approach to weight loss is quite possibly the most misunderstood. “Fat” as in the necessary macronutrient is not the same as the ever-hated “fat”, what we store in our body (often times in excess)–triglycerides. Dietary fat is a crucial part of the human diet, and has been since the beginning of our existence. Some of the most necessary vitamins for humans are fat-soluble, such as A, D, E, and K. This means that in order for these vitamins to be absorbed and utilized by the body, they must be accompanied with a diet rich in healthy fats.
And as I previously mentioned, food quality is priority number one. Low-fat foods are often highly processed, and filled with questionable ingredients and sneaky sugars. It is important to remember that nature provides us with all that we need to live a balanced and nourished life. Industrialization and removal of naturally-occurring fats disrupts balance, depletes us of vitamins, and fills us with poor quality, man-made, chemically processed crap. We need naturally occurring fats to absorb vitamins, promote healthy brain function, create bile, build hormones, and yes…lose weight.
Not only is fat a necessary component of a healthy diet, but it also helps to curb sugar cravings, minimize blood glucose levels, keep you fuller longer, and enable your body to burn stored fat (triglycerides) as energy instead of glucose. Lastly, the whole ‘fat makes you fat’ myth has been debunked time and time again in peer-reviewed research. We’ve been following this idea of promoting low-fat diets since the 1970’s and look where it has gotten us….more than TWO-THIRDS of US adults are considered overweight or obese. It is becoming quite apparent that the low-fat recommendations we’ve been abiding by may not be as legitimate as we once thought.
The Once you Lose the Weight, then you’ll be Happy Myth
The biggest myth (in my opinion) in the diet industry is the most disheartening. It panders to our deepest insecurities–I’m not thin enough, muscular enough, pretty enough, good enough; once I finally lose the weight, I will be loved by myself and others. The diet culture has this all backwards. Once we are confident and committed to giving our bodies the respect they deserve, then we can make lasting changes in our weight and health. It’s similar to the thought “you can’t love someone until you love yourself”. Well you can’t love your weight until you love yourself either–your entire self, cellulite and all. Working in partnership with your body is what will produce lasting success–not working in spite of it. This is a hard concept to break free from as we have been fed so many lies–our hips are too big, arms are too flabby, our thighs shouldn’t touch, our stomach’s should be flat, and we have too much cellulite. The weight-loss industry thrives off of making us feel terrible about our bodies, which is why we keep circling around looking for ways to fit in the “ideal” mold. But when you look at the underlying reasons for wanting to lose weight, they tend to be centered around the desire to feel accepted, confident, beautiful, loved, and healthy. The good news is that those feelings start from within. You are just as loved, as beautiful, and as confident as you allow yourself to feel, regardless of your weight. Your body is not to blame for your negative feelings, so don’t treat it as such. Love it, respect it, fuel it, and it will provide you with all that you need to thrive.
If long-lasting weight loss and health are your goals, I urge you to step away from all the quick fixes, radical diets, and advertisements. Begin with shifting your mindset–love yourself, respect your body, and work from a place of healing, not punishment. Eat REAL food. Ditch the meal replacement shakes and low-fat junk food. Come to terms with food as fuel, not as your enemy. Remember that what you eat is more important than how much you eat. And if possible, work with a health coach or nutritionist who can encourage and support you on your individual journey to health and happiness.