Here it is—the end of January. You probably started the month full of good intentions. Yet, 30 days later, my guess is not much has changed with you, especially with your body. It’s frustrating to see people trying to lose weight with methods that just don’t work. Today, I want to address 5 diet myths that sabotage weight loss.
Diet Myths That Sabotage Weight Loss
In January, it seems like everyone resolved to eat better and exercise more. We all seem to agree that vegetables and fruit are good for us and that we need to exercise. Beyond that, there are so many differing opinions.
Now as January is winding down, I imagine so is everyone’s urge to get control of their diet. Despite your best efforts, not much has probably changed this month.
Recently, I was sitting in the coffee shop with my surgeon friend. He operates on a daily basis and he literally sees what people’s bodies look like on the inside.
It’s not pretty by the time a patient gets to him. He blames the standard diets that most people eat. I agree—the diets that most people consider normal and maybe even healthy are not only damaging, they can be deadly, costing people many years of their lives.
The way we eat, wrecks not only the outside of our bodies; it wrecks the insides too.
It’s obvious when you look around—what we are doing to lose weight is NOT working for the majority of people.
That’s because the same tired old advice is still being given and taken. Even doctors who should be on the cutting edge of the effects of nutrition are still spouting out the mostly USELESS and quite often HARMFUL advice.
There is good information available. There are doctors and dedicated researchers who are studying the effects of food on our bodies and writing about it. Over the years, as I’ve read and studied nutrition myself, I have come to believe that there are 5 diet lies that make you fat.
Myth #1: Diets Work
Looking at the food you eat, only through the lens of getting thinner, is short-sighted and ultimately and counter-intuitively going to keep you from your goal of getting thinner and fitter.
Your body doesn’t strictly care about what you weigh. It doesn’t care if you can fit into the jeans you could fit into in high school or before you had a baby or two. So, when that is your goal, you may actually be working against your body.
To achieve lasting (and what other kind of change should you be looking for) weight loss and a healthy fit body, you have to work with your body. This means feeding it in a way that works with it’s natural systems rather than against them.
Magazines are filled with the same old regurgitated diets this time of year. You start your day with ½ cup of oatmeal, a handful of berries. Salad with steamed chicken and a squeeze of lemon for lunch, and for dinner, a piece of salmon and a few steamed veggies. And don’t forget the lemon water every morning that will not only detox you but help you get healthy and lose fat.
I would go crazy trying to eat like that. I have gone crazy trying to eat like that! (Why diets didn’t work for me)
Most diets don’t give you enough food, of the right kind, at the right times, in the right amounts.
While dieting seems like it makes sense—it doesn’t. It may work in the short term but it rarely is sustainable for the long term.
Eating real food, in real amounts is what you need.
Myth #2 Fat Makes You Fat
Over and over, I see in recommendations to still use low-fat products and eat lean meats. On the surface, it would seem reasonable to think that eating fat would indeed make you fat. But it doesn’t. During the hey day of low carb eating, it was proven again and again that fat does NOT make you fat. For the record, I do not advocate low carb diets at all! But they did demonstrate that eating fat, does not in itself, make a person fat.
Fat is an ESSENTIAL nutrient in the health of our body and eating plenty of fat can actually help us lose weight. Fat makes food taste good, provides a feeling of satiety, delivers nutrition, and helps us eat less.
However, all fats are not created equal. Healthy fats are fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, nut oils, some animal fat, butter/ghee, and avocados. Fats that can be detrimental to health are fats such as: trans fats, seed oils, and vegetable oils.
Where fats get their bad reputation is when they are combined with processed, high carb food. That’s why junk food such as a hamburger with a bun or pizza are considered fattening. It’s true. When you combine that kind of fat with processed food such as bread, you have a highly fattening food!
However, a roast chicken with its skin on, combined with veggies topped with butter will not be fattening.
This is because, it is elevated levels of sugar and insulin in your system that make you fat—not fat itself. I explain this in several posts that might be helpful for you to read. (Read why fat is so important here)
Myth #3: Moderation Works for Everyone
We have all heard, at times, we can eat whatever we want, as long as we eat in a moderate way.
Strictly speaking, I guess this could be true. However, we all have foods, unique to us, that are difficult for us to consume in moderation. For example, if I buy potato chips, I have a hard time eating only a small serving. I will go back for more and more until the bag is empty or until I throw it away. For other people, it may be cookies, or mac and cheese, or French fries.
We all have THAT food.
These are foods that are almost impossible for us to eat in moderation.
That’s because many modern foods are designed to make us eat more and to override our natural hunger. They are designed to make us over eat!
I say, that knowing this, it makes sense to avoid these foods completely. Moderation is not going to work with all foods. And by overeating these foods, you increase your cravings and desire to eat even more of these types of foods.
Myth #4: A Calorie is a Calorie
There are quite a few people who believe it doesn’t matter what you eat, as long as you stay within a certain number of calories. And I know that to some extent this works for some time.
But all food is not created equal and calorie counting only works for a while.
The problem with focusing on calories rather than actual food and nutrition is that in an effort to reduce calories, dieters often restrict nutrition as well.
I remember my experience with Weight Watchers. As my points decreased, so did my ability to eat REAL food in sufficient quantities to keep me comfortable and nourished. I white-knuckled it through many days and lost weight. But eventually, I just couldn’t sustain that deficit in calories. I gained all the weight plus more back. Not fun. Not fair.
Food is more than just calories!
When counting calories, food becomes an enemy. Food that has fat and substance becomes something to be avoided. Counting calories can cause you to avoid nutritious, good-for-you food and eat lower calorie stuff that is lacking in nutrition.
Basing food choices on calories is not helpful. It’s better to base your choices on what your body needs. Your body needs so many things! It needs protein, carbohydrates (think veggies and fruit, not pasta and bread), and fats/oils. It needs enough of these foods to run all the many processes going on in your body.
Feed your body well now—and you’ll look and feel better for a much longer time.
Myth #5: Exercising Harder Makes You Thin
I love to exercise and try to work activity into my daily life. Walking is my favorite form of exercise but I also do stretching, toning, and some higher intensity workouts. It’s fun and feels good to move my body.
That being said, I’m not an elite athlete, nor do I have a “bikini body.” I like to move because it makes me feel and look better and it relieves some stress.
Often on my walks, I see people running that are obviously not enjoying it. If you love it—go for it. But if you don’t—don’t sweat it. You don’t have to run or do exercise you hate to be in shape.
I do think exercise is helpful in living your best life. I love the definition in my shoulders and legs. Exercise definitely makes me look better. However, I have a pretty laid back approach to it.
- I hate gyms—so I don’t go
- I feel like running hurts—so I don’t run
- Cross fit looks like torture—so I avoid it
Yet, I’ve found enough types of exercise that I DO like, that I am able to consistently work out almost every day.
- I love walking—so I make time almost daily for a walk outside
- I love to stretch—so I have found home workouts that get all the kinks out
- I love to see some muscle definition—so I do some strength training (Sara Style)
Experiment with different types of exercise. I use a combination of walking with strength that I describe in this post. I share the stretchy/strength exercise routines I use here. Explore on YouTube. Try walking. Dance. Whatever.
Exercise is most effective if you do it often, consistently, and with intention. That’s what makes it work for you. You don’t have to do difficult, painful, and potentially harmful exercise to lose or maintain your weight.
Why This is Important to Me
I know in writing; I sound like I am militant in my eating. I’m not. I do eat the way I write about most of the time. I will admit to being passionate about eating this way though. Since I’ve started eating primarily just real food, I’ve totally changed the way I look and feel.
Some things I discovered on my own. Others I’ve learned from reading and participating in online forums. I don’t believe any one things is perfect for everyone. Yet, so many people dismiss eating real food because they believe it would be too hard to give up some types of food.
All I can say, is that I was overweight for almost 10 years. About 4 years ago I began eating only real food and over 2 years ago, I lost 25 pounds and I have kept it off ever since. If you are interested in my story, here’s the story.
It’s my wish that everyone can feel comfortable in their body and happy with food. This is what has worked for me for a significant period of time. On the few occasions when I have dieted, I always gained my weight back within a year. I’m now into year three of maintaining a weight loss and it is without struggle, eating food I enjoy.
Thanks for reading about some of the diet myths that sabotage weight loss. I know many of you are struggling to lose pounds and that’s why I keep promoting diets made up of real food.
Keep showing up my friends!
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I'm a former counselor, career services leader, and college advisor. Now I coach and write at My Think Big Life promoting health and personal growth.