Losing weight is no small feat. It requires you to make changes to your daily routine, eating habits and maybe even your social life. The traditional advice of “eat right and exercise” can often seem daunting if you’re looking to drop fat fast.That’s why one internet search for “how to lose weight” yields millions of quick fix alternatives to the slow slog of jogging and salads. But do they work?
Science says no. There’s no one magic ingredient that’s going to make you lose weight, says Wesley Delbridge, R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Choosing the wrong fad or crash diet could leave you lethargic for workouts, lower your immunity and even derail your weight loss, slowing your metabolism and making it harder to drop pounds in the future.
There’s no substitute for putting in the hard work, but the good news is that there are a lot of little things you can do each day to shed pounds. Read on for five weight loss myths that could set you back and the research-based tips to try instead.
ALL CALORIES ARE CREATED EQUAL
When it comes to dropping pounds, reducing calories from all foods is important, right? Not so. All calories are not created equal when it comes to weight loss, says Susan Roberts, Ph.D. senior scientist at Tufts Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Centre on Ageing.
Some calories—say, those from high-fibre and protein-packed foods like broccoli, nuts and lentils—have been shown to play a role in boosting your metabolism. These, plus low-glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates, like milk and whole grains, keep you fuller for longer, so you’re less tempted to overeat at your next meal, adds Roberts.
Case in point: Take a handful of almonds and compare them to a snack-sized bag of 18 crisp. Both are around 160 calories, but the almonds are more likely to satiate your hunger than the chips, thanks to their protein and fibre content.
EATING “CLEAN” IS ALWAYS HEALTHY
Typically, when you eat clean, you only consume whole foods you’ve prepped yourself and stop eating all processed snacks, added sugar and salt.
As much as reducing your intake of processed foods and added sugar and salt can be good, setting too many challenges is questionable. Take the five-ingredient rule, where a hard “no” on any foods with ingredient lists longer than five items, like protein powders and frozen veggie burgers, is expected. This type of restriction can easily backfire, causing you to constantly crave and binge on the very foods you swore not to eat.
WE NOW HAVE A BOOK! (Well, it’s more of a plan…)
That’s because there are receptive centers in your brain that get used to eating, say, a bowl of ice cream each night. This makes you crave sugar similar to that in people addicted to alcohol and drugs. So if you tell yourself that you can’t eat ice cream, you’ll end up going crazy once your brain gets the best of you. This pattern of restricting and binging is a recipe for weight gain.
CUT ALL CARBS TO GET LEAN
Initially, you will lose more weight on a low carb diet. When you eat very little carbs, your body will use up its own energy stores, so you’ll lose a lot of water weight rather than fat. Once you start eating a bit more normally, you’ll just gain that weight back, says Roberts.
If you keep eating this way, your body may dip into your muscle stores to turn protein into glucose to make up for the lack of fuel. Because the protein is being converted to energy, it can’t prioritise building and maintaining your gains, meaning you might actually lose some muscle.
And when you lose muscle, your metabolism may slow, which makes losing weight—and keeping it off—tough.
Now, cutting back on refined carbs like crisps and biscuits is never a bad idea. These types of carbs are “empty” because they offer you little nutritional bang for your buck in terms of calories. In fact, research suggests that swapping out refined carbs for whole grains can lead to gradual weight loss.
GOING GLUTEN-FREE IS GOOD FOR EVERYONE
The gluten-free lifestyle is misconstrued as a great way to lose weight and improve health. Gluten—a protein in wheat, rye and barley—is really only an issue for 1% of Brits diagnosed with coeliac disease, wheat allergy, or nonceliac gluten sensitivity.
Eliminating gluten without a professional diagnosis can also set you up for deficiencies in vitamins D, B12 and calcium.
So why is going gluten-free touted as a weight loss tool? When you go from eating processed carbohydrates, like pastries and cakes, to more vegetables and whole grains, like quinoa or brown rice, you’re getting more fibre. This can cause you to eat less, since you’re taking in more satiating foods.
The thing is, a gluten-free cake is still a cake, so loading up on the wrong types of gluten-free foods can still set you back if you’re not careful.
Did you believe in any of these ‘myths’? Hope you no longer do!