While we might have certain assumptions regarding weight loss and management, we can sometimes find ourselves confused and frustrated when it comes to the process. Avoiding myths about weight loss can help us make greater strides in our fitness and health goals, and it can make us feel more realistic and happier about the overall experience. If you've made the personal decision to lose weight, it's important to go into the process with a healthy, balanced, and informed mindset.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on feeling healthier and happier in their own skin, no matter their size. However, many of my clients include weight loss in their fitness goals, and so when we commit to embarking on a program together, we first decide how best to do so in a safe and effective manner and we clear up any confusion regarding weight loss myths and antiquated ideas.
I personally find that such misinterpretations can lead to stagnation during the weight loss or management process, and it can also create frustration, disappointment, and defeatism when results are not tangible within a relatively short matter of time. Losing expectations and myths only leads to a healthier journey and mental space. Here are 11 weight loss myths to say goodbye to, for good, in order to feel more confident, motivated, and satisfied with your body and its various changes over time.
1. "Diet soda is healthy because it has zero calories."
This myth, provided by Nutrition Coach Darin Huslander over email with me, explains how people might be confused regarding zero calorie foods and beverages, especially those containing artificial ingredients. "The artificial sweeteners in diet soda have been proven to trigger the brain’s reward center — the part that craves food (often in the form of sugar). This leads to becoming hungry more often. So even though diet soda is also zero calories, it can lead to...an increased appetite," Huslander says.
2. "Small meals every few hours are always the way to go."
While this can be a great method for some people, it's not a "one way or the highway" sort of situation in relation to weight loss and management. "A study from the University of Ottawa found that there was no difference in weight loss from those that ate three meals per day versus those that ate six per day. Some researchers actually concluded that six meals per day increased appetites in some of the participants. It shouldn't matter how many times per day as long as the quality is there," says Hulslander. Bottom line? Do what's best for you.
3. "Cardio is way more effective on an empty stomach."
While some people might thrive off of early morning workouts and empty bellies, it's certainly not a necessity in a workout routine. "A recent study found that when trainees ate a protein and carb based meal before a workout, their fat burning and calorie expenditure were way higher in the 24 hour period that followed," says Hulslander. Thus, eat or don't; do whatever your body prefers in order to have enough endurance and motivation to power through a workout.
4. "It's not a good workout unless you sweat."
The idea of sweat being a necessity for a tough, effective workout is definitely a myth, says running coach and personal trainer Susie Lemmer over email with me. Some bodies naturally produce more sweat than others, and sweat can also depend on different conditions, such as weather temperature, activity type and hydration levels, as explained. Judge based on your exertion levels instead.
5. "I need to give it my all or nothing will work."
"The most self sabotaging behavior that I see in the gym is an 'all or nothing' mentality," says personal trainer and owner of South Loop Strength & Conditioning in Chicago, Todd Nief, over email with me. "Many people get very excited about a new fitness program and are highly motivated to get to the gym for the first few weeks. However, after the initial burst of energy wears off, they struggle to maintain a routine. Also, life happens," he says. Start small and don't punish yourself if you have to give yourself some extra rest.
6. "I need to drink lots of protein shakes."
People might think that supplementation is required for weight loss; however, it's more about the amount and ratio of nutrients to rebuild muscles and aid in strengthening and toning, explains Lemmer. If you want a shake, that's fine. Stick with 20-30g of protein per shake, as more protein can actually overwhelm the body, as she explains.
7. "I can target certain areas of the body for weight loss."
While doing exercise can aid in weight loss overall, and certain moves can be directed towards toning particular areas, it's impossible to guarantee weight loss in a specific area, says Peter LePort, medical director of MemorialCare Center of Obesity in interview with U.S. News. People lose weight in different ways, and some areas will lose weight before others.
8. "I need to eat less."
This old notion is actually quite popular, as some people believe that exercise is the real component for weight loss, and the more the better. However, while exercise will help with weight loss, it's important to not overdo it and to eat plenty of nutrients to fuel yourself, rather than go into starvation mode, explains Kris Gunnars, BSc, founder of Authority Nutrition.
9. "I need a detox."
Not only are detoxes, like juice cleanses, expensive, but they are also incredibly high in sugar and can lead to initial weight loss, followed by a rapid re-gain, and potentially even more gain, once you're back to eating real food, said Melissa Rifkin, MS, RD, a bariatric dietitian at Montefiore Health System in New York City in interview with Health. Juices and smoothies are, of course, healthy and nutritious in moderation. So stick to a balanced diet, rather than an extremist cleanse.
10. "I can't eat carbs or fats."
Complex carbohydrates and healthy fats are not the enemy. In fact, they are actually beneficial for weight loss, especially healthy fats like avocado, fatty fish, nuts and olive oil, according Dr. Mark Hyman, director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, in interview with Health. He warns against refined carbohydrates and sugars, however, so be mindful!
11. "I should avoid snacking."
I always tell client that there's a difference between snacking and mindless snacking. From my perspective, mindless is when you eat when you're not actually hungry, and you lose sight of your consumption. On the flip side, snacking due to hunger can actually keep metabolism high and aid in weight loss for some, according to Elizabeth Pivonka, PhD, RD, president of the Produce for Better Health Foundation in interview with WebMD.
No matter how you want to change your body, sticking to a healthy program of eating nutrient-dense foods, fitting in adequate exercise, and reducing overall stress can aid in helping you feel your very best. And how you feel is much more important than any number on the scale will ever be.
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