I’ve come to understand few things in life are as controversial as weight loss dieting. I mean, we’ve got tons of folks singing the praises of Keto, (whilst some doctors frown at them, muttering “walking infarction” under their respective breaths.) Are eggs really healthy for you? Butter vs Margarine? What do Vegans actually eat? (I’m kinda wondering that myself. No offense to you Vegans out there) Mediterranean, Atkins, Paleo….good grief. No wonder so many people are confused and reach for a bag of Doritos while they try to figure all of this out.
Let’s consider three common weight loss myths and we’ll straighten out this craziness together.
Myth 1: Eating fat makes you fat.
This statement is disturbing to me, on a number of levels. For one, it doesn’t really make much sense. All that fat you eat turns into fat? When you eat liver, does it turn into more liver inside your body? No way. Why? Because your, ahem, metabolism works together with your digestive system to process the liver you just ate and turn it into a form your body can use. The point is, the liver gets processed. More on that later.
As InBody USA puts it, “Part of the reason people get confused and think that the fat they eat makes their body store fat is because we use the [term] interchangeably to describe both body fat and dietary fat…The fat that is stored by our bodies is more accurately called “adipose tissue.” Adipose tissue stores are made up of primary adipocytes or fat cells and are responsible, among other things, with storing excess energy for times when you’re not able to give your body the energy it needs in a given day…The fat you eat is dietary fat and is one of the three essential macronutrients your body can get energy from…Furthermore, you need dietary fat. That’s because your body can make all the fatty acids it needs, except for two: linoleic acid and linolenic acid. These two necessary substances have to be found in your diet.”
Okay, back to that whole processing thing. According to the Cleveland Health Clinic, “The latest research finds that foods containing healthy fat don’t make you fat — they can actually speed up your metabolism and help you shed pounds.” And that’s good news. You know that annoying friend of yours that can eat candy all day and never gains a pound? Yeah, well he/she has a healthy metabolism that can, I repeat, process well. Cool stuff.
Now, I know you’re all excited about fat now, but before we get too crazy with it, there are a few things to keep in mind. The kind of fat you eat does matter.
Although for years we’ve been told that saturated fat clogs your arteries and if you eat it you’re guaranteed to be pushing up daisies real soon, new studies have shown that saturated fat is not the enemy and is actually healthy for you. According to the Drs. Wolfson, “A novel study was published in 2017 in which they looked at what 135,000 people from 18 different countries ate over the span of 10 years. The results drastically shifted thought patterns and brought about the notion that low-fat diets are deadly….The study revealed that people who ate the least fat and the most carbohydrates had a significantly greater risk of mortality (28% greater chance of death). On the other hand, those who ate the most types of fat (saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated) had a significantly lower risk of death. Additionally, a higher intake of saturated fats was associated with a lower risk of stroke. The authors concluded that total fat and types of fat (i.e. saturated) were not associated with heart attack, heart disease or heart disease death.”
So, that being said, don’t fear saturated fat. Some healthy saturated fats include coconut oil, butter, etc. But definitely, use balance and mix some unsaturated fats into your diet, too. Some healthy unsaturated fats include olive oil, sesame seed oil, flaxseed oil, etc.
That’s all well and good. But what fats do you need to avoid? Trans fats.
The American Heart Association says, “Artificial trans fats (or trans fatty acids) are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.” Healthline says, “Most notable was a 6-year study on monkeys which found that a high trans fat diet (8% of calories) caused insulin resistance, abdominal obesity (belly fat) and elevated fructosamine, a marker of high blood sugar (31).”
The takeaway? Stay far away from anything that says it contains trans fats, but also be on the lookout for the word “hydrogenated” listed in nutritional labels.
But it’s not just trans fats that are unhealthy. Watch out for disguised oils. You know the kind. They parade around shouting from the rooftops about how healthy they are. What am I talking about? Vegetable oil. It sounds so healthy, doesn’t it? It’s got the word “vegetable,” in it. That’s got to be good, right?
Wrong. If you think about it, how do you actually get oil from a vegetable? Do you cut a slab of corn off the cob and be like, “Oh wow, this corn is so oily?” No way. But you can walk into a grocery store and buy a big old jug of corn oil. And how do you get oil out of a grapeseed? Or, since we’re on the topic, from cottonseed? The answer is that vegetable oils are highly processed, man-made oils, and that’s pretty much a recipe for disaster. Read more here if you want more information about vegetable oils.
It all goes back to that whole foods thing. You want to eat stuff that is as minimally processed as possible. Take olives, for example. It’s a relatively simple process to make olive oil, and humans have been doing it for centuries. Same with coconut oil and butter. When in doubt, eat foods that are as close to nature as you can get.
Myth 2: Eating carbs makes you fat.
I don’t know who came up with this idea, because it’s pretty discriminatory if you ask me. Literally, anything will make you fat if you eat too much of it. And where’s the fun in life without carbs? No rice, no beans, no fruit, even.
And we need carbs. According to the NHS, “Dietitian Sian Porter says: ‘Carbohydrates are such a broad category and people need to know that not all carbs are the same. It’s the type, quality and quantity of carbohydrate in our diet that is important….There is strong evidence that fiber, found in wholegrain versions of starchy carbs, for example, is good for our health.’”
So hold your heads high and eat your beans. You’ll thank me later. Or not. 🙂
Myth 3: Counting calories helps you lose weight.
Uh-uh. Calories are not created equal. Elle Penner, MPH, RD, of My Fitness Pal says, “…the way the body breaks down carbohydrates, protein and fat, the three main sources of calories in our diet (four if you count alcohol), and the effect they have on our bodies differ vastly.” It’s simply not about the numbers.
And counting doesn’t help. According to Abby Langer, R.D., of Self, “….counting calories can be a real drag at best, and a dangerous practice at worst. Not only does it get you focusing on numbers instead of enjoying the food you’re eating, but it can also be a slippery slope from paying attention to calorie counts to obsessing over them.”
Instead of counting your calories, make sure your diet consists of healthy, whole foods.
Actions you can take right now
- Include both saturated and unsaturated healthy fats in your diet, but avoid artificial fats.
- Don’t fear healthy carbs either! They are a good source of nutrients such as fiber and minerals.
- Don’t bother counting calories. It’s not about mathematics, it’s about nutrition.
While the world is abuzz with a ridiculous boatload of information regarding weight loss, it’s certainly a relief to keep things simple. Stick to healthy, whole foods, eat them in moderation, and not only will you lose weight, but you’ll feel better, too. Win, win.