Unraveling Top Ten Diet MythsOct 12, 2022
There are diet myths that need to be unraveled
The nutrition world is rife with misinformation leading to confusion, mistrust and poor dietary choices. This is coupled with the fact that nutritional science is constantly changing, and it is understandable that we can’t keep up with the latest diet trends and advice. The mistake we are making is not learning about separating fact from fiction.
Even though I like to look at mistakes as stepping stones, not sinkers, it is no surprise that we all keep making mistakes and rarely find diet success. Let's work on unraveling top ten diet myths. Here ten of the most common myths around dieting that I found for myself and in my coaching practice.
Here is your roadmap to this blog:
Diet Success is not the same for everyone
o The number one myth seems to be, that all that matters is “Calories In, Calories Out.” Although the underlying principle that a calorie deficit will cause weight loss is true, what is ignored in this belief is that all calories are not the same.
o The cost of making this particular mistake is that we can cut back on calories until the cows come home and eventually, we either stop losing weight, or the minute we eat outside a very rigid program, we gain the weight back.
o Also, think back to all the 100-calorie snack packs you might have consumed while on a certain diet so you could stay within your limits while snacking on junk.
o Think of when you put your exercise into a calculator to see what you had to do to burn 500 calories a day, 7 day a week, to equal 3500 calories. We’ve all heard that there are 3500 calories in a pound of fat, haven’t we?
There are two problems here:
o First, not all calories are the same. 100 calories of broccoli in your body will not be recognized or utilized the same as 100 calories of snack-pack junk. Not even 100 calories of an apple will be recognized or used by your body the same way as 100 calories of olive oil would be.
o Food communicates to your body and hormonal system. There are metabolic adaptations, hormonal sequences, interactions with medications and supplements, genetic factors and more, all that react with food, whether that food is a carbohydrate, protein or fat. It is not whether a food is good or bad, but what element of the food signals the cascade of processes that will help you to lose weight or gain weight or stay the same. You are going to learn much more about this, especially the effect of food on hormones, in a later episode.
o Another issue is that there is no consistency between foods, whether the food is manufactured or in its natural form. For instance, your organic, non-GMO piece of lettuce or piece of beef might have a totally different caloric count – and nutrient count - than your neighbor’s non-organic, GMO piece of lettuce or piece of beef. It is okay to generally consult a calorie counting App for a certain food, but calorie counting is not scientific or consistent.
o Second, we are not machines. No matter what process you use to figure out your caloric needs – and believe me there are dozens of them – you will never mathematically offset the number of calories you eat by the number of calories you burn.
o Your 145-pound body has a different muscle mass than my 180- pound body or your neighbor’s 230-pound body. This means that my 3MPH walk on a treadmill will burn a different number of calories than your 3MPH walk or your neighbor’s 3MPH walk.
o I am not saying that you shouldn’t have an idea of how much you are eating or how much you are moving and how they might balance out, I am just saying to be very careful of this myth and any diet program that relies on this myth. (My hint for now is that hormones play a much larger part than you realize. Stay tuned for that!)
Myths #2, #3, #4, and #5
o Here are four popular myths that I group together because they have to do with specific meals or the timing of your meals: First, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Second, “Skipping breakfast will make you fat.” Next, “You must eat smaller more frequent meals throughout the day” and finally, “Eating at night will make you fat.”
o Wow! That is a lot to unravel. The truth of the matter is that although eating a healthy breakfast can help you manage your hunger later in the day, and thus ultimately might help you consume less food, if you are not hungry first thing in the morning listen to your body. When you are ready to eat, pick a healthy option to start your day off on the right foot. You do not have to schedule a do-or-die breakfast if you are not hungry for it. You will not gain weight by not having breakfast and you will not set your body up for “starvation mode” where people believe that your body will hold on to fat because it’s “scared” you are starving it. If you are hungry for breakfast, eat it. If you are not hungry, then don’t.
o If you are a late-night eater you may tend to put on extra weight or have difficulty taking it off. This is NOT because of the timing of your eating – although a lot of people do much better by letting their digestive system rest during the sleep cycle and, for sure, you will cut down or eliminate problems you have with indigestion while you are going to bed. Chances are that late-night eating is not a piece of left-over chicken with a salad. It will be the food that drives up your insulin which is the fat-storage hormone. This would be your chips, cookies and popcorn or even a bowl of fruit or cup of tea with sugar in it. I will talk more about after-dinner eating in a later episode.
o Also, because you have not slept well because your digestive system is working while it should be resting, you may wake up not feeling well or rested, thus setting up the cycle to eat in an unhealthy way the next day because urges and craving might be triggered.
o Just a little window into my experience: Now that I understand the hormonal effect of food, when I wake up in the morning famished, I look back to the timing and quantity of what I ate the night before. Usually something that has raised my insulin at night (like if I had fruit or a grain product) I am hungry in the morning. I always look for that feedback before deciding what and when to have breakfast. I call it false hunger and treat it as such.
o In terms of those smaller and more frequent meals. Unless you have a particular condition where eating more than a few spoons of food at any one time will make you ill, stay away from this. Any food (other than fat) will raise your insulin which is the fat storage hormone and the hormone most responsible for cravings and urges, There is no reason for you to stick your hand into the tiger’s cage 5 or 6 times a day to feed it. Stay safe. Have two or three nice, healthy meals, and call it a day.
o If you have diabetes the common advice is to eat smaller meals more frequently to keep your blood sugar stable. I am not here to give medical advice or to go against what your doctor has told you. However, there are ways to keep your blood sugar in a normal range and furthermore, diabetes can be reversed where you need no medication at all. The primary means by which people with type 2 diabetes achieve remission is by losing a significant amount of weight with lifestyle management. This lifestyle management can be more easily accomplished with low-carb and Keto eating choices because it is all tied into hormonal balance. I will talk about this in future episodes, but for now, just keep an open mind that if you are eating the right foods, you can be less concerned about how often you are eating them.
Myths #6 and #7
o Here are two myths that have to do with not eating: The first one is “Fasting can help you lose weight quickly” and the second one is “Never eat unless you are hungry.”
o The fasting issue is two-pronged.
o One prong is not a myth. It is that intermittent fasting done right, can help to regulate your insulin levels and therefore it has a long-run or long-term good effect on health markers and weight loss. I will address fasting in future episodes.
o However, for the purpose here of unraveling diet myths, the other prong is that often people go all day without eating and then gorge on a huge meal that replaces the day’s calories in one sitting. When done without planning, forethought and understanding about what fasting really is, these foods might be made up of non-nutritious foods. What are the chances you will eat a chef salad instead of huge serving of lasagna?
o There is another thing that negatively happens with fasting. Unless you have learned all about how fasting works and how to approach it, many people tend to snack and eat junk after dinner if they have made that their one meal of the day. This happens because either psychologically they think they deserve it, or because physically they are still hungry after eating their one meal. When this happens, a tremendous number of calories can be consumed during the person’s eating window, thus negating the point of their fasting, which may be to have had a calorie deficit.
o Also, in my experience as a coach, I have found that fasting can sometimes wreak havoc on a person’s disordered eating if she is battling that, whether or not she brought it to the table in her fasting efforts.
o Not eating unless you are hungry is also a two-pronged issue. In this podcast, my books, my website, course and blogs, I have given utmost attention and importance to learning your hunger cues and satiety signals.
o However, the other prong is that you don’t always have to be hungry to eat, as long as you aren’t falling into an unconscious state of mind with urges, cravings, and triggers. We will be talking a lot about that on this podcast, and I will guide you to where and when to eat on those occasions when you might not be hungry but wanting to eat.
o Myth #8 is that weight loss is easy. Myth #8A is that weight loss is hard.
o All I have to say is that if you find something on some social media platform (or an advertisement anywhere) that promises X number of pounds in X number of weeks. RUN! If it is too good to be true, it is not true. Read the small print that states that results are not typical. But even if you are in the small percentage of people for whom that diet approach would work, there is an addendum there. How successful are people at keeping the weight to keep off using that method, how healthy is it and what are the very long-term results? I don’t want to mention any specific diet program here because I don’t want to get myself in trouble, but please ask yourself, is it in this program’s best interests to keep you coming back and to keep you afraid to do the work without it?
o But the other side of this myth, that weight loss is hard, is equally untrue. Losing weight does not have to be hard. But it does require changes in your thinking and your approach. These changes can be hard, but the weight loss that follows doesn’t have to be. I teach my clients to stop negative self-talk and to learn to honor their hunger and satiety cues instead of counting and weighing and measuring food. THOSE changes can be hard, but the weight loss that follows doesn’t have to be. Learning to have your own back and standing up for yourself can be hard changes to make, but the weight loss that follows doesn’t have to be. …You see where I am going here.
Myth number 9 is that food is either good or bad. It encompasses all the individual myths around foods that have been called out as evil or particularly good, such as:
o High fat foods are unhealthy
o All carbohydrates are bad for you
o Low fat foods are a healthy option
o Smoothies and Juices are all healthy
o I am going to cover these in future podcasts, but the take-away at this moment is that I would like you to drop labels – good or bad – for now, as you learn more about what various foods do in your body. Then you can decide for yourself what makes YOU feel best, what fuels YOU best and what best fits into YOUR day and YOUR lifestyle.
o This is the myth that I am most passionate about debunking.
o The myth is that tracking calories and macros is necessary for weight loss. Busting this myth is why I started this podcast, wrote my books, and am offering a course on my website.
o There is no need to obsess over your intake and track every morsel of food that passes through your lips (nor counter-track the exercise you think is burning it off).
o As I talked about earlier, we are not machines and counting calories taken in or burned off is not an exact science.
o As I said, there is nothing wrong with having an awareness of how much you are eating or how much you are moving throughout the day, but you can’t run your life as a mathematical equation. Furthermore, tracking calories has been associated with an increased risk of disordered eating tendencies, and being overly preoccupied with this is no way to spend your time and energy.
o If we keep buying into these – and other – diet myths, we will never get off the diet roller coaster. We will do one of two things:
o You will give up. I’m not even talking about giving up on dieting. I am talking about giving up on yourself. You will think you are broken because nothing works. You will think that you are not worth it because you have tried and failed so many times. You will start treating yourself – and eating – in a way that that does not promote a healthy or happy life.
o The other thing you might do is to try the next diet that comes down the Pike. You will waste more time, waste more money, and waste more energy beating yourself up instead of taking that energy elsewhere – like really learning about myth busting and finding a road to permanent success.
A Better Way
o The better way would be to put all this old thinking aside and spend that time instead, listening to this podcast!I am going to give you mindset changes where you will learn that the answer is within YOU – you just have to be open to learning about it and listen for it.
o You can save your money. Use it to buy new clothes!
o You can feel how refreshing it is to stop obsessing about weighing, measuring and tracking every bite of food that goes in your mouth.
o You can enjoy the fun adventures you will have with food – maybe allowing you for the first time since you became a dieter to eat without guilt or remorse.
Diet Success is not the same for everyone
Diet success is not the same for everyone.
Is it becoming a peaceful eater – not always in a frenzy to lose an unreasonable amount of weight?
Is it getting off the diet roller coaster and finding a way that brings you to a healthy enough weight where you can trust your mind and body’s signals?
Is it where you stop feeling disempowered by the diet industry and all the diet myths out there?
Do you want to stop bingeing?
Do you want to stop eating the leftovers off your grandchild’s plate?
Is it being able to find peace with wherever you want to settle in your journey? You might want to reach a size 6 or a size 16. It is your decision, not the diet industry’s decision. And while on this subject about sizes, I will teach you that happiness is not to be found in what size clothing you wear. Happiness is what you find, and will have, along the way.
Changing up our thinking and letting go of the diet myths
Getting rid of diet myths allows us to get to our destinations without a lot of roadblocks, nonsense, rules and regulations.
I have turned 70 this year. I remember my first official doctor’s diet at 13. That’s 57 years of experience learning what works and what doesn’t work. Honestly, please trust me on this.
Here is your actionable coaching advice for this week:
The first action item that I want to give you is one that I use with my clients for their first homework assignment when they work with me. Think about the following two questions (if you do written journaling these are great journal prompts, but if you don’t, then please just think about them):
1. Look at your dieting history and think about what might have been the shortcomings and myths of the diet itself, and not anything that was broken or wrong with you.
2. How would you like to define diet success?
VFO (Valuable Free Offer)
And now, to get you started on making some good choices on your own and not fueled by diet myths, I would like to offer you a free bonus guide, the Good-Better-Best Method (see below).
In this free guide I give you several suggestions as well as a worksheet so you can start to think about what choices you can make that will free you from the diet prison of weighing, measuring and tracking your food. Awareness is the first step in our journey, and that is where you start with this guide.
Learn more about this with my book and course:
Book Breaking Free From Diet Prison: Common Sense Keto and Low Carb
Course Breaking Free From Diet Prison: The Roadmap to Low Carb and Keto Success
And, if you haven't been getting my FREE bonus guides all along, here's one that will help you with the Good-Better-Best method.
If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to listen to it as a podcast, it is at Roadmap To Diet Success Episode 1.