If fat loss was easy the obesity rate wouldn’t be climbing as quickly as it is. Sadly, about one-third of the population in the United States is obese. Although you can’t disregard the role genetics plays in obesity, research shows even people who are genetically predisposed to being overweight or obese can achieve a normal weight through lifestyle.
Still, far too many people are searching for quick and easy ways to lose weight. Some even resort to unsafe methods like diet pills, detox concoctions, and extreme calorie restriction. Even today, many myths about fat loss persist and subscribing to these myths can actually make it harder to lose weight. Here are five of the most common fat loss myths – dispelled.
Myth: Cutting Calories is the Best For Fat Loss
If you’re trying to lose body fat, going on a low-calorie diet is self-defeating. When you restrict calories substantially for a significant period of time, your body “metabolically adapts,” meaning your metabolism slows. Your brain adapts too. It has subtle ways of getting you to move less when you’re not eating enough – to conserve energy. You may lose weight initially but then have problems maintaining it. A new study even showed that your metabolism can STAY depressed even after you begin eating normally again.
Is there a better way? Rather than going on a calorie crash diet, change the quality of what you’re eating. Eliminate processed foods, sugary drinks, and starchy vegetables. Add more non-starchy fruits, vegetables and lean protein to your diet. Protein has satiety effects that carbohydrates and fats don’t have. Start the day with eggs. Research shows eggs rank highest in protein quality, with the exception of whey protein. A study showed people who started the day with eggs lost more body fat and had a greater reduction in waist size than did those who ate the calorie equivalent of bagels. Upgrade the quality of your diet and eat more mindfully. Don’t fall into the calorie restriction trap.
Myth: You Can Lose Weight and Body Fat without Exercising
If you drop your calories low enough, you can lose weight without exercising but it’s unlikely you’ll maintain it. Research shows exercise is essential for weight maintenance after weight loss. The reality is between 80 and 90% of people who lose more than 10% of their body weight gain it back. Exercise, including resistance training, is the best weapon against fat regain – aerobic and resistance training.
The other problem with trying to lose weight without exercising is you’ll also lose muscle. Even though you’ll be lighter, your body composition may actually be worse. These days, there’s an epidemic of “skinny fat,” people who are of normal weight and have a high body fat. To lower your body fat percentage rather than just the vanity number on the scale, you need to work your muscles against resistance – regularly.
Myth: It’s Only about What You Eat and How Much You Exercise
We, humans, are complex beings. Life would be simple if we could just cut back on calories, exercise more, and those pounds of body fat would disappear. It’s not so easy. Other factors impact how much we eat and how motivated we are to exercise. For example, eating is sometimes emotionally motivated. Emotional eaters eat when they’re bored and snack when they’re stressed, sometimes unconsciously. It’s a problem you have to tackle to successfully lose body fat long term. Otherwise, it’ll sabotage your efforts at every turn. What can you do? Learn stress control techniques (meditation, yoga etc.), approach eating mindfully, and keep a journal describing your mood when you ate something so you’ll be more aware.
There’s also the issue of sleep. It’s another weight loss saboteur. When you don’t get enough sleep, the hunger hormone ghrelin goes up and triggers cravings. If lack of sleep becomes a habit, levels of the stress hormone cortisol rise. Cortisol not only increases hunger and cravings but it breaks down lean muscle tissue and leads to undesirable changes in your body composition. Too many people don’t address the issues of sleep and stress and wonder why they aren’t losing body fat.
Myth: Don’t Weigh Yourself Daily
Whether to weigh daily is a hotly debated topic. Yet, science is on the side of daily weigh-ins. In one study, participants who weighed daily lost 3% of their body weight while those who didn’t lose any weight. Weighing daily helps you catch small increases in weight quickly before they become bigger ones. If you’re talking about fat loss, you’ll need a scale that measures body fat. Although fat loss scales that use bioelectrical impedance aren’t entirely accurate, they’re good for showing whether your body fat is increasing or decreasing.
For the greatest accuracy, weigh and get your body fat percentage as soon as you get out of bed in the morning, after urinating. Don’t drink anything before weighing. Keep in mind, your body fat percentage will be higher in the morning than it will be in the afternoon since you’re dehydrated in the morning. As you hydrate your body fat percentage will drop, but the goal is to monitor CHANGES in body fat percentage. Knowing this information will help you tailor your diet accordingly. Don’t become obsessed with the numbers, but use them to tweak your weight loss or weight maintenance efforts.
Myth: Low-Fat Foods Help You With Fat Loss
Hopefully, this myth is FINALLY dying a slow and well-deserved death. There’s nothing inherently “bad” about fats. In fact, sugar is a bigger issue from a weight gain perspective than fat. Processed carbs cause a rapid rise in blood sugar and a greater release of insulin. Such an environment promotes fat storage. When you buy low-fat packaged products, they’re typically loaded with sugar and fillers. Plus, there’s growing evidence that eating moderate amounts of certain types of fat, like monounsaturated from sources like olive oil and nuts, can actually help you lose fat. Don’t fear healthy fats.
The Bottom Line
Hopefully, we’ve busted some fat loss myths. Remember too, that patience is a virtue when it comes to losing body fat. So, hang in there!
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “Overweight and Obesity Statistics”
Live Science. “Stepping on a Scale Daily May Help You Lose Weight”
International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity20085:54. DOI: 10.1186/1479-5868-5-54.
Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Oct; 32(10): 1545-1551. Published online 2008 Aug 5. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2008.130
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