When it comes to overall health and weight loss, there’s an abundance of bad advice that’s misguided, outdated, and scientifically disproven.
These ubiquitous myths create stalled weight loss and damage our health. Let’s take a look at four nutrition “truths” that jeopardize our health and waistline.
Myth #1: All Calories are Created Equal
A calorie is a calorie, right? Wrong. This refuse-to-die myth keeps us from being healthy and losing weight.
The idea goes as long as we burn more calories than we consume, we will lose weight. The multi-billion dollar weight loss industry perpetuates this lie and actually relies on us believing it to stay afloat.
Thinking losing weight is all about energy balance or calories-in-calories-out vastly oversimplifies the truth. The food industry and government agencies love this myth because it keeps us buying more junk food, which they tell us to eat in moderation.
Our bodies are much more complex than a simple math problem. When we eat, our food interacts with our biology, a complex adaptive system that instantly transforms every bite. Food is more than just calories and flavors. Food is information telling our cells what to do.
In fact, every bite we eat affects our hormones, brain chemistry, and metabolism. Sugar calories cause fat storage and spike hunger. Calories from protein and fat promote fat burning.
What counts more are the quality, not the quantity, of those calories. The highest-quality calories come from whole foods. We needn’t count calories when we eat fresh foods like those our great-grandma made.
These foods include quality protein like grass-fed beef and wild-caught fish, healthy fats like avocado, and good carbs like vegetables, fruits like wild berries, and super foods like chia and hemp seeds.
Myth #2: Our Genetics Define our Health
This myth says if our mom is fat and our grandma is fat, we will also become fat. We drew the fat card or the diabetes card in the genetic lottery.
As a firm believer that food is medicine and information for our cells, our genetics do not dictate future health outcomes. We possess much more power over them, and we are never doomed.
Consider this: There are 32 obesity-associated genes in the general population that account for only nine percent of obesity cases. Even if we had all 32 obesity genes, we would put on only about 22 pounds.
Our genes only change two percent every 20,000 years. About 35 percent of Americans are obese today, yet by 2050 that number will become over 50 percent of Americans. Our genes simply don’t change that fast.
What changed drastically wasn’t our genes. We went from eating about 10 pounds of sugar per person per year in 1800 to 152 pounds of sugar (and 146 pounds of flour) per person per year today. Those are drugs: Doses of sugar and flour that hijack our metabolism and make us fat and sick.
Myth #3: We Can Out-Exercise a Bad Diet
The myth that we can eat whatever we want and burn those calories with exercise makes no sense when we know how the human body works.
We set ourselves up for failure if we rely on exercise to lose weight without changing our diet. We can change our diet and lose weight, but if we exercise and keep our diet the same, we may gain some muscle, improve endurance, and be healthier overall, but we won’t shed many pounds.
Think about it: If we drink just one 20-ounce soda, we’ll have to walk four-and-a-half miles to burn it off. We simply cannot exercise our way out of a bad diet.
Yes, exercise is extremely important, but to lose weight and keep it off we need to couple exercise with a healthy diet filled with plenty of plant foods, healthy fats, and protein.
Myth #4: Fat Makes Us Fat
Eating fat is critical to health and weight loss. Simply put: eating fat makes us lean.
Studies comparing an identical-calorie high-fat diet to a high-sugar diet had totally different effects on metabolism. The higher-fat diet caused people to burn an extra 300 calories a day. That’s the equivalent of running an hour but without doing any exercise.
Dietary fat actually speeds up our metabolism, while sugar slows it down. The right kinds of fat cool down inflammation, while sugar fuels it.
In studies of animals eating identical calorie diets of either low-fat (high-sugar) or higher fat and protein diets show higher sugar diets lead to more fat deposition and muscle loss, while the higher fat and protein diets led to more muscle mass and fat loss. Keep in mind they were eating exactly the same number of calories.
I’m sure you’ve got one to add! Please share your refuse-to-diet dietary myth below or on my Facebook page.
Author: Dr. Mark Hyman
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Emily Bartran