See all > Diet and nutrition
June 14, 2021 • read
Five weight loss myths that will change the way you think about your health
When it comes to weight loss, there’s a lot of information out there.
Not only is there a lot of information, but you might hear a “weight loss tip” from one source that directly contradicts a tip that you heard elsewhere.
So, how can you know what’s right and what’s wrong?
The reality is that weight loss isn’t a perfect science. One technique may work well for someone else, but not at all for you. Each person’s body is different and there are a lot of factors to consider in relation to weight loss – other than your daily caloric intake and calorie deficit.
To help you weed through the piles of theories out there, we’ve put together a list of five popular (and misleading) weight loss myths that will change the way you think about your health.
Before we can talk about these myths, it’s important to understand what a calorie deficit is, and how it affects you.
Calorie deficit: What is it, and why should you care?
Your body requires a certain number of calories each day to support your energy expenditure. This is estimated by your height, weight, age, sex, and the volume of physical activities you perform daily. This is called your daily maintenance calories.
If your body burns 2000 calories per day throughout your normal routine, this would be your maintenance calories. However, if you are only consuming 1200 calories worth of food, that 800 difference would be your calorie deficit.
Sounds simple enough, right? It’s actually a little more complicated than that.
It’s believed that for most people, if you want to use a calorie deficit to lose weight, your goal shouldn’t be the highest possible deficit. It should be to determine what your correct daily maintenance calories require, and then aim to consume 500 calories less than that per day.
This fluctuates between different people, as well as the two sexes. Also, it’s good to note that men should normally not consume less than 1500 calories per day, and women should not dip below 1200, even if they’re trying to maintain a daily calorie deficit.
These theories don’t take into account things like hormonal imbalances, hypothyroidism, genetics, metabolic adaptations, chronic diseases (like diabetes and arthritis), or the use of certain medications. All of these factors may make it additionally challenging for someone to lose weight – even with a daily calorie deficit.
Now that you understand a bit about how calorie deficits work, let’s discuss some common weight loss myths. These may seem like great ideas, but they can actually be as harmful as they are helpful, if they’re not handled properly.
MYTH #1: Extreme diets are the most effective
It can be incredibly tempting (especially after some unpleasant visits to the bathroom scale) to decide your best course of action is an “extreme diet”.
This could involve either severely limiting the types of food you allow yourself to eat, or simply not eating at all. You may want those pounds to melt away, but this isn’t the way to do it.
If your goal is to eat less frequently, that’s fine. Cutting down on snacking and unnecessary calories is a good choice when you’re trying to lose weight. However, starvation should never be your goal.
When you starve yourself long enough, your body will enter “starvation mode.” This means it reduces the number of calories required for your daily maintenance, so it can maintain your energy levels with less food.
Worse yet, when you starve yourself, your metabolism grinds to a screeching halt. This means that when you do eat something, your body immediately wants to store as many calories as possible. It does this because it isn’t sure when you’re going to give it more to process, so it stores fat to break down later.
The best types of diets take time and effort to apply, and they won’t promise immediate results. Even if you do see short-term successes with extreme diets, the results you’ve gotten may simply not be sustainable long-term. Weight loss at a rate of one to two pounds or less per week is a safe and sustainable goal. It’s best to avoid diets that are very strict, eliminate major food categories such as gluten or carbohydrates (the common ones), or that do not allow people to eat the foods they enjoy or eat foods from their culture. These methods are not supported by the Dieticians of Canada.
MYTH #2: Low-calorie diets = increased weight loss
Calorie counting is fine if you’re trying to control your eating habits and monitor how much you’re taking in each day.
Regardless of what your preferred diet might be, you need to maintain a certain level of calories daily. Otherwise, your body will panic and start reverting into starvation mode.
As we mentioned earlier, to use calorie deficit to your advantage you need to determine your maintenance calories per day and subtract about 500. So, when a diet tells you that you can lose weight by bringing your calorie intake as low as possible, it’s only a half-truth.
In the short-term, when you drive your caloric intake that low, yes, you will notice some weight loss. However, this is not a good long-term solution. You’ll notice a dip in your energy, as your body struggles to make the best use of the small amount of fuel you’re giving it.
Eventually, this tactic will put your body into starvation mode, which isn’t good for your overall health. Also, because your body is stashing everything you do give it, your daily meals become a timebomb waiting to happen.
As soon as you let your daily calories go back up, your body will pack back on as much as it can. After all, it doesn’t know when the next time will be that you’ll give it more.
If a “cheat day” now and then is going to ruin your entire diet, can you really say it’s working? We don’t think so.
MYTH #3: Diet, low-fat foods are a healthy choice
There are so many “low-fat” or diet foods on the market, it can be overwhelming trying to make sense of all the options.
In fact, a lot of these “diet” options are actually quite unhealthy. Some replace sugars with unhealthy food additives like aspartame, which aren’t healthy to consume regularly.
Many low-fat choices don’t advertise the fact that they’re actually loaded with sugars and salts. And what does your body process excess sugars into? That’s right – fat.
Just because something has “low-fat” content, doesn’t automatically make it good for you. Actually, in many cases it’s much better for you to enjoy small amounts of regular-fat versions of these foods, than to substitute low-fat alternatives. Certain types of fats are important for our digestive health.
MYTH #4: “Bad” foods should be avoided
How many diets will tell you that “fatty”, high-cholesterol foods are bad? Or argue that you should avoid foods with complex carbohydrates like potatoes, rice, and pasta? These are often the same diets that promote fruits and vegetables as unwaveringly good for you.
The truth is that food science doesn’t typically deal in absolutes like this. Any food eaten in excess can be bad for you.
But that doesn’t mean these other food groups are bad. High-cholesterol foods are often nutrient-dense, and are a good part of a healthy diet, in moderation. Potatoes are highly nutritious, when they’re boiled or baked instead of fried. Whole wheat pasta and whole grain rice are excellent sources of dietary fibre.
On the flip side, fruits are packed full of natural sugars. Certain vegetables are high in carbs as well, like corn, squash, and tomatoes. The key here is to understand that this doesn’t make any of these foods “bad” for you. There are far fewer “bad” foods than most people think, but there certainly are bad eating habits you can fall into. Substituting water for sugary beverages, brown rice for white, or whole grain bread for white are some easy substitutions to help create better eating habits.
“Everything in moderation” is a good motto to follow when you’re building your meal plans. It’s not about avoiding certain foods completely, but rather monitoring how much of them you eat. The best diets involve meals that are balanced to control the number of calories, while also taking nutritional value into account. Another important thing to be mindful of are fad diets – beware of their marketing that promotes buying their products or methods over making healthy choices at the grocery stores. Some fad diets will also give testimonials rather than true evidence to support their methods. In short, fad diets are not sustainable.
MYTH #5: It’s easy to lose weight if you’re committed
This is possibly the biggest weight loss myth of them all. This generalized statement doesn’t take into account your own health, your body’s needs or any conditions you may have that may make weight loss challenging.
It may take you trying a few different types of diets before you find one that fits with your lifestyle and personal preferences. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t committed, or should feel bad when a diet doesn’t work for you.
The most difficult weight loss myth to overcome is that weight loss is always connected directly to effort and willpower. That simply isn’t the case.
Yes, it takes time and a lot of effort to lose weight, but it’s far more difficult for some people than for others. You may struggle for years trying to control your weight, even with a strict meal plan, careful dietary choices, and exercise.
In these cases, it can be really helpful to speak to a dietitian about your weight loss journey. They’ll be able to guide you towards some food tips to meet your body’s specific needs, while also helping to facilitate your weight loss.
Can Maple help me with my weight loss?
Yes, we can!
In fact, Maple can help you see a dietitian who has the knowledge and expertise to help you improve your weight loss strategies.
Schedule a consultation with us today, and let our specialist guide you towards realistic, achievable weight loss goals. You don’t have to do it alone.
Together, we can help you take the first steps towards a happier, healthier lifestyle.
See a doctor onlineGet started
How employers can create a culture of psychological safety
In 2015, Google’s People Operations team embarked on a mission to answer a very simple question: What makes a team at Google effective?Read more