This time of year, dieting and weight loss is the conversation de jour. There’s no way to escape it -trust me, I’ve tried! From social media to advertising magazines and on TV to coworkers just dying to tell you about their new 5 AM tone and shred bootcamp and 14-day juice cleanse, everyone is still hopped up on the January 1st wave of motivation.
Of course, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably know that dieting doesn’t work. But at the same time, when confronted with the idea of a “new year, new you,” it’s easy to lose sight of this fact and try some weight loss trick your college friend shared on Facebook that any other time of year you’d brush off as silly.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of really bad diet advice out there, promoting things that are unproven, proven to not work, or even harmful. Most of that bad advice boils down to one of these three biggest diet myths that most people presume are true. Let’s get to mythbusting!
To lose weight, eat less and move more.
Most people’s understanding of weight loss is that calorie deficit is king – eat less calories (by cutting food groups or portion control) while burning more calories (through intense exercise) and you’ll lose weight. Maintain a calorie deficit, and you’ll keep it off. Because of this understanding, to lose weight most people try to maintain the greatest possible calorie deficit without keeling over from starvation or hurting anyone else in a hunger induced range.
While creating a calorie deficit, especially a major calorie deficit, will result in short term weight loss, in the long term, this method poses some problems.
To understand why, I think it’s helpful to redefine our understanding of metabolism. Most people think of metabolism as something that solely exists to maintain weight, but in reality, our metabolism is the sum or every single energy requiring process in our body – cell turnover, energy production, digestion and absorption, muscle contraction (aka breathing, pumping blood, moving, etc), hormone production, brain activity, and detoxification, among other activities, are all ruled by metabolism. Essentially, our metabolism is all the activities our body must do to survive.
We need energy (aka food) to fuel metabolism. No matter what you eat, your body still needs to do the same basic metabolic activities. Create a significant calorie deficit and your body will interpret that as a threat to it’s ability to complete it’s basic metabolic activities. It responds by slowing metabolism and increasing hunger hormones, one of the reasons why dieting is actually a predictor of weight gain. So while yes, if you regularly take in much more calories than your body uses, you’ll gain weight, but go the opposite way and undereat, and you’ll likely gain weight in the long run too.
Because there’s no good way to accurately calculate your precise calorie needs, drop the numbers game and instead focus on making it a habit to choose mostly nutritious and satisfying foods, savor them mindfully, and stop when you’re satisfied. This is by far the best way to eat the right amount for you!
The right diet for you is out there, you just have to find it.
Gluten free…paleo…alkaline…macros…there’s a million different opinions on what’s the “right” way to eat. If you’ve dieted in the past, you know what you’ve already tried doesn’t work, but you might still think the right diet is juuuust around the corner.
So, you keep trying. P.S. This is how fad diets become popular, through our constant attempts to find something new and different that will hopefully work. Eventually, in the diet industry’s attempts to come up with something new to sell, they come up with some pretty nutty fad diets. How else can we explain the cabbage soup diet – bleh!
The truth? There is no single diet out there that’s right for everyone. That’s because as a species, us humans were designed to adapt to our food environment. Some cultures thrive on a carbohydrate rich plant-based diet of mostly starchy tubers and fruits, while others thrive on mostly fatty seafood and meat with very little plant substance. The one thing all healthy diets have in common? Variety and a food source of all three macronutrients – fat, protein and carbohydrates.
Instead of trying to find the “right” diet, pay attention to what foods make you feel good to discover the pattern of eating that works for you. For example, I feel my best when I eat lots of fiber-rich carbohydrates like grains and beans and plant based fats, but others might feel sluggish eating lots of carbohydrate-dense meals. Once you discover what feels best for you, there’s no need to follow it strictly as a diet, it’s just information that helps you make the best possible food choices for yourself.
Weight loss is the best way to get healthy.
Think the path the health is by achieving a number on the scale? Think again. When the focus is on weight loss, it’s easy to turn to unhealthy behaviors (hello five day juice cleanse and crazy restrictive fad diets!). But health isn’t a number on the scale – it’s the outcome of our behaviors. Engage in health-promoting behaviors and you will be healthy, no matter the number on the scale!
The best way to get to your healthiest weight? Forget about weight entirely and instead focus on health. Your body will settle at it’s natural point, rather than fluctuate up and down as you hop from diet to diet.
Because this time of the year can get a little nutty with crazy diet advice, I’ve teamed up with Kura Nutrition, makers of my absolute favorite grassfed dairy smoothie powder, to present a Facebook live TODAY from 1-1:30 on how to help your body thrive in 2017! Be sure to go to their facebook page and give it a like so you can join in on the fun! They’re big believers of nourishment over deprivation, which is why I’m such a big fan of using their smoothie powder to make creamy and delicious smoothies, packed with nutrition from omega 3 rich grassfed New Zealand dairy, probiotics and natural sweetness without added sugar. And most importantly, it’s really tasty, so enjoying your morning smoothie is a treat. Try it in my vanilla chai smoothie bowl I created with Kura last year!