Want to lose a few kilos? Be wary of conventional weight-loss wisdom. – By Selene Yeager for Bicycling
There’s probably no single topic that is as rife with misconceptions, misunderstandings and outright mythology as weight loss. Some of it is simply old advice that’s long since been debunked; some is traditional thinking that was never really grounded in science, and some is little more than wishful thinking. Regardless of where they came from, here are six weight loss ’isms you can put to rest once and for all.
Myth #1: Eating Fat Makes You Fat
We might need to change the name of the fat we eat to something completely different from the unwanted flab we carry around our waist, because the association is so firmly cemented in the minds of so many that it’s impossible to wedge free. To be fair, this misconception was backed up for over a decade by researchers, scientists, the government, even random strangers on the street, but let’s try again: Eating fat does not make you fat.
You need fat for basic functioning as well as a healthy running metabolism. In one study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that when dieters followed a low-fat diet for four weeks, their metabolism took a dramatic nose dive, leaving them burning 1255 fewer kilojoules – the amount burned by during a 30-minute interval workout + a day. It also disrupted important hormones that keep cholesterol and insulin levels in check. For real weight loss, it may be more useful to follow a higher healthy-fat diet, such as the Mediterranean model. In a five year study of 7,447 men and women published in the June 2016 online edition of Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, researchers found that those who ate the diets highest in olive oil, nuts, and other healthy fats (like fish and avocados) lost the most weight and had the slimmest waistlines.
“Fat also adds a pleasant mouthfeel and flavour to your food, which increases your enjoyment and satisfaction, which is important when you want to lose weight,” says sports nutritionist Leslie Bonci.
Myth #2: Weight Loss Is All About Kilojoules in and Kilojoules Out
This numerical approach to weight loss has also been hailed as gospel for so long that it will be a challenge to exorcise it from our collective consciousness, but let’s try anyway. Here goes: we’ve been told for decades that every 0.45kg of body weight equals 14,644 kilojoules, so if you cut or burn 2092 a day, you’ll lose 0.45kg a week like magic.
Only now we know that that equation is a bit of smoke and mirrors, because 2092 kilojoules in the form of broccoli and salmon will have a far different impact on your appetite, metabolism, energy and fat storage than 2092 kilojoules from fries and cheesecake. In fact, because the fibre in high-fibre foods isn’t digested, and protein is a lot of work for your body to digest, you don’t even get all 2000 of those kilojoules from the former.
That’s not to say you have a free pass to be oblivious to kilojoules. But the take-home lesson is that you should make them count in the form of whole, unprocessed foods like vegetables, fish, poultry and meats, nuts and seeds, fruits and whole grains.
Myth #3: Don’t Eat Late
Various incarnations of this one have been around for decades. To be fair, there’s been some evidence over that period of time that eating more early in the day may help with weight management. But firm conclusions have been very hard to come by. And of course, there are a few million lean, late dining Europeans who can attest to the fact that this hard and fast rule is anything but. On a the scientific front, one study from the Hebrew University in Israel actually found that Ramadan practicing Muslims (where they fast during the day and feast on carb-heavy evening meals) had healthier appetite and satiety hormones, as well as smaller waistlines, compared to those who ate the bulk of their kilojoules and carbs earlier in the day. Those findings were echoed by an Italian study that also found that those who ate their main meals after six burned more fat than those eating earlier.
One meal-timing “rule” that may have a positive impact on your weight is limiting your food intake to a 12 hour window. Research on mice recently found that even when the animals ate the same total number of kilojoules, the mice that had their food intake confined to a 12 hour window were healthier and leaner than those who had no time constraints. Notably, when the mice swapped places in the second half of the study, those that had packed on fat during their free-eating days dropped weight quickly once they started following an eating curfew.
Myth #4: You Can Just Run It Off!
Repeat after me: You can’t outrun a bad diet. This one we all kind of know, yet we don’t want to believe. Sorry, it’s true. That’s why some people even gain weight when they start running more – they over-compensate. Those 2092 kiljoules you burn during your early morning run are pretty easy to erase with a muffin and large latté afterwards. The exercise is important. But what you put on your plate is even more so.
Myth #5: Carbs Make You Fat!
Dieters love demons. Today, many who have allowed fat back into their lives have kicked carbohydrates to the curb, blaming this major source of glycogen for their waistline woes. While it is true that millions of people went carb-crazy – and saw the numbers on the scale trend upwards as a result – during the low-fat, high-carb craze, carbohydrates still belong in a runner’s diet. “Carbs are the premier fuel source for intense and moderate exercise and the preferred fuel source for your brain,” says Bonci. “So for thinking and to prevent energy levels from sinking, you can be selective with your carb choices but don’t take them off the plate.”
That “selectiveness” can even include pasta. In a study of more than 23,000 Italians, researchers found that eating pasta was associated with a smaller waistline and reduced odds of becoming of obese. The key of course is moderation – and the quality of the carb. Another study found that people trying to lose weight who ate whole wheat foods lost more fat over 12 weeks than those eating refined wheat foods. Remember, too, carbs come in many forms, including fruits, legumes, beans, and vegetables.
Myth #6: You’ve Got to Lose Weight Slowly
Surprised to see this one? While no one recommends crash dieting – because it’s unsustainable no matter how much (or little) weight you lose – initial rapid weight loss is actually pretty normal when people embark on a lifestyle change such as running regularly (or doing any aerobic exercise) and cleaning up their diet. In fact, contrary to “conventional” wisdom, dropping a fair amount of kilos right out of the gate may actually help you keep it off in the long run.
In a study of 262 men and women published in the International Journal of Behavioural Medicine, those who lost weight quickly enjoyed both greater weight loss and long term weight maintenance than slow losers – and were no more likely to regain it over time.
The article 6 Weight Loss Rules To Forget originally appeared on Bicycling.