It is a brand new year and chances are somewhere on your resolution list is the vow to improve your health, and perhaps even shed some of those holiday pounds! Before you plan your mode of attack, it’s time to separate fact from fiction. Below are 5 common myths about weight loss that can undermine your success.
Myth # 1- You need to exercise to lose weight. I know this may shock you, but research has repeatedly shown that exercise will only minimally affect weight loss. It is your diet that has the biggest impact on calories. This does not mean that exercise is not beneficial. Even if you didn’t lose a pound, you will become healthier with exercise, as you build muscle and convert unhealthy fat to healthy fat, which affects your glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol among other things. Exercise is a key component to sustaining weight loss. However, if you are starting your weight loss journey, begin with a focus on nutrition. Think of it this way, it takes five minutes to eat a 500 calorie muffin but over an hour on a treadmill to burn it off. Further, because of the way the body conserves energy in famine states, we really only get back about 1/3 of what we work off. This does not mean that you shouldn’t exercise! It simply means you have to get the food piece down first, staying on a calorie deficit diet, and slowly increase your exercise as tolerated for your hunger level (and your level of conditioning) so that you can stay on your nutrition plan.
Myth #2- The faster you lose weight, the less likely it will stay off. For years, we have been advised that gradual weight loss is the best course, but the opposite is true. Research has shown that fast weight loss may actually be more effective. People who lost weight fast were less likely to drop off than those who lost gradually.As long as you conserve muscle mass in the process, the faster you lose, the more weight you will lose, and the more likely you will keep it off long term. What does it mean to conserve muscle mass? Protein feeds muscle, and muscle drives metabolism. Often when folks lose weight, they lose a significant amount of muscle as well, and their metabolism drops. Then they have to eat fewer calories to maintain the lower weight. If you aim for at least 1 gram of protein per kg of body weight, you should be able to maintain your muscle mass and keep your metabolism relatively stable. (You should always check with your physician first before making significant changes to your diet or exercise regimen). I favor a 1-2 pound weight loss per week minimum.
Myth #3 – It’s just calories in/calories out. There is nothing more complicated than the way the body conserves energy. This is why it frustrates me to hear the inaccurate advice given, “Just push yourself away from the table and exercise more.” The total calories consumed in a day are important, but equally important is the quality and timing of your calories. For example, most women will lose weight on 1200-1400 calories per day. However, these calories should be consumed in five small meals per day. If you consume 1200-1400 calories after 5 pm, your body goes into a fat storage state, and you’re more likely to gain rather than lose weight. The quality of those calories is also important. Lean protein is mostly driven into the muscles. Carbohydrates are broken down and stored as glycogen in the liver, but once we have maximized glycogen stores, the remainder of the carbs are stored as fat. Ingested fat depends on the source, and some forms of fat are stored safely while others contribute to plaque and other unhealthy conditions. So 200 calories of chicken breast and 200 calories of candy will be stored by the body very differently.
Myth #4. The best diet is low cholesterol and low fat. Research shows that regardless of the components, the best diet is the one that you can stick to. That being said, I prefer a primal approach (lean protein, fruits, veggies, low-fat dairy with minimal if any starchy carbs and no processed foods) to help my patients lose and maintain weight loss. Here is my formula:
- Take your weight and divide it by 2- that is your protein requirements per day in grams.
- Eat 5 times per day with each meal having at least 10 grams of protein in it.
- Never eat a carb (such as a piece of fruit) without a protein (such as a cheese stick).
- Aim for 1200-1400 calories per day as a female.
- Drink 64 oz of water per day minimum.
Myth #5 Once you hit menopause you are destined to have a belly Not true! I swear. It is certainly true that our body stores fat differently after menopause, more like a man (around our midsection instead of our hips) but you can keep that menopausal pooch away by minimizing your starchy carbs and sugar and exercising your core.
Now that you know the facts, you can lay the foundation for a healthier new year!
Did any of these facts surprise you? Let us know in the comments!