The COVID-19 pandemic has hindered weight loss plans for many, and triggered weight gain for others. Thanks to fitness and calorie counting apps, influencers’ success stories, and a multitude of diet products in the market, it can be very confusing to differentiate between fact and fiction – leaving you feeling frustrated and ready to give up.
Here are some of the most common myths built around weight loss diets.
Myth #1: Eat less, lose more.
This cannot be further from the truth. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. When you deprive your body of the food it needs to meet your energy needs, it goes into survival mode and starts to break down muscle to use glycogen – stored glucose, for energy. Your metabolic rate slows down to conserve energy, and you end up feeling tired, sluggish, weak, cold and even with possible gastrointestinal problems such as constipation.
The most successful weight loss plans combine a tailored eating plan with physical activity regime, and behavior modification sessions. Because everyone is different, the “one diet fits all” theory doesn’t apply to anyone. Studies have shown that individuals who track their meals lose more weight. Some calorie counting apps do a very good job at keeping you in tune with your calorie intake. Weighing yourself once a week is also a self-monitoring technique that works in your favor.
Myth #2: If you exercise, you can eat all you want.
Calories in versus calories out is not a cliché but a reality. What you eat (calories in) is one part of the equation, with physical activity and metabolic expenditure (calories out) being the other. With that in mind, and if you want to lose weight, the foods you eat cannot exceed the calories you burn through exercise.
A study published by Harvard Medical School found that an average person weighing 155 lb. and 185 lb. can burn 175 calories and 185 calories, respectively, in 30 minutes of brisk walking at 4 mph. Consuming a typical post-workout smoothie of 175-200 calories can either balance or disproportionally unbalance the energy equation, easily hindering your weight loss goals.
Try adding more walking intervals during the day and/or participate in more intense activities without increasing your caloric intake.
Myth #3: If it’s healthy, you can eat all you want.
The myth that says, “If it’s healthy it won’t add to your weight – or better yet, it will help you lose weight regardless,” ignores the science-based energy balance equation. For example, a loaded salad can range between 800 and 1000 calories, sometimes more. This is perhaps, half of your daily calorie needs in just one meal. The countless options of high calorie foods in “healthy food” establishments are worrisome and not making this any easier for anyone.
Ultimately, the best weight loss plan is the one customized to meet your energy needs based on height, weight, age, physical activity level, health status, personal preferences and lifestyle. It should include foods from all the food groups or alternates to meet your overall nutritional needs. It should be tailored to your individual food preferences, cultural and religious beliefs, budgetary needs and dietary limitations. A registered dietitian can help you reach your weight loss goals.