We polled nutritionists and trainers across the country on the weight-loss myths they hate most; the ones they are constantly beating (figuratively, of course) out of their clients. Here are their four favorites. And, by favorites, we mean the ones that infuriate them to no end.
Not only can these myths stall your weight-loss progress, they can send your blood sugar soaring, back up your bowels, pack on the pounds, and, in general, make you hate “healthy” living.
1. Fat Makes You Fat
“The 1990s brought us a lot of things I really love, but the fat-free craze was not one of them. Fat is needed for our cellular health and the structure and function of our cell membranes,” says dietician nutritionist Jaime Mass, R.D.N., L.D.N., owner of Jaime Mass Nutritionals in Florida. “For health and weight loss, we should actually be eating more fatty fish, and supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids that can potentially support our brain health, cardiovascular health, cellular health, inflammatory health, and the list goes on and on.” To make matters worse, when we cut down on fat, we often unwittingly end up eating more carbs, sugar, calories, and sodium. That’s because, when food manufacturers suck the fat out of their foods, they have to replace its flavor in some way, she says. And since fat is vital to feeling full, fat-free foods often leave you anything but satisfied. That’s why it’s so easy to plow through a sleeve of sugar-laced gluten-free cookies in a single sitting.
2. Cutting Out Gluten Spurs Weight Loss
"It’s not cutting out gluten that’s helping bread-free dieters lose weight—it’s the white pasta, the bagels, the two baskets of bread we somehow plow through before dinner’s even served", says exercise physiologist and fitness nutrition specialist Marta Montenegro, M.S., C.S.C.S., S.F.N. And, eventually, when gluten-free eaters realize that G-free cookies, chips, and cupcakes actually taste pretty darn good, they end up putting back on the weight, says Montenegro, who notes that many gluten-free foods are even higher in carbs than the originals. Plus, since gluten-free eating nixes a lot of fiber-rich foods, some people actually suffer from constipation and elevated cholesterol levels when they’re on them, she says. While, if you have Celiac disease, you should absolutely avoid gluten, that’s not because it will help you lose weight. (If you are, you should talk to your doctor and a nutritionist about how to eat a balanced diet sans gluten.) And if you aren’t gluten intolerant, there’s no reason to ditch it.
3. You Can Earn Your Splurges
If you think your spin class will counteract that burger, you’d probably be wrong. “Study after study confirms that we overestimate the calories we burn while exercising—and by a lot", says nutritionist Rania Batayneh, M.P.H., author of The One One One Diet. For example, in one Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness study, exercisers whose workouts burned between 200 and 300 calories estimated that they had burned 825 and 896 calories, respectively. That’s a 500-plus calorie overshot. The solution: While you could just look up to see how many calories you really burned (don’t trust your cardio machine’s display) you’d be better off reframing how you think of both exercise and food, she says. Instead of using your workout as an excuse to splurge, and thinking about food as something you earn, remember that both are ways to nourish your body.
4. Carbs Make You Gain Weight
Refined carbs, well they can go suck a lemon. But carbs in general? They are one of the three macronutrients that your body needs not only to survive, but to perform its best. (The other two are protein and fat. Yep, we aren’t going to let this fat thing go.) Carbs become even more important to healthy living and weight loss when you’re exercising regularly. Carbohydrates are your body’s primary fuel—especially for high-intensity exercise, says strength coach Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., co-founder of Cressey Sports Performance in Massachusetts. “If anything, carbohydrates will help you better fuel your workouts, allowing you to work harder, burn more calories, and burn more fat.” Just opt for whole grains like quinoa, barley, whole-wheat, and leave the white carbs alone.
Written by guest writer K. Aleisha Fetters. A long-time health journalist who has been featured in publications including Women's Health, Men's Health, SELF, FITNESS, LIVESTRONG, Muscle & Fitness and more!