Lately, it seems like losing weight, getting fit, and being healthy are more daunting prospects than ever before. With stars like Kendall Jenner frequently spotted out and about in their $100 workout gear and practically everybody on Instagram waxing lyrical about #eatingclean, it's often impossible to sort the helpful information from the attention-grabbing rubbish.
We're here to help. I spoke to a wide variety of fitness and health experts to get the scoop on what the worst, and most prevalent, myths are surrounding dieting. If you're ready to take that first step toward changing your life, be wary of these false facts.
Losing weight is all about eating less food
Calorie counting has been around almost as long as dieting itself. Or, at least, that's what it feels like. And yet, the idea of dramatically reducing our food intake, though it may seem simple in theory, doesn't usually work out too well in practice – never mind long term.
As Dr. Barry Sears, a leading authority on anti-inflammatory nutrition and author of the Zone Diet book series, explained to me, "Very low calorie diets leave you with no energy, feeling grouchy and, after a while, they can put your body into a state of stress, triggering it to want to cling on to fat stores for dear life. So, they make you miserable and don't even work."
Starving yourself might produce results in the short term, but try to remember that you're risking long term issues by depriving your body of the fuel it needs to survive, not least when it comes to your weight loss and health goals.
All calories are created equal
The generally accepted "calories in-calories out" equation makes complete sense, in theory – if we burn off more than we're eating, we will lose weight. However, as Dr. Jason Sonners of Core Therapies explained to me, "without considering the actual source and type of those calories [this idea] is very misleading."
Many different factors come into play here, from the type of calorie to the health of the person ingesting them. Personal trainer, sports nutritionist, and wellness coach Amanda Dale further broke down this idea. "Sure, eating only 500 calories of anything will keep you slim (since it's a massive calorie deficit for even sedentary people) – but when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet, nutrition matters."
As Dale explained, not all calories are created equal. "Eating 1800 kCal of empty carbs will make it difficult to gain lean muscle, slow your metabolism, and make you feel fatigued, whereas 1800 kCal of high-quality protein and healthy fats will help you gain muscle, burn more calories at rest, and maintain your energy levels all day."
The latest diet craze is the best option
It seems like every week there's a new diet on the market, promising to help us lose weight faster and keep it off for good without giving in to temptation or, by contrast, being forced to quit eating what we love. These fad diets over-complicate matters, particularly when they seem to be backed by scientific facts that most of us without a PhD in nutrition would struggle to understand.
Personal trainer and author of The Fat Burn Revolution Julia Buckley advised against embarking upon a new, get-fit-quick diet just because the science behind it seems to check out. "Recently the trend is to claim the effectiveness is proven by 'science'. And yet the so-called diet gurus touting them constantly contradict one another. They all have what they describe as scientific proof that their plan is the best, but the fact is that these studies are either picked out or actually created to back up their claims."
Most of these plans are impossible to adhere to, and generally only work in the short term, if at all. The truth of the matter, shocking as it may seem, is that healthy living is actually quite simple.
Low fat/sugar-free/diet foods are necessary to lose weight
Food labels are more detailed than ever before, which can sometimes make it more difficult to understand what we're actually putting into our bodies. Marketing for the latest fat-burning wonder item may lead us to believe we need to opt into specific brands and specialized foods in order to lose weight.
This is absolutely the not the case, as Rene Ficek, a registered dietitian nutritionist and the lead nutrition expert at Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating, advised me. "Low-fat and low-carb doesn't always mean low calorie, and if you're trying to lose weight, stocking up on these treats could undermine your efforts. Studies have shown that when consumers believe products to be lower in calories or fat, they eat more of them."
We need to be conscious of additives too. Companies will often try to make up for taste loss by adding additional sweeteners and other additives, which mess up our body chemistry even further.