In this edition of ‘Nutrition Myths Busted’, we are talking weight loss. From carbs to calories to skipping meals, get the most up to date research here!
Since starting my nutrition private practice this year, almost every single one of my clients has wanted to lose weight. With that goal comes a flood of questions. Should they try Whole30? What about keto? How about meal replacement shakes?
After I say my part about weight loss, balanced meal planning, and macronutrient needs, my clients are sometimes a little underwhelmed. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix, magic pill, or specific diet that guarantees weight loss fast.
The good news is, weight loss is possible and attainable. Just like most changes in life, weight loss is built on the culmination of healthy habits. Make small, sustainable changes to your diet and lifestyle, and you will see results! It takes a little patience because healthy weight loss is slow and steady, but you absolutely can be successful at weight loss.
Today, I’m breaking down three weight loss nutrition myths I hear and read over and over. I’m covering carbohydrates, calories, and skipping meals and how they all relate to weight loss. Read on for the science-backed details!
Weight Loss Myth 1: Carbs make you fat.
Back in the 1990s, the low-fat craze took over in America. But now, things have shifted, and low-carb diets are all the rage. From paleo to keto, many of today’s hottest diets promote low carbohydrate intake.
For reference, the Dietary Guidelines recommend 45-65% of our diets come from carbohydrates, or about 225-325 grams of carbs per day. The ketogenic diet (which was developed for people with epilepsy) recommends just 50 grams per day.
The research shows that in the short term, low carb diets might be slightly more effective for weight loss than other diets (1). When I say slightly, I mean the difference of 2-3 pounds over 12 months. A difference this small is negligible for those with a significant amount of weight to lose. Furthermore, research shows that adherence to very low carb ketogenic diets is nearly nonexistent after 6 months.
What all this tell us is that low carb diets may jumpstart weight loss in the short term, but after a year of dieting, the difference is inconsequential. Also, low carb diets, especially the ketogenic diet, are not sustainable long term. When considering a diet, ask yourself if you think you’ll be eating this way when you’re 85. If the answer is no, it’s probably not a sustainable pattern of eating that will produce long term results.
Furthermore, when you eliminate carbs, you are eliminating super important vitamins, minerals, and fiber! A high fiber diet is actually extremely conducive to weight loss, because it fills you up on fewer calories. The takeaway here is to choose whole grain, complex, fiber-rich carbs to promote weight loss while still meeting your micronutrient needs. Check out this post for to learn more about fiber-rich foods!
Weight Loss Myth 2: I can eat whatever I want and lose weight, as long as I stay under my calorie goal.
I think a lot of us have experience with counting calories. When we have a specific number in mind about how much we should eat every day, this can quickly become the most important driving factor of our food choices. We choose 100-calorie packs over satiating nuts for a snack because they are lower in calories. But, there is so much more to a calorie than the number, and the quality of your calories matters.
Not all calories are created equal
The calories in our food have different effects on metabolism when the food is actually digested and absorbed (2). For instance, an apple and a slice of white bread have roughly the same number of calories. But, the apple has 4 grams of fiber, whereas the white bread has none. The fiber in the apple will slow the digestive process, keeping us full for longer, and avoiding a quick spike in blood sugar. The white bread breaks down quickly, so the sugars rapidly absorb into our blood.
When we choose meals and snacks that have a balance fiber, lean protein, and healthy fats, our bodies digest them more slowly, we have a more stable blood sugar curve, and we feel fuller for longer. The benefits of fiber in particular are extra notable, because we don’t even digest it! It passes through our digestive tract, feeds the good bacteria in our guts, or gets exits our bodies. When we feel full, we eat less overall, which ultimately leads to weight loss.
Of course, consuming an excess of ANY macronutrient will be stored as fat. But, we can prevent eating in excess in the first place by choosing balanced meals, never restricting ourselves too much, and practicing mindfulness while eating.
The best foods for sustainable weight loss are not low calorie foods, but whole, unprocessed foods from all food groups because they metabolize more efficiently, keep us full, and help prevent overeating in the first place.
Weight Loss Myth 3: Skipping meals will help me lose weight.
Skipping meals may work for short term weight loss, but it is absolutely not sustainable or healthy for the long term. In fact, it might actually disrupt your metabolism. Metabolism is all the chemical processes that happen inside our bodies that keep us alive. It encompasses burning calories and fat for energy, and using energy to rebuild tissues.
One study found that there was no difference in body weight after 1 year between breakfast eaters and breakfast skippers (3). Also, the breakfast eaters had higher intakes of important nutrients, like thiamin, niacin, and folate.
Another study looked at breakfast skipping, dinner skipping, and eating a conventional 3 meals per day (4). After the breakfast skipping trial, post-meal insulin levels and fat oxidation increased. This may signify changes in metabolism that could lead to increases in inflammation and difficulty managing glucose levels in the long term. This increases risk of Type 2 Diabetes and weight gain.
Skipping meals and it’s effect on metabolism
We can rev up our metabolism to a degree every time we eat. Protein and fiber-rich foods have high thermic effects, because they take longer to digest and absorb than refined carbs and fat (5). This means it takes more calories to digest protein and fiber than other foods. Skipping meals has the opposite effect on metabolism. Our bodies are very smart, and will go into “starvation mode” when they are severely calorie restricted. We become accustomed to burning less calories to perform necessary functions and hold on tight the the calories we DO get (6).
While skipping meals may induce weight loss via a calorie deficit early on, it is not sustainable and may damage our metabolism, which makes it even harder to lose weight in the long term.
I hope you guys enjoyed reading this weight loss nutrition myths post! To summarize, there is no quick fix for weight loss if you want it to last long term. Small changes that work within your lifestyle will lead to weight loss success, along with a well-balanced diet that includes fiber-rich carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fat. Check out my last ‘Nutrition Myths, Busted’ post here!