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The 6 biggest weight loss lies you've been told

Belfast PT and nutritionist Alan Waterman busts the biggest weight loss lies you've been told

Not seeing the weight loss you want?
Not seeing the weight loss you want?

By Alan Waterman

Myths tend to withstand the test of time, and dietary myths are no different.

We've all at some point probably been offered some diet advice, especially if we're trying to lose weight. However, the problem is that we're often too willing to take that advice on board, especially because we don't really know any better!

In reality, we have no idea whether the advice we're being given is appropriate. We don't even know that it's true! And in many cases, it really isn't.

What are some of the biggest weight loss lies that you may have been told? Check out my top 6...

1. Calories don't matter

Perhaps the biggest weight loss faux pas is believing that calories don't matter when it comes to losing weight. Many will state that it is food quality and what we are eating that affects weight loss, but in fact the opposite is true- it's much more about how many calories we're consuming from those foods rather than the food choices themselves. Too many calories from any food will prevent us from losing weight, as the fundamental principle behind weight loss is the need to create a calorie deficit (i.e. burn off more calories than we're consuming). Eating 250 calories from broccoli will affect our ability to lose weight every bit as much as eating 250 calories from a chocolate bar. Our food choices are important - let me just clear that up - but our calorie intake is much more so. Regardless of the foods we are eating, if we manage to create a calorie deficit, we will successfully lose weight.

2. Carbs are making you fat

The Atkins Diet, the Ketogenic diet, the Zone diet...

Low carb dieting has been a popular trend for many years, and still continues to be. However, the idea of low carb diets being superior for weight loss is flawed and there is sufficient evidence to show that higher carb diets are every bit as effective at enabling us to lose weight. Our number one concern for successful weight will always be the creation of a calorie deficit- if we're losing weight on a low carb diet, is it because we burn body fat better without carbs? No, it's because that diet approach has somehow managed to drive us into a calorie deficit, which is often easy to do once carbs, a food group we can easily overeat, are removed. Low carb diets are not a necessary method for weight loss, and can be largely unsustainable for a large number of us, especially if we're fond of eating carbs! The good news is, if we can find any other way to create a calorie deficit, we have absolutely no need to remove carbs from our diet in order to lose weight.

3. You're in starvation mode

'Starvation mode' is the term used when people experience a sudden halt in their weight loss, despite eating very little food, and even begin re-gaining weight. The theory goes that starvation mode kicks in when we are undereating to such an extent that our metabolism slows down, and prevents further weight loss. Although it is true that our metabolisms do slow down as we lose weight, it is never to the extent that it will prevent further weight loss; so long as we can continue to find ways to create a calorie deficit, we will continue losing weight. In reality, when people are told they are in starvation mode, what is much more likely is that although they believe they are eating very little, they are maybe not doing so consistently enough to achieve a calorie deficit, or at times, find that they are eating much larger amounts, which cancels out whatever deficit they had previously created. People's estimation of their calorie intake is incredibly poor, and the reality is that, rather than experiencing some crazy metabolic slowdown, they're not losing weight because they're still simply taking in too many calories.

4. You shouldn't be eating after 6.00pm

We've all heard that when we eat at night, the body has no choice but to store it as body fat because we're not going to be doing enough activity to burn it all off, right? Except that, many people don't realize that the body never stops burning energy for fuel - it needs to do it constantly to keep us alive! The body won't suddenly start shuttling food into body fat just because the clock strikes a particular time! In fact, it's perfectly possible to continue to eat well into the evening and still continue losing weight. If throughout the course of a 24-hour day we have managed to create a calorie deficit, then regardless of when we are taking those calories in, we will lose weight- our food timing doesn't matter. For many of us, it is preferable to eat later into the evening, and the good news is that if it suits us to do so, then we can, without worrying about how it might affect our ability to lose weight.

5. You need to 'eat clean' to lose weight

The term 'clean eating' has been around for quite some time and is typically used when talking about the quality of our food choices - those that are less nutritious are lumped with the 'unclean' label, whilst only those that are highly nutritious can be called 'clean'. However, in reality we should realize that there are not any clean or unclean foods - the calories that any foods contain can still impact our ability to lose weight; 500 calories is still 500 calories, regardless of whether it's coming from ice-cream or avocado! Believing we are unable to include of the treats we really enjoy within our diet is not only untrue, but completely unnecessary- we can still lose weight eating the foods we enjoy, regardless of how "healthy" we perceive those foods to be. By allowing ourselves the ability to include a little of the foods we really crave, it typically increases our likelihood of weight loss success, as it is a diet approach which tends to be much more sustainable across the long run.

6. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

Many of us will have heard this since we were kids... We must eat breakfast because it sets us up for the day!

As we got older, we started hearing that breakfast was important for kick-starting our metabolism and for ramping up fat burning. As a result, many of us continued to eat it, even if we didn't really feel like it. However, is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

Of course not, and if we find that we are force-feeding ourselves it, we're actually increasing the likelihood that we'll be consuming more calories that we really need. Remember, a calorie deficit is needed for weight loss, regardless of whether we choose to eat breakfast or not. Some of us would prefer not to eat first thing, and that's absolutely fine! Even if eating breakfast did have a positive effect on our metabolism (which it doesn't) this wouldn't help us with losing weight if we still didn't manage to achieve the calorie deficit we needed. In short, eat breakfast if you want, but if you'd prefer to skip it, that's fine too - it won't affect our ability to lose weight one way or the other.

Want to discover more about weight loss myths? You can download a copy of my free book Fitness BS here to find out what weight loss advice you can ignore, and the truth behind what you need to be doing to see the weight loss results you want.

You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram, where you can get daily advice and tips on how to get the very most out of your diet, training, and lifestyle.

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