Are you trying to lose weight but not getting anywhere? It may be because you’re buying into common misconceptions about weight loss. Here, six dietitians weigh in on the worst myths about weight loss and the truth behind them:
Myth 1: The only way to lose weight is to avoid carbs.
Fact: You can’t ditch carbohydrates if you hope to eat a healthy diet. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend three eating patterns: the healthy U.S. style, the healthy Mediterranean style and the healthy vegetarian style.
“Carbohydrate-rich foods, such as vegetables (including beans and peas), fruits and whole grains, are the foundation of each of these healthy eating patterns,” notes Andrea Dunn, RD, LD, CDE. “And remember that fiber is a carbohydrate. If you avoid carbs, your fiber intake will plummet.”
Myth 2: It doesn’t matter what you eat as long as you count calories.
Fact: What you eat does matter. Counting calories encourages you to obsess about quantity over quality. Eventually, the quality of your diet will suffer, and so will your health, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD.
“The key is to stay within an appropriate range of calories for the amount of fuel you’re burning,” she says. “But you also need to stick to a nutrient-dense diet that won’t make your insulin and blood sugar cry out for help.” Foods that keep blood sugar stable help you feel satisfied and discourage binge-eating.
Myth 3: If you want to lose weight, you’ll have to go hungry.
Fact: You may think that losing weight means skipping meals and snacks, and feeling hungry all day. But that just leads to irritability, frustration and, ultimately, going off your diet and quickly regaining weight.
“The first rule of dieting is: No skipping meals!” says Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD. “This just makes your body try to hold onto fuel more efficiently by slowing down your metabolism, and often triggers overeating (typically the wrong foods) later in the day.”
Instead, eat a healthy snack or mini-meal every three to four hours during the day, she suggests. Focus on lean protein and produce (1 ounce of nuts, Greek yogurt with berries, carrots with hummus). “If these don’t appeal to you, then you’re not really hungry,” she says. “You’re just craving a treat.”
Keep hunger at bay to set yourself up for long-term success. You’ll be in a better mood, too.
Myth 4: Cutting fat from your diet helps you lose weight.
Fact: Avoiding fat doesn’t lead to weight loss. In fact, it often leads to weight gain. The latest research finds that foods containing healthy fat don’t make you fat — they can actually speed up your metabolism and help you shed pounds.
People who cut fats from their diet tend to replace those calories with added sugar and refined grains. “These hijack your metabolism, drive inflammation, spike insulin and pack on the belly fat,” says Brigid Titgemeier, MS, RDN, LD.
“This leads to a vicious cycle of more sugar cravings and loss of willpower. Your taste buds crave what you feed them, and sugar is extremely addictive.”
Eat healthy fats (avocadoes, extra virgin olive oil, ground flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, wild salmon) to lose weight, feel satisfied after eating and lower your inflammation levels, she advises.
Myth 5: Going gluten-free is the solution to weight loss.
Fact: “I hear this a lot, especially from adolescents,” says Jennifer Willoughby, RD, CSP, LD. “In reality, many commercial gluten-free items are higher in calories and carbs, and can lead to weight gain over time.”
Gluten-free foods are often lower in fiber, too, which leaves you feeling less satisfied and can lead to more overeating.
Gluten-free diets are medically necessary for anyone with celiac disease and can lead to weight loss if done properly, using whole, non-processed foods. “However, they should not be used as a weight-loss strategy,” she says.
Myth 6: Food that tastes good is always bad for you.
Fact: If you think that healthy foods taste bland and that highly processed, sugary and fatty foods taste good, then your taste buds may need a tune-up.
“Many people who believe healthy foods don’t taste good don’t know how to prepare them to enhance their natural flavor,” says Julia Zumpano, RD, LD.
Added sugars, artificial sweeteners and man-made fats can hijack your taste buds. Once you start eating more natural foods, your taste buds come to appreciate the subtle sweetness of berries and the tartness of cherries, cranberries and citrus. You’ll love the way garlic, onions, peppers (hot, mild and sweet), turmeric, ginger and nut- or seed-based oils (peanut, sesame, almond, flaxseed, pumpkin seed) enhance flavor.
Learn how to get the most from these natural flavors when preparing meals, and you’ll give your taste buds the treat they deserve.