In my practice, I meet people who have tried many things to lose weight: from juice fasts to protein loading. Many of these people, in spite of stubborn fat, are well-versed in what it takes to shed the pounds: and they come to me feeling exasperated because their well-meaning efforts — sticking to whole foods and exercising regularly — have amounted to barely a budge on the scale. What gives?
If this is you too, after many years of “trying everything” you aren’t seeing the results, then read on because I am about to expose weight loss myths that you are likely falling victim to.
Myth #1- Coconut Oil Helps You Lose Weight
Don’t get me wrong — I love coconut oil for many reasons. It is a healthier oil than some alternatives, like vegetable and canola oil, and can be used for cooking at high temperatures. A good dose of healthy fat is a great addition to any diet, as our body needs a certain amount of fat to operate optimally. But coconut oil’s staggering popularity has convinced many people that it is actually a tool for losing weight and this has people consuming it without reservation or awareness of portion sizes.
I am not saying “don’t have this!” but rather, be aware of your portion size and consume coconut oil sparingly. Coconut Oil is a saturated fat, which means it can drive your level of bad cholesterol up. This puts you at risk of heart disease. It does seem to also boost your good cholesterol levels, but other oils, like olive oil, are unsaturated and have this effect of boosting good cholesterol levels, without the twin effect of also driving bad cholesterol up.
Myth #2- Nuts and Seeds Are a Good Snack for Weight Loss
Labelled a “health” food, nuts and seeds are often recommended as a good snack. I agree and do fully recommend a tablespoon of hemp seeds in your smoothie, a small palmful of almonds or one or two brazil nuts. The problem here, like with coconut oil, is that people are not mindful of portion sizes. Noticed I said “a small palmful of almonds.” Many people are eating three to four times this amount in one sitting. This can have the effect of driving your caloric intake up by a thousand or more in a day! Add too many hemp seeds to that smoothie and you are taking it up from a 300 calorie snack to an 800 calorie snack!
Eat mindfully, and be aware of portion sizes when it comes to high-fat nuts and seeds. If you can’t just have a small amount, then it is best to steer clear and get those beneficial nutrients from a food source that provides for more moderation.
Myth #3- Weight Loss Happens with a Calorie Deficit
This is a big myth and one I hear lamented in my office all the time: many people claim that weight loss is as simple as creating a calorie deficit in your day. That is, eat fewer calories than you burn. This assumes that your metabolism is effectively burning those fewer calories and this, unfortunately, is not the case for all of my patients. There are a number of health conditions that compromise the metabolism and therefore throw the body into “store fat” mode.
This means that no matter how hard you try to lose weight, you might not see the scale budge an inch before you fix the underlying cause of your sluggish metabolism. You might actually be creating more of a problem, as excess dieting is also a trigger for a slower metabolism. If you really have committed to a healthy eating and exercise plan, and you aren’t seeing the results, I encourage you to see a doctor or naturopath for testing. Hormone imbalance, an underactive thyroid and medication side effects are just a few of the reasons you might not be seeing the results you deserve.
Myth #4- Cardio is the Key to Weight Loss
Cardio junkies may not like me after this one: high intensity cardio might be creating stress on your body, which is working to counter your weight loss efforts. We have a biological response to stress, often referred to as fight-or-flight mode. When we experience stress, whether physical, emotional or psychological, our bodies mount a response that enable our limbs to move away from the stressor quickly: this means pumping the body with stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, it also means slowing other functions like digestion to conserve energy in the body.
In stress, our bodies like to hang onto fat, particularly around the mid-section, and chronic stress on the body can actually deplete the stress response, effectively slowing our metabolism. If you are experiencing symptoms of burn-out, you might think about switching up your workout routine. A greater emphasis on weight training will allow you to build muscle, which not only makes you appear leaner, but boosts your metabolism to a higher burn capacity even at rest.
Myth #5- Agave and Coconut Sugar Are Ok Alternatives to White Sugar
It sure is exciting to think that there might be a sweetener out there that can satisfy your sweet tooth and be good for you. This myth has people turning to sugar-alternatives like agave syrup and coconut sugar, yes even honey. While these are better than processed white sugar, they are still processed by the body in the same way that regular table sugar is — it drives the blood sugar up immediately, only to bring you crashing back down later. Rising blood sugar levels puts you at risk for diabetes. The very best alternative: stay away from sugar and sweet foods as much as you can. Overtime, you will find that you no longer crave these foods and foods that you once found just right, will be too sweet instead.
If you aren’t seeing the results of your hard work in the kitchen and at the gym, take a good honest look at these four myths. Are you guilty of believing in any or all of them? Adjust your diet and exercise routine accordingly, and be sure to get a complete picture of your health. Instead of pushing a boulder up a hill, fixing underlying causes that affect your ability to lose weight might trade that boulder for a pebble.