There are so many fat loss myths out there and we’ve all heard of friends and family doing crazy stuff with their diets;
Living off nothing but shakes and smoothies.
Fasting for days on end.
Detoxing with cayenne pepper, lemon juice and honey … (yes, you… Beyoncé).
It’s pretty clear that all of these are dangerous, potentially harmful, and actually quite mad.
But what about other common practices?
Those that on the surface maybe don’t seem quite as mad, yet when we look into them, are just as silly as the above.
Let’s look at the top 10;
1) BREAD MAKES YOU FAT
If there’s one food that’s received more flack in recent years than others, it’s bread.
It seems we love to demonise this lovely invention as the reason the nation is overweight.
Maybe the average person probably does eat a little too much bread, but it’s not the bread itself that contributes to excessive weight gain, rather the calories from the bread and the overall calorie surplus that contributes to weight gain.
2) YOU HAVE TO CUT DAIRY
The only people who need to cut out dairy are those with a lactose intolerance. (or have issues with allergies triggered by dairy).
Like bread, dairy has been unfairly blamed for being the reason you can’t lose weight, yet studies have shown dairy actually helps weight loss and has been shown to improve many disease markers.
Low-fat dairy like Greek yoghurt, along with quark, low-fat cream cheese, milk, cottage cheese and dairy-based protein powders such as whey are high in protein, low in carbs and low in fats.
They’re filling, satiating and packed full of useful nutrients.
3) YOU SHOULD NEVER SKIP MEALS
While many people don’t do well with skipping meals, some may actually find that eating at less frequent intervals helps with satiety.
Some people do great at missing breakfast and not eating the first meal until around midday, or even foregoing the snacks and just having 3 bigger meals per day.
There’s no truth in the idea that frequent eating speeds up your metabolism.
The most important factor is that you pick a meal frequency that suits your schedule, your lifestyle, and that keeps you on track with your diet.
4) NO CARBS AFTER 6
A long time ago, a myth emerged about some sort of fat storage fairy that somehow flies around the country, searching out people who’ve eaten carbs after 6pm, and magically turning these carbs into body fat.
It’s a ridiculous idea that carbs are immediately converted to fat by your body if eaten after 6pm.
You may well not burn as many calories overnight as you do during the day, but it all comes down to what you eat in a 24-hour period.
Carbs alone don’t make you fat, and if you train hard and are active, you need carbs. Whether they come at 12pm, 6pm, or 2:27 in the morning is irrelevant.
5) EATING TOO FEW CALORIES CAUSES WEIGHT GAIN
Very low-calorie diets may cause low energy levels, aren’t sustainable and make you more likely to binge, but they won’t cause weight gain.
Your metabolism can drop a little, but not enough to make fat loss stop.
Rather, it’s probably the case that you’re not tracking your intake correctly or succumbing to cravings and having frequent binges that take you over your required calorie intake.
Not losing fat? It’s definitely not because you’re not eating enough calories.
6) FAT BURNERS SPEED UP WEIGHT LOSS
Most fat-burning supplements do 2 things;
1. Give you a caffeine boost.
2. Mildly suppress your appetite.
You can do both of these far more cheaply by;
1. Drinking the odd coffee.
2. Eating more protein.
7) SATURATED FAT SHOULD BE AVOIDED AT ALL COST
The guidelines on the negative effects of saturated fat have been hugely overstated so avoiding them altogether is totally unnecessary.
It actually has some important roles, particularly in hormone production.
Saturated fats are typically grouped with trans-fats, which can cause health problems if overconsumed.
For that reason, trans-fats should be limited in your diet (not excluded completely, because doughnuts…)
While you might not want to be slathering butter on your bacon or cooking every meal in lard but some saturated fat from dairy, eggs, meat and coconut oil will do you no harm
There’s no doubt that fruit is nutrient-dense, tasty and usually a lower-calorie alternative to the processed sweet stuff, but that doesn’t mean you can eat it all day long with no ill-effects.
All fruit contains calories, and these calories work in the same way as any other.
Look to get fruit into your diet every day but remember that it does contain calories.
A handful of berries, a couple of kiwi fruit and an apple a day is fine … a whole fruit bowl every afternoon is not!
9) GLUTEN IS BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH
Unless you have celiac disease, there is no reason to cut gluten from your diet.
Gluten is found in a lot of junk food and high calorie foods; pizza, doughnuts, pastries, bread.
Cutting out gluten often leads to a reduction in energy intake which means weight loss & improved GI symptoms if you have IBS (because of improving the quality of your diet or cutting out suspect foods that may trigger IBS e.g., FODMAPS).
There is no direct effect of gluten.
If you are celiac you actually gain weight when you cut out gluten because the gut is functioning again properly and absorbing nutrients as it should.
10) HIGH PROTEIN IS BAD FOR YOUR KIDNEYS
Well not according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) or the Institute of Medicine it’s not.
That is, if you already have healthy kidneys.
For most people (with healthy kidneys), a diet high in protein will cause more good than harm.
Protein has many more benefits beyond building muscle not least maintaining the muscle you currently have and reducing the onset of age-related sarcopenia.
There is no health risk of eating a high protein diet in healthy individuals.
THE TAKE HOME
Most if not all data with these claims are based on associations, anecdotes or observations.
Usually, if someone tells you to either “always” or “never” do something, it’s likely they’re promoting a nutrition myth.
The simple truth is that no food is inherently good or bad, and there are no practices you NEED to do to lose body fat.
It all comes down to having a balanced approach, controlling calorie intake and portion sizes (aka creating a calorie deficit) and finding an approach that works for YOU.