“But I don’t even like it!” my client snapped, pointing to endless containers of fat-free yogurt as we strolled through her local health-food store. “You mean to tell me I ate this nasty stuff that tastes like wallpaper paste for years and it’s not even healthy?”
Within her reaction I heard equal parts frustration and joy: She realized manufacturers and so-called experts had misled her, yet never again must she endure those tasteless fake foods.
As a nutrition and fitness expert, myth busting has become a major part of my job. We’ve been fed misinformation and outright lies about our health, and we’ve swallowed them hook, line and sinker. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Those myths might sound humorous if their consequences weren’t so tragic: they’re showing up around our midsections and destroying our health.
I compiled a list of 5 big weight loss rules that are actually myths; you know, the ones nearly everyone considers nutrition gospel, even if they’ve stolen our health and made us fatter. Any of these sound familiar?
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1. Everything In Moderation
Surely you’ve got that “live a little” friend or co-worker whose perennial diet claims no food is bad or off-limits, so she enjoys a homemade brownie your receptionist brought in and digs into fries with ketchup at lunch because they fit into her point system. Her frequent pleasures mean she carries a little extra weight, and you’re sure food intolerances contribute to her frequent headaches and other symptoms. “Everything in moderation” is a failed cliché in the nutrition world because it gets us into serious trouble. Moderation becomes a slippery slope (a cheat meal becomes a cheat day), triggers cravings, opens the floodgates for food intolerances and ignores the serious damage certain foods can cause.JJ Virgin
2. Calories In, Calories Out
“Eat less and exercise more”; that’s the standard advice doctors and so-called experts frequently dispense. You know the mindset: I’ll burn 500 calories on the elliptical machine, so I can indulge in some after-gym fro-yo. If only fat loss were that easy… Your body is a chemistry lab, not a bank account. The calories-in/calories-out mentality allows manufacturers to promote 100-calorie snack packs as healthful and ignores the thousands of biochemical processes that occur at any moment in your body. Simply put, calories count, but hormones matter more.Virgin Diet
3. Fat Makes You Fat
Duh, right? (Channeling a certain bleached spiky-hair, 1980s fitness female here.) Certainly this one might sound logical, but so did acid-washed jeans at the time. Let’s just toss them both as painfully outdated relics. “Low-fat” or “fat free” almost always translates into “higher-sugar processed food,” and I can’t think of a single food in nature that’s entirely fat free. Even fruit has a little high-quality fat. The only fats to completely eliminate are transfats and damaged fats. Otherwise, consider the source. There’s a world of difference between the saturated fat in a fast-food cheeseburger and what you get from coconut milk.Weight Loss Rules
4. Whole Grain “Goodness”
“What does ‘whole grain’ even mean?” I’ll occasionally ask someone. Nobody can give me a good answer, but it certainly sounds healthy, right? For a grain to be truly whole, it must contain the bran, germ and endosperm. Most foods don’t meet those criteria, yet manufacturers love this term because they can fortify pretty much any junk-food package with the label “whole grains” and suddenly it becomes healthy. Believe me: There’s nothing “whole” about a sugary, gluten-filled toaster strudel or breakfast cereal. Real, healthy whole grains include quinoa (actually a seed), wild rice and gluten-free oats.Lose Weight
5. Eat a “Balanced Breakfast” of Juice, Milk, Cereal and Toast
Knowing full-well you’re short on time, manufacturers concoct all kinds of sugary, processed, fortified foods to start your day. Eating a bowl of “healthy” cereal with skim milk, a banana and OJ is a sugar rollercoaster set to crash at about 10:30 a.m. That’s because your body converts nearly all that high-carbohydrate breakfast into sugar, which stores quite nicely around your midsection. Equally bad: skipping breakfast entirely, which raises your stress hormones and triggers an all-day craving and hunger cycle. A recent study in Obesity (Silver Spring) found a high-calorie breakfast helped overweight and obese women lose more weight than a high-calorie dinner. It’s that important. As easy as it is to get breakfast wrong, it’s even easier to make it right. I start every morning with a protein shake: Plant-, not soy-, based protein powder, frozen raspberries, raw leafy greens, freshly ground flaxseed, and unsweetened coconut or almond milk. In about the time it takes to toast that sugary strudel, you can have a filling, fat-burning breakfast without the excuses.
Seven Days to Change
You’ve probably bought into some of these myths. I did for years, even as I wondered why I couldn’t ditch those last few pounds and frequently struggled with skin problems, bloating and other issues. The good news, though, is there’s light at the end of the tunnel. In seven days, you can be in an entirely different place. I know you’re persistent and focused. You’ve just been following the wrong set of rules by counting calories, watching fat grams and diligently buying “healthy” foods that wreak more havoc than do good.
When you redirect that effort and start seeing food differently – as fuel to keep your metabolic and hormonal machinery running efficiently – you begin connecting what you eat with how you feel. You discover a new normal. Headaches, bloating and other annoying symptoms disappear. You like who you see in the mirror better. You start losing fat effortlessly without being hungry or eating foods you don’t enjoy.
Jakubowicz D, et al. “High Caloric Intake at Breakfast Versus Dinner Differentially Influences Weight Loss of Overweight and Obese Women.” Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Dec, 21, 2012: 2504-12. DOI: 10.1002/Oby.20460. Epub. Jul 2, 2013.
JJ Virgin CNS, CHFS is one of the nation’s foremost celebrity nutrition experts, public speaker, and media personality. Her 25 years in the health and fitness industry have earned JJ recognition as the go-to weight loss expert who can unlock the door to life-long weight management, through her sensible, no-fail approach to nutrition and fitness. JJ is the author of Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy published by Simon & Schuster Gallery and she is the co-star of the TLC reality series, Freaky Eaters (2010).
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