One of the most frustrating parts about trying to lose weight is the abundance of information found on the Internet. It's especially hard to decipher the facts versus the opinions on certain diets or lifestyles. Often times, women come to me seeking the truth about many of these diets and lifestyles. In addition, because research is constantly updating and evolving, the science behind the best diets from 20 years ago may not be the best ideas today. Today, I plan to tackle some of the most common nutrition myths that women ask me:
1. "It doesn't matter if I eat a 400 calorie brownie or 400 calories worth of vegetables... A calorie is a calorie, right?!"
Before I dig into the specifics of this one, I want to get one thing straight. No matter what your nutrition philosophy is, the foods you eat are responsible for 80 to 90% of your success or failure. Here's the long story short: The foods you choose (and how much) definitely matter! Now, back to the specifics, are all calories treated equally by our bodies?
The short answer: No, not really. Some calories count more than others. I can guarantee you that the quality of calories you choose affect your appetite, your energy level, and your overall long-term health. Although the 400 calorie brownie may sound more enticing, it can lead to a sugar high and then energy crash, it can leave you craving even more sweets, and it can raise your bad cholesterol levels.
2. "When it comes to losing weight, is gluten the devil?"
I find that all too often, many women go 'gluten-free' because they've heard you can lose weight doing so. Unless you've been diagnosed with Celiac Disease or as gluten-intolerant, there is NO reason to cut out gluten. Often times, gluten free products add fat and other (not-healthy) ingredients to make up for the lack of gluten. I've actually seen women GAIN weight by eating gluten-free.
While we're on the subject of gluten, let's talk about carbs. In a similar way, women feel they have to cut out all carbs to lose weight. Often times, we overlook the simple fact that there are two main groups of carbohydrates. The first group includes "bad carbs," which are refined and sugary carbs including white bread, pasta, and donuts. The second group includes so-called "good carbs", such as whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables.
Carbs are your bodies' perfect and preferred form of energy. It's simple--your body cannot function properly without carbs. Just try to choose carbs from the second group mentioned above. Without these, you're missing out on your bodies main source of fuel as well as vital nutrients and fiber.
3. "Should I eat smaller meals five times a day, or larger meals three times a day?"
I love these questions because there is one simple answer-- We are all unique! There is no one-size-fits-all rule!!! As long as you eat the right foods in the right amounts, meal frequency doesn't matter. It's YOUR personal preference. I've worked with marathon runners who need to eat five meals a day to fuel their bodies, and I have worked with less active women who eat three meals a day and feel amazing while losing weight!
Research shows that there are no physiological difference between eating smaller meals more often, or larger meals with more time between them. However, there CAN be psychological differences! Sometimes if you know you're only eating three meals a day, you tend to over-eat at each one. Similarly, you may eat more calories than you're aware of if you're consuming five meals throughout the day. The best piece of advice I can give you is to truly listen to your body, and ask yourself my favorite question: "how's that working for you?!" If you're eating three meals a day and feeling hungry between each, try to eat a little bit less at each meal and add a fourth. On the flipside, if you're eating five meals a day, and you're rarely hungry for the next meal because you're still stuffed, eat less frequently. Most importantly, if you're covering all of your bases and your current meal frequency isn't working, try switching it up. Experiment with fewer meals if you eat more frequently, and more meals if you eat less frequently. Find the best approach and lifestyle that works for YOU!
4. "Are artificial sweeteners (and diet soda) healthier and better for you than eating regular sugar?"
If you're trying to reduce your sugar intake and calories, you may have turned to artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes. You're not alone! Today, sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners are found in a wide variety of beverages and food. They are usually marked as "sugar – free" or "diet." These items can include soft drinks, gum, candy, fruit juice, ice cream, and yogurt.
First, what is the difference between these artificial sweeteners and sugar? Sugar substitutes are loosely defined as any sweetener that you use instead of using regular table sugar (sucrose). Often times, artificial sweeteners can confuse your body and mind. They have a more intense flavor than real sugar, so over time, products like diet soda and sugar-free candy dull our senses to naturally sweet foods like fruits. Once the artificial sweetener is inside your body, it triggers the release of insulin, just like sugar does. In other words, once the artificial sweetener enters the bloodstream, your body treats it the exact same way it treats sugar.
Lastly, because diet soda has 0 calories, studies suggest that women who drink diet soda are likely to over-eat more junk food because they know they are consuming 0 cal from their drink. In general, I recommend only consuming both sugar and artificial sweeteners occasionally.
5. "Should I force myself to eat breakfast even though I'm not hungry in the morning?"
For years, we've heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. is this the truth? Research shows that the only support for the statement comes from correlational research (X and Y happen at the same time,) not causal research (Y happens because of X). In a recent study completed by the American Journal of clinical nutrition, researchers analyzed over a dozen studies to look at the relationship between a persons body weight and breakfast. The conclusion: The commonly heard phrase that those who eat breakfast have a lower body weight is "only presumed true." Meaning we think it's true, NOT a for-sure truth!!!
Here's the bottom line: when examining the research that actually controls for all of these variables and looks for an exact cause-and-effect, the results are pretty mixed. In other words, breakfast looks to be beneficial for some of us, but not for others! So if breakfast isn't all it's cracked up to be, should we just be skipping breakfast? Guess what, some research actually suggest that skipping breakfast may make you leaner, stronger, and healthier. oday's research shows that people with type two diabetes tend to do better when they skipped breakfast altogether and eat a larger lunch.
In the end, eating breakfast or choosing to skip breakfast is purely a matter of preference. Because today's best research shows two completely contradictory things, the best piece of advice I can give you is to listen to how you feel and listen to your hunger cues. If you wake up hungry, eat breakfast. If you wake up and you're not hungry, wait until you become hungry to eat. And remember, the most important part of eating breakfast comes down to the QUALITY of the food you choose. Try to include lean protein, veggies, and healthy carbs, as opposed to sugary donuts, pancakes, or waffles.
Comment below, which of these surprised you the most? Is there a nutrition myth I missed that you'd like the truth behind?