As a Holistic Nutritionist, I strongly dislike the mainstream meaning of the word “diet.” It implies subjecting our bodies and minds to a period of short-term deprivation in order to reach a (often unhealthy or unattainable) end weight goal, and people view it as simply something that must be endured if they wish to lose weight.
This standard diet model rarely works, especially if you are seeking long term weight loss. It might promote short-term success (at the expense of our mental sanity), as any diet that adequately restricts calories will have this effect (simple science).
However, drastically cutting calories, eliminating major food groups, and/or undergoing a radical detox or cleanse program almost always ensures that the weight will come right back.
Why? This method of weight loss does not work for several reasons. For example, drastic calorie-restriction or detox programs can actually do permanent damage to our metabolism, they deprive the body of essential nutrients, we end up with uncontrollable cravings which often lead to bingeing, and we never learn how to actually change our eating habits in order to achieve sustainable, long term success.
Weight Loss Myth #1: Eating Fat Makes Us Fat
Plain and simple: including appropriate amounts of high quality dietary fat does not lead to body fat. Gaining popularity in the 1950s and really taking off in the 1980s, Americans are obsessed with the idea a low-fat/no-fat diet model.
However, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, two out of three of all Americans are obese or overweight. Fortunately, the myth of the low-fat diet being the leading cause of obesity and heart disease has been largely debunked in recent years, but many still do cling to it as the diet model of choice when wanting to lose weight.
While processed and rancid fats such as trans-fats (hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils) will contribute to obesity and a host of other problems, good sources of fat can actually help us to lose weight. Sources such as coconut oil, olive oil, raw nuts and seeds, avocados, and flax oil are actually essential to include in any diet. If weight loss is the goal, moderating them to one serving/meal is recommended (approximately one tablespoon). Mary Enig and Sally Fallon in their best-selling good, Eat Fat Lose Fat, point out that:
“Instead of resulting in weight loss as promised, eating a low-fat diet can spark food cravings that lead to overeating. Instead of making you healthy, avoiding healthy fats can actually undermine your health because you need fats for countless bodily functions…rich, delicious foods are nature’s gift to us, in contract to processed foods, the creations of the food industry.”
Weight Loss Myth #2: Calories In, Calories Out Is All That Matters
Thermodynamics is the study of the relationship between heat, work, and the internal energy of a system. What this boils down to for weight loss, is that you have to burn more calories than you take in, plain and simple (this is basic science). However, what many people fail to take into account, is that not all calories are created equal.
Scientifically this holds true, as we cannot eat more calories than we burn and expect to lose weight. However, eating certain foods will increase our metabolic rate and our level of satiety (feeling of fullness), therefore promoting further weight loss. Enig and Fallon give some examples of symptoms you may be experiencing that are indicators of nutrient deficiencies in your body that lead to over-eating and sluggish metabolism:
- Weight slowly creeping up
- Can’t lose that last 5-10 pounds no matter what
- Low energy
- Feeling hungry after a meal
- Craving fried, sweet foods
- Experiencing a mid-afternoon energy crash
- Feeling too fatigued to exercise
These are most likely signs that your diet is not only deficient in fat, but therefore deficient in essential nutrients. Your body, via these symptoms, is trying to tell you something, but because we have come to fear eating real foods, we ignore it and blame ourselves for not having the will-power to stick to a diet.
In fact, studies show that a low-carbohydrate and higher fat diet model can be highly beneficial in weight loss.
Weight Loss Myth #3: Cravings Are Controlled By Will-Power Alone
One of the most essential parts to successful weight loss is blood sugar regulation. When our blood sugar drops, we become ravenously hungry and are much less likely to discern between healthy and non-healthy foods, let alone make healthy choices. If we eat at regular intervals throughout the day, and include healthy proteins and fats in each of these meals/snacks, our bodies are able to better sustain energy levels, and avoid reaching the point of feeling famished.
Foods that will cause more dramatic crashes in blood sugar include starchy, high carbohydrate foods (even whole grains, to a certain extent), but particularly refined carbs and sugar. That is why eating a breakfast high in protein and good fat (eggs and veggies cooked in coconut oil, with 1/2 baked sweet potato on the side) will set you off on the right foot for the day to come.
-  https://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v63/n2s/full/1602976a.html. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
-  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17228046. Retrieved February 22, 2016.