The world of nutrition is rife with misinformation. This, along with ever-changing science, results in diet myths and confusion around what constitutes a healthy diet. Although diet myths are likely to persist, it’s a good idea to educate yourself by distinguishing fact from fiction.
The relationship between food, your body and your weight is complex. Your ideal diet for weight loss and overall wellness is dependent on your unique DNA, which is why I always say stop comparing yourself to your peers. An optimal diet for one person may not be the same for another!
To find out exactly what your body needs, I suggest a DNA diet test to determine which foods you should be eating and which foods you should avoid. DNA Diet also looks at your nutritional deficiencies, how your body responds to various macros and inflammation markers.
Here are the diet myths I hear all the time:
“Fats make you fat”
So many people fear high fat foods, believing that limiting fats will aid in weight loss and benefit their health. Whilst true for some, for most of us fats are beneficial!
Remember “fat free” doesn’t always mean healthy. Low-fat products are often high in sugar, additives and preservatives, which counters health benefits. Be a conscious label reader, opting for healthier fats.
Good news for those of us who enjoy an olive or two – dietary fat is essential for optimal health. Healthy fats keep you satisfied for longer, thus assisting you with overall calorie intake and healthy weight loss or maintenance.
Natural, healthy fats include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Fatty fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and herring
- Coconuts and coconut oil
- Dark chocolate
It’s wise to steer clear of both saturated and trans fats, as they can lead to weight gain and high cholesterol.
“Only calories count”
Although creating a caloric deficit by burning more calories than you consume leads to weight loss in theory, it’s just not that simple.
The process of calorie counting reduces foods to their caloric content, instead of prioritising nutritional value. Cutting calories too low can negatively affect your metabolism and lead to serious long-term health conditions. It’s also unsustainable to maintain a long-term, low-calorie diet, even if it encourages initial weight loss.
All calories are not equal, for example, a protein calorie will affect your body differently to a fat calorie.
Calorie counting disregards other lifestyle factors that are critical in losing weight, such as sleep, activity levels, your digestion and gut health, stress and hydration.
Weight loss is harder to achieve for individuals with hormonal imbalances, health conditions, metabolism problems and a genetic predisposition to obesity should be assessed by a doctor and dietitian for a customised weight loss programme.
If you have obsessive compulsive tendencies or an addictive personality, calorie counting can lead to disordered eating habits and psychological issues. Not recommended if you have an “all or nothing” mindset.
ALSO SEE: Why I Don't Count Calories
“Skip dinner, wake up thinner”
Skipping meals ultimately does more harm than good. When you skip a meal, your metabolism slows down, so the food you eventually eat isn’t burned efficiently.
Our bodies are programmed to stabilise our blood levels, and skipping meals throws your body off! It will start using your glycogen, which is excess energy stored in your muscles, instead of the fuel it’s supposed to get from food. This means your body eats away at your muscle mass which is completely counter-productive to weight loss. The goal is to build muscle mass because at rest, muscle burns more calories.
In addition to feeling sluggish, by the time the next meal comes around, it’s common to overeat due to ravenous hunger. Your best bet is to eat consistent, healthy meals and snacks throughout the day.
Stagger your meals to make sure you’re eating controlled portions of healthy foods regularly to stay satisfied and energised.
ALSO SEE: Tips to Overcome Emotional Eating
“Skinny equals healthy”
Much like “anorexic” or “obese” are not body types, “healthy” is not a body type either. Reducing your risk of disease does not mean you have to be a certain body type. What’s important, is maintaining an active lifestyle with a nutritious diet.
Obesity is a complex disorder with many variables. Thyroid problems, genetics, hormonal factors and depression that could increase your risk of weight gain. I have consulted many people who are considered thin, but due to their high body-fat percentage, are actually obese!
Body weight also fluctuates due to factors such as water retention or the menstrual cycle.
I have seen so many people who are super fit and healthy who exercise daily, all with different body shapes! Health has everything to do with the nature of ourselves and not our weight.
I have met some people who are considered the ideal body type but have high cholesterol, high body fat, no muscle tone, drink, smoke and are sometimes pre-diabetic. Size and shape have nothing to do with health and everything to do with what’s on the inside – mindset, mental wellbeing, happiness, gratitude, attitude and vital stats.
ALSO SEE: Ways to be More Body Positive
“Cut the carbs”
Whilst carbs are not the devil when it comes to weight-loss, this is where a DNA diet test will shed light. Some people are carb or insulin sensitive, however, this is related to their DNA and not the carbs themselves.
When it comes to carbohydrates, type and quantity is important. Fruits and whole grain carbs definitely don’t deserve the bad reputation. A moderate amount of healthy, non-refined carbs can be high in fibre, vitamins and minerals that benefit your health.
Carbs also play an important role in keeping your energy levels up throughout the day, as the body’s primary fuel source. Generally, carbs are important for vitamin B intake and good for brain function. They can improve your workout performance as well.
Although you should avoid the processed refined carbs, you’ll skimp on vital nutrients and benefits if you eliminate an entire macronutrient from your diet. Eating too much of any food will cause weight gain.
“Healthy is expensive”
It seems cheaper and easier to just pick up dinner from the drive-through but remember that your health is wealth! Invest in your health now and avoid the medical bills later. Eating healthy on a budget IS possible.
If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. My number one tip on eating healthy on a budget is to prep! When you cook, double the recipe and freeze for future meals. Plan your menu for the week and prepare your meals in as much detail as possible, in advance.
Buying fresh food in bulk tends to result in waste. Pop your fresh foods into air-tight containers as soon as possible to make them last longer. Shop the specials, stick to your grocery list and stock up on the basics to eat healthier for less. Avoid pre-washed and pre-cut products because they’re always more expensive.
Consider consuming less meat to save and eat healthier. A Vegetarian Diet is not only healthier for you and the planet; beautiful veggies beat a sirloin steak in price and health benefits.
ALSO SEE: Ways to Create Cheap, Healthy Meals
“No treats allowed”
A healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean that you’ll never eat your favourite treats again. In fact, if you want your healthy lifestyle to last in the long-term, you need to find a way to incorporate treats in moderation.
I live by “balance makes perfect”. I certainly enjoy a slice of cake or a Fizz Pop every now and then, but in moderation.
Divide your favourite treats in small Ziploc bags to control your portions. Savour every bite of each portion instead of binging!
Beware of an “all or nothing” mentality. We are all human! Banning certain foods will make you want them even more. Restriction can lead to binge-eating or abandoning your healthy efforts entirely. Allow the occasional treat and skip the feelings of guilt and failure.