5 Myths and facts about food and weight loss
March is National Nutrition Month
Dieting is defined as restricting oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food to lose weight. It is a common practice in the United States, with an estimated 45 million Americans going on a diet every year.
According to a Center for Disease Control study, almost 50 percent of Americans, regardless of weight status, think they should lose weight. Body dissatisfaction makes people incredibly vulnerable to messaging about diets and weight loss.
A person’s health choices can be heavily influenced by social media, which can play a big part in dieting, including the psychological aspect of how we view food and health.
“Social media too often implies that weight loss leads to improved happiness and leaves out other important factors. Because of social media’s fast- paced and flashy style, users are hyper-focused on quick and easy weight loss solutions that tend to overlook viewers’ wellbeing, long-term weight maintenance, and actual nutrition,” said Ashley Chrisinger, Aspirus Registered Dietitian. “The direction of weight loss messaging on social media is chaotic and conflicting and ultimately leaves people feeling defeated and hopeless.”
Diet culture emphasizes fad or quick diets that claim fast weight loss results and health improvements. Diet trends may offer food-specific fad diets that rely on the myth that some foods have special properties that can cause weight loss or gain.
“What rarely gets mentioned are the unsexy strategies: finding enjoyable ways to be more active, getting in control of emotional eating, learning to prepare your own meals, and enjoy more veggies,” said Chrisinger. “It’s not new or trendy, but it is the most sustainable strategy for most people.”
Although society has normalized dieting, it is still a harmful and risky practice. People can develop eating disorders, depression, nutrient deficiencies, alter their gut microbiome, and suppress their immune function focusing on weight loss in an unhealthy manner.
For those interested in losing weight, it’s important to remember that everyone’s body is different, making everyone’s diet and nutrition plan unique. Misinformation regarding health and nutrition is everywhere, especially on social media.
Here are five debunked myths about food and weight loss to remember, according to the National Institutes of Health and the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion:
Myth #1: Carbs make you gain weight.
Fact: Carbs, or carbohydrates, are an important food group that helps your body create energy to support bodily function and physical activity. Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet.
Tip: Keep complex carbs, such as whole wheat bread, beans, and fruits, on the menu. These foods have a lot of nutritional value. Simple carbs found in foods such as cookies and candy, on the other hand, lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It’s best to limit these foods.
Myth #2: Doing regular juice fasts/detox/cleanse helps rid the body of toxins.
Fact: Fast/detox/cleanse are unnecessary and don’t remove toxins in the body. They can even have serious side effects such as fainting, weakness, dehydration, dangerous electrolyte imbalances, and kidney problems.
Tip: As long as we are hydrated, the body can rely on organs like the liver and kidneys to remove toxins from food, alcohol, and medication.
Myth #3: Late night snacking causes weight gain.
Fact: Eating at night will not make you gain weight. Weight gain is not determined by what time you eat, but rather by how much and what types of food are consumed throughout the whole day.
Tip: If you’re hungry after dinner time, choose healthy foods and be mindful of portion sizes.
Myth #4: You should aim for 1,200 calories a day to lose weight.
Fact: A 1,200-calorie diet is much too low for most people and can result in negative side effects like dizziness, extreme hunger, nausea, micronutrient deficiencies, fatigue, and headaches. Everyone’s body is different and needs a different number of calories to function.
Tip: Calorie needs vary based on age, sex, height, weight, and level of physical activity. Talk with a registered dietician to determine what’s best for your body.
Myth #5: All sugar is bad.
Fact: Sugar is a type of carb which provides energy to the body and fuels the brain. However, like most foods, too much can be harmful to the body. Maintaining a healthy weight is most effective when individuals eat balanced meals, incorporating foods from all food groups, including sugar.
Tip: It’s OK to eat sugar and sweet foods, especially when you’re fueling intense physical activity! Just have them in moderation.
Diet culture and nutrition myths are everywhere, which is why it is important to question what you read and educate yourself so that you can develop a nutritious and sustainable eating pattern that works for your individual needs.
If you are seeking help with your diet, talk with your primary care provider. They can connect you with a registered dietitian in your area.