As scientific research evolves, we’re constantly updating our understanding of how the human body works best. Nowadays you can turn to long-term studies that show the effects of your eating habits on weight loss. Do you want to eat salads all day? You can find studies about low-calorie diets. Likewise, scientists have realized weight loss is multi-factorial and requires more than just nutrition management.
Have you tried a diet and weight loss plan that didn't work? Psychology might have been the missing piece. While no one is at fault for outdated information, I believe this is how some of these weight loss myths come about. They may have been true once upon a time but as research continues we’re finding out what we thought was true is now false. And hey there’s nothing wrong with that. We should all be striving to unlearn what no longer serves us to make room for updated methods. With that, let’s get into the myths.
Myth #1) Your BMI Tells You If You’re Overweight
Many people like to use BMI (Body Mass Index) as a measure of what their weight should be for their height. It’s easy to find a website that does the calculation for you and tells you if you’re normal, under or overweight. It’s also convenient for health professionals to use as ONE of many methods to determine if someone is at a “healthy weight”. Health professionals also use blood tests and specific diagnostic questionnaires to figure out if you are at an unhealthy weight.
Unless you’re using multiple methods, you shouldn't be relying solely on BMI as an at-home DIY measure. Why? Because it doesn't give you the full picture of fat to muscle ratio. If you’re a trained athlete, pregnant female or elderly BMI will not give you an accurate depiction. Moreover, BMI was established based on research mostly conducted on white people. BMI is inaccurate for Asian, African-American, and Hispanic people.
If you’re not going in to see your doctor anytime soon but still want to know if your weight is at a healthy range, I suggest you pair your BMI with your waist circumference. If you find that you have a normal waist circumference but a high BMI then this could mean your BMI is misdiagnosed. You can measure your waist circumference by measuring around your belly where your belly button is.
Ethnic-specific values for waist circumference (cm)
North American Men -->100 Women -->88
Europid Men -->94 Women -->80
S.Asian, Chinese Men -->90 Women -->80
Japanese Men -->85 Women -->90
S & C American Use S. Asian data
African Use European data
E Mediterranean & Middle East (Arab) Use European data
Myth #2) Sweat Equal Weight Loss
Are you one of those people who feel like your workout doesn't count unless you form a small pool of sweat around your feet? I remember hearing people say “sweat is fat crying” implying sweating equals fat loss. Well unfortunately that's not true. Sweat is simply an indicator of how hot your body is. Depending on how hot you are, that’s how much you will sweat.
How much you sweat can vary depending on things like your clothing, the environment you’re working out in, and your genetics. Also, the sweat that leaves your body doesn't come from fat; it comes from your water stores. If after an intense sweat session you see the number on the scale drop 3-5 pounds, that’s all water. As soon as you eat or drink anything, the weight will climb back up.
A better indicator of how much weight you lost in a work out would be to wear one of those fancy wristwatches that track calories burned. There’s no need to opt-out of a workout simply because it doesn't leave you drenched. And you don’t have to endure workouts you don't enjoy just because it gives you a gnarly sweat mustache. Find an enjoyable way to move your body every day.
Myth #3) Use Will Power to Stick to Your Diet
Have you tried a weight loss plan in the past only to notice your will power starts to fade? Then you feel like a failure for having given in to temptation because you weren’t strong enough to resist? This is a major weight loss myth red flag. Will power will not motivate you to maintain your diet. I like to compare will power to a muscle. If you overuse it, it will tier out. If you rely solely on will power all day every day, you will run out of will power.
Now you may be wondering why some people seem to be crushing their goals while others struggle to keep up. Those who stay committed to their goals have tapped into their WHY POWER. This is finding the core reason why you want to pursue a goal. When you know your why, you can muster through any what or how.
Myth #4) Calories In < Calories Out = Weight Loss
Were you taught that if you ate fewer calories than you burned then you’d lose weight? There are a few reasons why this outdated equation doesn't work. Firstly, not all calories are created equal, nor do our bodies respond to them in the same way. Depending on the type of food you’re eating, your hormones, metabolism, sleep, and stress, all affect how you put on weight.
When you follow a diet that’s too restrictive your metabolism slows down to accommodate. That’s why you stop losing weight because your brain and body think you are in a state of famine. It doesn't know you’re simply withholding food from it, so your body saves and stores as much energy as it can to protect you.
Secondly, one calorie is not exactly one calorie. Calories labeled on the nutrition facts panel can be off by 20% in either direction and still be approved by the FDA! This is because we don't evaluate food for their calorie amount before giving them a food label. Instead, we use an estimate based on grams of protein, carbs, and fats found in the food.
Also, we don’t know how many calories your body will absorb because every body is different. So the next time you pick up something at the grocery store and look at the calorie value, take it with a grain of salt.
Where do you go from here?
I tell you all of this so that you can succeed in your weight loss journey and stop following outdated advice. Maintaining many of these beliefs will keep you stuck. Keep you stuck in a loop of trying to lose weight, maybe losing a little, but gaining it back. It’s never too late to readjust your understanding of how sustainable weight loss works. If you were a believer in one of these myths, that’s okay.
Moving forward you’ll have to make constant conscious decisions to change your thinking. There is nothing wrong with learning what you’ve known is not serving you so you choose again. Choose better, choose wiser.