Lies, All Lies

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Living North’s health columnist Chris Matthews on the four big fat food lies that make you fat

When it comes to overall health and weight loss, there’s an excess of advice out there but unfortunately, most of it is terrible, misguided, outdated and scientifically disproven. This poor advice can create weight loss roadblocks and even damage your health. Here are four misguided myths that drive me nuts.

 

Myth #1 – All Calories are Created Equal

A calorie is a calorie, right? Wrong. This myth which refuses to die keeps people from getting, and staying healthy, as well as losing weight and keeping it off.

The current thinking is as long as we burn more calories than we consume, we will lose weight. The multi-billion dollar weight loss industry perpetuates this lie and actually relies on you believing it to stay afloat. Thinking that losing weight is all about energy balance or calories in/calories out, vastly oversimplifies the truth. The truth is, there are good and bad calories. When we eat, our food interacts with our biology, a complex adaptive system that instantly transforms every bite. Food is more than just calories, food is information telling our cells what to do.

Every bite you eat affects your hormones, brain chemistry and metabolism. Sugar calories cause fat storage and spike hunger. Calories from fat and protein promote fat burning. What counts more is the quality, not the quantity, of the calories. The highest-quality calories comes from whole foods which are naturally lower in calories compared with processed foods. 

These foods include quality small wild fish, nuts and seeds. It means good fats like avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, coconut butter and omega-3 fats from fish. And it includes good carbs like vibrantly coloured vegetables (the brighter the better), fruits like wild berries, apples and kiwis, and super foods like chia and hemp seeds.

 

Myth #2 – Your Genetics Define You and Your Health

Many doctors still believe we have a predisposition to weight gain due to familial history. In other words, if your mum is fat and your grandma is fat, that’s why you became fat. You drew the fat card or the diabetes card in the genetic lottery.

Consider this: There are 32 obesity-associated genes in the general population that account for only nine percent of obesity cases. Even if you had all 32 obesity genes, you would put on only about 22 pounds. Our genes only change two percent every 20,000 years. About 35 percent of Brits are obese today, yet by 2050 that number will rise to over 50 percent. Our genes simply don’t evolve that fast to keep up with the increase.

What changed drastically wasn’t our genes. It was that we went from eating about 10 pounds of sugar, per person, per year in 1800 to 152 pounds of sugar (and 146 pounds of flour) per person, per year today. These amounts of sugar and flour hijack our metabolism and make us fat and sick.

Numerous factors contribute to obesity, but the least of them is genetics.

 

Myth #3 – You Can Out-Exercise a Bad Diet

The myth that you can eat whatever you want and burn the calories with exercise is completely false and makes no sense if you understand how the human body works.

If you think you can exercise your way to weight loss, you’re in for a big disappointment if you treat yourself to a post-workout sugar-laden smoothie, muffin or other ‘healthy’ snack. If you’re relying on exercise to lose weight without changing your diet, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You can change your diet and lose weight, but if you exercise and keep your diet the same, you may gain some muscle, improve endurance and be healthier overall, but you won’t shed many pounds.

Put this into perspective: If you consume one super-sized fast-food meal, you’ll have to run four miles a day for one whole week to burn it off. If you eat that every day, you have to run a marathon every single day to burn it off. You simply cannot exercise your way out of a bad diet. 

 

Myth #4 – Fat Makes You Fat

Fat is not a four-letter word! Eating fat not only doesn’t make you fat, it’s critical to health and weight loss. Studies comparing a high-fat diet that is identical in calorie count to a high-sugar diet show a totally different effect on metabolism. The higher-fat diet caused people to burn an extra 300 calories a day. That’s the equivalent of running for an hour without doing any exercise.

Dietary fat actually speeds up your metabolism, while sugar slows it down. The right kinds of fat cool down inflammation, while sugar fuels it.

The right fats are actually your cells’ preferred fuel, especially those fats called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that come from foods like coconut oil and coconut butter. Yes, stay away from trans fats, but good fats like extra-virgin olive oil, coconut butter, avocado, nuts, seeds and nut butters keep us full and lubricate the wheels of our metabolism. 

Please stop fearing fat!

Published in: October 2017

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