Weight Loss Myths and Facts
Weight loss is a common concern for most people, whether they’re looking to lose a few pounds because they’re clothes are fitting tighter, or to lose a larger amount of weight for health reasons. There are many myths and misunderstandings about effective ways for weight loss for the long term. So, we thought we’d write a blog post to discuss some of these myths, and what the best methods are for weight loss.
Myth: Fasting is a risky way to lose weight
Before we discuss this myth, we want to define fasting as a short period of time when you go without eating any food. And we want to emphasize that fasting does not mean starving yourself. In fact, instead of the term “fasting” we prefer to use the term “intermittent fasting” which means that you are going without food for a set period of time. In the past it was thought that fasting would alter the metabolism making the body hold onto fat reserves as storage for lean times, which in turn makes you gain weight, which is true for extended periods of fasting or low calorie diets. However, research shows that intermittent fasting can have great benefits for weight loss. This type of fasting doesn’t reduce the calories over the day but instead has a person go 15-18 hours a day with no food. And, when eating, all the needed calories are eaten in a condensed period of time.
The reason intermittent fasting works, is that when you are fasting for the day your body will run off of fat reserves. Essentially the fasting forces the body to produce more growth hormone, which as the name implies signals the body to grow muscle by breaking down fat. So there is a better long term result compared to calorie rested diets that break down fat and muscle, leading to a slower metabolism. This is why calorie restricted diets are so famous for their yo-yo pattern of regaining weight.
If you’ve never fasted before, or if you experience hypoglycemia symptoms when meals are missed (i.e., headaches, shakiness, feeling faint, inability to think) we strongly suggest speaking to a professional first before starting. We also recommend starting slowly by skipping just one meal, rather than going the whole day without food. You can slowly increase this so you are alternating days of eating and fasting. Some people experience symptoms such as irritability and headaches when they first start fasting. However, these symptoms clear up pretty quickly the longer you stick to the regime.
Myth: Eating fat will make you fat
When we talk to patients about increasing healthy fat in their diets, the first question we usually get is whether or not eating fat will make them fat. This is an old notion that research has been proving is wrong. Eating fat does not make you fat. In fact, the opposite is true – eating low fat products is much more likely to make you fat. Confused? Let us explain.
When naturally occurring fat was removed from foods, sugar in some form was usually added to make the food taste better. When the low fat diet craze started what we saw instead of people losing weight was that rates of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease greatly increased. This is because anytime we eat carbohydrates (aka sugar), the body releases insulin to help us use the sugar for energy. If we consume more than is needed, insulin will then store this excess energy as fat so we can use it at another time. So, as we said above, in lean times the body will live off it’s fat reserves, and this is how it prepares for lean times. Storage of energy as fat occurs when there’s more available fuel than the body needs.
What we’re also learning is that a high fat diet, such as a ketogenic style diet, has many benefits for the body such as weight loss. Because fat does not involve the release of insulin, the body either uses fat for energy or gets rid of it. Fat is not stored as fat.
Myth: Exercising is the best way to lose weight every time
While exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle, there are times when exercising may do more harm than good. This is usually the case when we’ve been under chronic stress and are facing burnout. What is important to know is that weight loss is far more about hormonal health than calories. So spending more time on the treadmill for example may result in some extra calories burnt, but doesn’t help the hormones. As we exercise at moderate to high intensity our body will first respond with increased growth hormone being released, and as we read above this breaks down fat and increases muscle. However, after about 45 minutes the growth hormone will drop and another hormone called cortisol will start to rise. Cortisol has many functions in our body, but is generally seen as our chronic stress hormone. If we have high levels of stress in our body then demanding more of this hormone is only going to hurt our body. Plus, cortisol is a catabolic hormone which means it breaks down muscle and tissue in the body (the opposite of growth hormone). The result of chronic stress and chronic over exercising actually forces the body to put on more fat, specifically around the belly and midsection. The reason for this is the fat cells in this area actually help to make more cortisol for the chronic high demand.
So following some old methods of an ultra reduced calorie diet and exercising until you drop is only going to breakdown muscle and reduce your metabolism. This will lead to swings in your weight as your body will try to compensate by making you crave comfort foods to put on fat around the belly to produce more cortisol. Of course there is more to weight loss then we could talk about in one blog post. But we wanted to address some of the weight loss myths out there to help you with some new ideas to get in shape.