5 weight loss myths exploded

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Some commonly-held beliefs about weight loss are simply not accurate. Know the full picture – and talk to your GP – before deciding on a healthy lifestyle to suit you

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With so much conflicting advice about weight loss, it’s easy to go down a path that doesn’t work for you. But don’t blame yourself. It is likely that some of the information about weight management you’ve been receiving is inaccurate.

Here we take a look at some common weight loss myths:

1. ‘All calories are equal’

Calories are definitely not created equal. Say you eat a biscuit that’s 100 calories. This won’t have the same nutritional benefits as a small fillet of rainbow trout with the same calorific value. The biscuit contains ‘empty’ calories that have little nutritional value. The fish will provide you with protein, essential omega-3 fatty acids and other key nutrients, as well as keeping you fuller for longer.

Nutrient-dense foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, are usually high in nutrients and lower in calories. They provide us with the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that we need for our bodies to function healthily.

It’s much easier to lose weight and control your appetite when you’re eating more nourishing foods. Research shows that nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables, nuts, whole grains and fruit are more beneficial for weight loss than foods high in processed ingredients (such as white flour and sugar), which are associated with weight gain.

What you can do

  • Choose foods that are high in nutrients, such as fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, leafy greens, lean meat, fish, poultry and eggs.
  • Avoid processed foods and drinks where you can.

2. ‘Eating fat makes you fat’

Including healthy fats in your diet stimulates your metabolism and helps fill you up, so you’re more likely to feel satisfied after eating and less likely to be hungry between meals.

Moderately increasing the amount of good fats in your diet and reducing simple carbohydrates (including white pasta and bread) may help with weight loss.

What you can do

  • Eat more healthy fats, such as oily fish (including sardines, salmon, herring and mackerel), avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds.
  • Avoid sugar and processed carbohydrates.

3. ‘It’s all about what you eat’

Sometimes changing your diet isn’t enough. If you’re finding it hard to lose weight, there may be other factors contributing.

Stress, for example, can make it harder to lose weight. If you’re producing too much of the stress hormone cortisol, this triggers an increase in blood sugar and insulin levels and causes more weight to be stored, particularly around the abdomen.

There is also emerging evidence that an imbalance of gut bacteria (dysbiosis) may make it harder to lose weight, as beneficial gut bacteria are involved in healthy metabolism, digestion and appetite control.

What you can do

  • Find ways to reduce stress such as meditation or mind-body exercises including Tai chi or yoga.
  • If stress is chronic and ongoing seek help from a GP.
  • Include healthy fermented foods such as live yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi in your diet. This will help balance your gut bacteria.

4. ‘Being overweight is your own fault’

There’s much more to obesity and being overweight than is commonly thought. So don’t beat yourself up if you have trouble with weight management.

A report by The British Psychological Society states that most people become overweight or obese as a result of a complex combination of biological, psychological and social factors.

The report highlights that people most likely to be an unhealthy weight may have a high genetic risk of developing obesity. High levels of stress, including major life challenges and trauma, can also make some people more susceptible to weight gain. Financial difficulties can also make it hard to access affordable, healthy food.

There may also be medical reasons. For example, hypothyroidism, a condition where not enough thyroid hormone is produced, affecting metabolism and causing the body to slow down.

Lack of sleep can also play a part. It affects the hunger hormone, ghrelin, that increases appetite, and the satiety hormone, leptin, which makes you feel full. Sleep deprivation can cause ghrelin to rise and leptin to fall, which often leads to over-eating. A UK review of several studies has shown that sleep-deprived people consume on average, an extra 385 calories a day.

What you can do

  • Talk to your Livi GP, if you’ve been suffering from insomnia or stress for more than two weeks.

5. ‘There’s one single best diet for everyone’

When it comes to weight loss, there’s simply no such thing as one size fits all according to a recent study.

Researchers looked at the responses to meals of 1,100 adults (60 percent of them twins) over two weeks, measuring blood sugar, insulin, fat levels and other markers.

The results revealed a wide variation in blood responses to the same foods, and personal differences in metabolism, gut microbiome, meal timing and exercise.

This is only partly explained by genetic factors. The results suggest a personalised approach to nutrition is likely to provide the best results for weight loss.

What you can do

  • Forget fad diets and find a weight loss regime that works for you.
  • Get advice on nutrition and weight loss from the NHS ‘how to diet’ site.

Reviewed by Dr Rhianna McClymont, Lead GP, Livi

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