Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Blogtober Day 11 - Weight Loss Misconceptions!

Hello again! After yesterday's post on my weight loss story, I thought that today I'd write about various misconceptions I've encountered on my weight-loss journey, because there's a hell of a lot of them out there.

1. Diets don't work.

How often have you seen it said that 'diets' don't work? People go on a diet and lose weight, and then are surprised when they regain the weight when the diet's over and they go back to normal. Well, no shit, Sherlock. The diet did work if you lost any weight - but the problem is when it ends. If you go back to eating the way you used to, you'll go back to weighing what you used to. This is why you need to find something that you can stick to, and make that your new normal. It's cliché, but you need a permanent lifestyle change, not a temporary diet, to keep weight off.

2. The ONLY way to lose weight is using Slimming World/Weight Watchers/keto/the cabbage soup diet/cayenne pepper and lemon water/these supplements I'm selling for £30 a pop...

You lose weight by burning up more calories in energy than you consume in food. That's the science behind every single diet out there. As long as you do that, it doesn't matter what you eat, be it fruit and veg or McDonalds. I'm not saying that these diet plans are bad! If they work for you - and by that I mean you find them easy to stick to, sustainable, and you're not experiencing any negative health effects - you should feel free to continue doing them. 

3. Losing weight is complicated.

You encounter so many people saying different things about how to lose weight - do this, eat that, don't ever even think about eating that... It's easy to think that there's so many rules and sorting out the truths from the lies from the half-truths is just an exercise in futility most of the time. When it comes down to it, you don't have to pay any attention to all the noise. Losing weight is simple. It's CICO - Calories In need to be less than Calories Out. I'll keep saying it, because I'm proof. Note I'm not saying it's easy - I've had days where it's been really really difficult to walk past the chippy or resist that cake in the office kitchen - but it's simple.

4. I'm not allowed to eat XYZ. 

I don't deny myself anything. If I really, really want to eat something, I do. I'm not sure life would be worth living if I could never eat chips or chocolate again, to be honest. What I do first, however, is ask myself if I would rather have the thing I want to eat, or keep my deficit for the day. A lot of the time I decide that it isn't worth the calories and don't bother eating it. Alternatively, I'll plan ahead and work treats into my calories for the day, or try and walk a bit more to increase my calorie budget a little. Planning ahead also means you get to look forward to whatever it is you're craving!

5. There's a miracle pill.

Every so often a new graphic goes around Facebook saying that something will help boost your metabolism and burn fat! Yeah, no. Firstly, never trust anything a Facebook graphic your barely computer literate uncle posts, no matter what it says. That's just common sense. Secondly, these fad foods and supplements go around every so often and none of them work. I remember seeing people talk about raspberry ketones, a while ago it was cinnamon (which especially does not work if you consume it in the form of cinnamon swirls!), and recently I've seen people posting about detox teas. Literally all of these things are unnecessary and expensive. 

6. You need to eat breakfast!

My breakfast is generally a cereal bar at my desk. I've never been a breakfast person - I need to be up and about for a while before I can even think about eating. Yes, there seems to be a correlation between people who eat breakfast and people who succeed at managing their weight (a quick google found me this study, and this one as well), but this doesn't mean that if you don't eat it, you're doomed to be fat forever. A good breakfast means that you shouldn't feel the need to snack on high-calorie foods unnecessarily, while not having it means you might be more tempted to reach for something unhealthy. But! If you monitor what you eat and resist the siren call of a mars bar mid-morning, there's no reason you should force down scrambled eggs or a bowl of cereal if you don't want to. Again, do what works for you. If that means skipping breakfast, so be it.

7. You need to eat 2000 calories a day!

NHS guidelines (and the number and percentage given on most packaged food) seem to indicate that everybody needs to eat 2000 calories a day. This simply isn't true, and it's obvious when you think about it. Everyone is a different size (if you're taller or heavier, you need more to maintain your weight) and has a different activity level. It just doesn't make sense that we all need the same minimum amount of calories. If you're female and average height or lower (like me) 2000 calories may be enough for you to gain weight if you're sedentary. Find a TDEE (that's Total Daily Energy Expenditure) calculator online - like this one - put in your information and see what number you get. Try a few different calculators and they may come up with different numbers, but you'll probably be very disappointed when, like me, you realise you're a chocolate bar away from getting to eat 2000 calories a day.

8. You're not losing weight because you're in starvation mode!

This is really one that bugs me, because it's just so flat-out wrong. I'm a member of various weight loss Facebook groups (mostly for low-cal recipe inspiration) and I see this thrown about a lot. There are several reasons that you might not be losing weight when you're eating 1200 calories a day. 

You may not be counting right, or counting everything. It only takes a few bites here or a taste there to add up and totally wipe out your deficit, while not sticking in your memory at all. You need to be honest with yourself, and remember to weigh food and not just eyeball it. A splash of olive oil when you're cooking seems like nothing - until you remember that it's 100 calories a tablespoon. You might eyeball a dollop of peanut butter at about a teaspoon - but a scale could reveal it's actually two tablespoons, which would have about 180 calories. This video will show you how important it is to be really careful about weighing and monitoring your food, and how two meal plans that look identical can have completely different calorie counts. 

If you're absolutely sure you're counting correctly, plateaus can happen. They can last ages. You could be holding on to more water than usual, have been dehydrated the last time you weighed yourself, etc. Weight loss is not always linear. But you have to trust in the process. If you're really not seeing results, maybe go up to maintenance calories - that is, the number of calories you need to neither lose nor gain weight - for a week, then go back to your usual deficit. Sometimes that's all you need to get rid of a bit of bloat.

Stopping losing weight is not 'starvation mode', where your body 'holds on to' fat. The purpose of fat is to provide energy when not enough is being consumed. Saying your body 'holds onto it' and doesn't use it is like saying your bank account 'holds onto money' when you need it to pay your rent.

9. If it's labelled low fat/low sugar, it's good for you.

I see people all the time going for low-fat or sugar versions of foods like sauces or yogurts, automatically assuming they're healthier. Often, if you check the calorie counts of the 'diet' version and the 'normal' version, there's not much difference, and the normal version may be tastier or more satiating, which means you'd eat less of it. It might also be better for you - low fat things often have added sugar to make them taste better (as fat is delicious, removing it can leave things tasting... not great).  As well as that, if you think you can eat more of something because it's labelled low fat or sugar, then you may as well have bought the original version in the first place.

10. It's too expensive to lose weight

It's a common misconception that it's expensive to lose weight. Healthy foods cost money! As does a gym membership! And workout clothes and classes! How can anyone not earning a mountain of cash possibly do it? Well, easily enough, it turns out. 

Firstly, you do not need money to exercise, and secondly you do not need to exercise to lose weight. Youtube is full of workout videos that require little or no equipment - you don't need a gym membership and a personal trainer. 

While exercise helps with weight loss, you can successfully lose weight without ever doing any. Diet has a far bigger impact on your weight than exercise ever could, and it's really not that expensive to eat healthily. Learn how to cook, and discover what vegetables and grains you like. I generally spend less than £1 a meal, and I never buy the ready meals I used to eat because I find them overpriced now. Cut portion sizes and save leftovers for another meal. Not having the money to lose weight is just an excuse. 

And that's all the misconceptions I have time to try and debunk today! I think there might have to be a part two to this post sometime, as weight loss seems to be one of the top magnets for misinformation and con artists. I hope this post helped people, and I'd love to know what misconceptions piss you off!

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