Tuesday, November 16, 2010

6 Weight-loss Myths vs. Facts

Now, for that myths vs. facts thing I was talking about on Sunday with my weigh-in.  First, let me say up front that this is not me being preachy or cocky - I know I've still got a LOOOONGGG way to go.  Instead, this is me sharing what I've learned with my recent experiences.  I'm sure some will want to debate with me on some of this, but I do think it's important to talk about this stuff since the area of weight-loss is fraught with lots of rules, guilt, myths, quick fixes, elusive goals, etc.  There's so much that holds people back....and I'm hoping some of this releases others to do what they have been wanting to do.

By the way, in case it needs to be said:

* Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nutritionist, personal trainer, or any other type of health professional.  My advice here is solely based on my own experience and should not be taken as professional advice. *

1.  You have to exercise yourself to death to lose weight.

image via Newfie Bullet on Flickr
Myth.  You don't.  In fact, technically you don't have to exercise at all as long as your calorie intake is less than what your base metabolic rate of calorie burn is per day (although I wouldn't recommend it).  Instead, on average, I've been doing about 3 days a week - sometimes 4, sometimes 2 - and I'm doing about 60-90 minutes at a time (depending on if I'm doing only cardio or cardio and weights).  So, that's about 3-4 hours a week.  But this past week (when I lost 2.4 lbs), I worked out twice - Monday and Tuesday.  The rest of the week, I was at home working on my research, sitting on my ass at my computer mostly.  And I still lost more this week than I have done on the recent weeks I've worked out 4 days a week.  So it's not all about exercise.  Will I still try for 4 days?  Absolutely - because I'm learning that working out isn't so much about calorie burn (although that certainly helps) as it is about building strength, confidence, endurance and flexibility.  What then does that point to?  See number 2....

2.  You can eat what you want if you're exercising.

Myth.  While it might be true for some people who are at their maintain weight, it's not the case if you want to lose weight.  What these past few weeks have taught me is that how much I lose is more related to what I put in my mouth instead of what calories I spend in exercise.  Do I burn more when I exercise?  Yes, of course.  And if I had made it to the gym every day AND ate like I did, I'm sure the loss recorded last week would have been larger.  But cutting back on what I ate did the trick.  Like I said on week 12 (and Skinny Emmie said a few weeks ago), eating too much of the right stuff is still too much.  Which leads me to number 3...

3.  You don't have to eat healthy to lose weight.

image via kfisto on Flickr
Fact.  When the rubber hits the road, it's about calorie intake vs. calorie burn to lose weight.  (When you cut back on carbs or fat, you also, usually inadvertently cut back on calories, so.....)  What those calories are made of does not matter.  If you don't believe me, ask the nutritionist who lost 27 lbs eating Twinkies and Little Debbie snack cakes.  Despite being either terribly exciting or terribly scary, a diet of only Twinkies, Swiss Cake Rolls or Wagonwheels will make you lose weight as long as you still eat fewer calories than you burn.  Do I recommend it?  No.  But it does prove a point.  And while those (including myself) who are big on the clean-eating, eradication of processed foods, corn sugars, and the like are right in many of their assertions, eating 2,500 calories a day of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and lean meats will not allow you to lose weight like an 1,800 calories a day diet of snack cakes and cookies would.  Crazy, huh?  The Twinkie diet guy has also noted that his blood pressure and cholesterol decreased as his weight decreased - instead of going up, as he had expected, because of what he was eating.  So it may be that sometimes those conditions are related to weight and not diet (although I think there's still work to be done to cement this idea).  So, eat your chocolate if you want it - but count what you eat in your caloric intake for the day, take a vitamin and make adjustments. Oh, and remember fruits and veggies are better for you in other ways with regards to nutrition, possible cancer-fighting properties, etc....so don't toss them out for Ho-Hos and Ding-Dongs just yet, as tempting and exciting as they may be....which brings me to number 4....

4.  Eating healthy is boring.

image via stinky_harriet on Flickr
Myth.  It requires thought, planning, and a willingness to cook.  If that is boring for you, then, yeah, maybe this is true.  But I have to say that over the last 13-14 weeks, I've eaten really well.  There have been no boring carrot sticks and celery stalks (ick!) in my lunches or dinners.  And I find that I am appreciating food more rather than just shoving it down my gullet.  Special occasions are even more special because they're celebrated with food I don't have that often.  For example, Jim and I would have a dinner fairly frequently of cheese, salamis and other charcuterie, chutneys, olives, and wine.  We haven't done that since we started this journey, but I find I'm really looking forward to that as a treat perhaps over Christmas when friends are here.  And I know you may say, "Yeah, but Jayme, you live with a brilliant chef.  It's so much easier for you," but you know what?  Since we've started this, I've been doing most (but not all) of the grocery shopping and cooking.  Sure, Jim's there as a resource for ideas and how-to-make-a-healthier-roux, but what we're doing is nothing better than anyone else could do.

5.  You have to load up on protein in the morning for breakfast. 

the toast is buttered here...but not usually
Myth and Fact.  I say this one is both because while it's not true for me, others have said that it is true for them and I believe them.  I've talked about this before, but I find that I am much more satisfied and stay fuller longer with a good bowl of cereal or oatmeal than with a couple eggs and a piece of toast (281 calories, 16.5g fat, 13.3 carb, 16.5 protein).  I can't explain why this is, but I have tested it and know it to be true for me.  My favorite breakfast right now is a bowl of oatmeal made with skim milk, and garnished with fruit (fresh or dried), nuts and honey, with a piece of toast (498 calories, 14.6g fat, 79.8 carb, 10.2 protein).  Carb-heavy, I know, but it keeps me going most days until lunch (around 1-2pm) without any problem, even if I go to the gym in the morning.  Is it because it's higher in carbs and calories?  Maybe, but since I don't have to have any snacks between breakfast and lunch, I think it evens out.  But it's significantly lower in protein, which is what this myth/fact was about.

5.  You have to eat like this for the rest of your life.

Fact.  For those of us who have struggled with weight for years - and I'm not talking about someone who is 5 lbs overweight - how you eat to lose weight needs to be something you can sustain for the rest of your life.  Going on a diet for a few weeks and then going back to eating what you were before you started doesn't work.  Your friendly fat cells that you thought you had said goodbye to will come back to keep you company and will bring their friends, extended family and all their luggage with them.  This is about sustainable life change, folks, so make changes that you can stick with.  No shortcuts.  No punchbacks.

(and I have to say that this is still the scariest part of it for me, 'cuz I do loves me grub.)

6.  Drinking more water helps you lose weight.

image via bebe no on Flickr
Total Fact.  How the ins-and-outs of it works, I have no idea....but drinking more water helps your body lose water weight.  It helps you to feel fuller.  You feel better.  Your skin looks better.  It flushes out your system.  It's a must.   I know it's a drag for some.........but ya gotta do it.  Cut out the soda - even if it's diet soda - and fruit juices (which are high in calories and sugars) and drink water.  Your body will thank you.

And you'll burn more calories by walking back and forth to the bathroom more often too, so it's a win-win.  :o)

 Question:  What myths have you busted in your journey?  What rules have you defied?  Or what tried-and-true advice have you stuck with?


  1. The one thing I always keep in mind is something my mother always said -- if my body is craving it, it's because I need it. That might look like eating a lean patty of ground beef if I just can't get the thought of a Wendy's cheeseburger out of my head. It might be a glass of skim milk before bed if I am craving yogurt, cheese, or ice cream.

    My mom is convinced that the body tells you what it needs, and I believe it most of the time too. It does not mean I get to eat a whole bag of potato chips because they sound good. It means I need to figure out what it is my body is craving -- salt or fat? Then find a healthier alternative that still feeds that need.

  2. I know what you mean about #5 - and part of that for me is balancing #3 as well. It's so important to recognize that this is not temporary, so people need to develop a sustainable plan, not just one that gives great results right now. For example, my absolute favorite food in the world is cheese - any kind, seriously. And it's not great for you, so I can't eat huge pieces of it, but in moderation it's fine. And I need to be realistic and know that I cannot reasonably go the rest of my life without it anymore. So lately my Saturday treat is buying a 1-oz. pepper jack cheese stick while I run my errands!

    P.S. I left you an award on my blog ♥

  3. You are so right about the exercise thing. You can absolutely postively lose weight without exercising. I lost my first 50 pounds without so much as going for a nice stroll. But... as I felt healthier and got lighter, I not only felt the need/urge to exercise, but I also didn't get as many calories (at rest) as I once did, so if I still wanted to indulge once in awhile, I needed to at least move a little more than I already was. Now I workout 5 days a week!

  4. Thank you for this Jayme! It's great to read it from your perspective.

    My big issue is water. While it IS a myth that we need to drink 8 glasses of WATER a day (I'll have to find the study. And, no, if you feel thirsty you are NOT dehydrated, you're thirsty), I can surely agree from experience that lost of fluid helps weight loss.

    xoxo, amy