When it comes to dieting, there’s no shortage of myths, misconceptions, and downright lies floating around out there.
Some of them are fleeting – they show up, get passed on for a while, and then die a quiet death.
Others, however, are persistent – they stick around for so long, and get passed on so often that, over time, they simply become accepted as fact.
Today we’re here to help the set the record straight. We’re going to be talking about three of the most notorious myths, why they’re ridiculous, and why you should IGNORE them.
Myth #1 – Breakfast Is The Most Important Meal Of The Day
On paper, this one sounds like it makes perfect sense.
The logic goes like this – you wake up in the morning having not eaten for upwards of twelve hours.
Because of this, your body lacks the necessary fuel for you to function properly, and in order for you to load up and start your day, you need to eat a large meal immediately.
That’s the short version of it. Proponents of a large breakfast also like to site studies showing that individuals who skip breakfast have higher rates of body fat than those who don’t.
The reality is that neither of these claims stand up to scrutiny.
Despite the fact that almost everyone tries to use the analogy, your body isn’t really like a car. You’re not “out of fuel” just because you haven’t eat for a few hours.
In fact, the body is perfectly capable of using stored energy (including body fat) for all of your daily functions. For the average person living in the West, you’d have to fast for a hell of a lot longer than twelve hours before you start running on fumes.
In fact, many people who eat a big breakfast find they have LESS energy in the morning, simply because they have to work so hard to digest all the bagel and eggs they just took down.
As for the whole “people who eat breakfast weigh less” thing? Well, here’s the problem – a lot of the “studies” that you read about surrounding weight loss and fitness are notorious for being poorly designed.
Yes, there have been studies showing slightly higher levels of body fat in individuals who skip breakfast. The problem is that NONE of these studies take other confounding factors into consideration.
To take just one example, a lot of people who skip breakfast do so because they’re busy and stressed…and busy and stressed stressed people usually eat poor quality, calorie dense food…and calorie dense food leads to weight gain.
The breakfast (or lack thereof) had nothing to do with it.
Does that mean you should be skipping breakfast altogether? Not necessarily. If you’re hungry in the morning, eat something.
But if you’re not, don’t – and don’t feel guilty about it.
Myth #2 – Eat Small, Frequent Meals To “Stoke The Metabolic Fire”
If you’ve ever read a popular fitness magazine, you’ve no doubt heard this one before – the “six small meals per day” plan.
Proponents of this dieting strategy claim that doing this will speed up your metabolism and lead to greater weight loss than if you were to simply eat three meals per day like a normal human being.
Well, much like the breakfast myth, this one sounds perfectly logical, but it fall apart completely under scrutiny.
The concept is founded on two basic ideas. During periods of chronic under eating, it’s well known that one of the ways the body adapts is by slowing down the metabolism, making it easier to survive on fewer calories (this is commonly referred to as “starvation mode”).
By eating smaller, more frequent meals, you effectively “trick” the body into thinking that it has more food available than it actually does. This, apparently, will keep your metabolism in overdrive.
The second idea revolves around a little phenomenon called the “thermic effect of food”. You see, in order to digest and process the food you eat, your body requires energy (i.e. it burns calories).
By eating six meals instead of three, you can maximize this effect, burning more calories more often throughout the day.
Sounds like a no brainer, right ladies?
Here’s the problem – the amount of calories burned in the digestion process is directly proportional to the amount of calories you eat (roughly 10%)
That means if you eat a 600 calorie meal, your body will “spend” about 60 calories breaking it down.
However, if you eat a 300 calorie meal a few hours later, your body won’t burn 60 calories again…it’ll only burn 30.
In other words, meal frequency has nothing to do with it. It’s all proportional to the amount of calories consumed.
As for the idea of “starvation mode”, you can forget about that as well. Because while starvation mode is a real thing, it happens when you’re actually starving…as in you’re living through a literal famine.
Not because you skipped your afternoon snack.
Bottom line – eat as many meals as you want, make sure you count your calories, and you’ll be just fine.
Myth #3 – Calories Don’t Matter
Pro tip – if you want a sure fire way to tell if the magazine/website/diet guru you’re taking nutritional advice from is completely full of crap, watch out for the phrase “calories don’t matter”.
Chances are, if you hear these three words, you can IMMEDIATELY discard whatever they’re telling you.
Here are a few common examples –
“Calories don’t matter, carbs do.”
“Calories don’t matter, fats do.”
“Calories don’t matter, sugar does.”
“Calories don’t matter, meal timing does.”
“Calories don’t matter, food quality does.”
No. Just, no. Calories are king. They are the number one factor that will determine whether you succeed or fail on your diet.
At the end of the day, we live in a society that constantly wants to take the easy way out. And when it comes to dieting, most people desperately want to think it’s the carbs…or the fats….or the meal timing….or ANYTHING else except what matters…
Eating less food.
Consider this – over the last few decades, food consumption has increased alongside the obesity rate in almost EVERY SINGLE category.
Meat consumption? Up.
Grain consumption? Up
Processed food consumption? Up
Fruit consumption? Yes, EVEN that has gone up.
Remember ladies, if you’re looking to shed the pounds, when in doubt, remember these four words – eat less, move more.