Weight Loss Myths

There are so many weight loss diets around, particularly in January as we all set resolutions to eat healthier, or get fitter or lose some weight!

This makes it difficult to know which ones are healthy, effective and safe. We’ve taken three common myths around weight loss and helped to unravel the truth behind them.

Myth #1: Carbs cause weight gain

Carbs – The truth

In simple terms, weight loss happens when you eat fewer calories than you expend each day. Whether the calories come from carbohydrates, fats , protein or alcohol, if you consume more calories than you use, you will gain weight – and vice versa.

Having said this , carbohydrates are often the food group limited in weight loss diets. Why? Because carbs cause fluctuations in your blood sugar levels (and therefore energy and hunger levels). They’re also easy to over-eat . This is because carbohydrates have a low satiety (fullness) rating. For example, if you eat a tablespoon of sugar versus a tablespoon of fat, you will feel fuller after the fat than the sugar.

But cutting back on carbs particularly for any length of time can be a disaster for weight loss as it can lead to reductions in the appetite hormone leptin. When levels of leptin fall too low (often seen in crash dieters), it signals to the brain that more energy is needed so hunger levels increase and more fat is stored in the body. Neither of which is good for weight loss!

Carbs – The recommendation

Choose unrefined carbohydrates like oats, brown rice, wholemeal bread, rye bread and buckwheat since these have more fibre than refined carbs like bagels, white pasta, sweets, cakes and biscuits. This means they will be more filling and cause less of a spike in blood sugar levels , whilst helping to keep leptin levels steady.

Myth #2: Low fat dairy is better than full fat

Dairy – The truth

For years we’ve been told to choose skimmed milk and low-fat dairy products over full-fat, yet the results of Women’s Health Study (which looked at dietary habits of over 18,400 women ), found that those who consumed high-fat dairy products reduced their risk of being overweight or obese by 8%.

One explanation for this is that when people cut out fat, they tend to compensate by increasing sugary or carbohydrate-rich foods, which will lead to weight gain when eaten in excess.

Another theory is that the fat from the full-fat dairy products may work directly in the body to help break down sugar. In addition to this, calcium (found in all dairy products) may help with weight loss due to its action on fat cells.

Dairy – The recommendation

Include full-fat dairy products in a weight loss diet. But if you feel better eating dairy alternatives, like almond, soy or coconut milk, just be aware they are not always healthier!

Myth #3: Exercise is key for weight loss

Exercise – The truth

In fact, most studies that compared the weight loss effects of diet versus exercise found that exercise alone had little effect, if any, on weight loss. Yet dietary calorie restriction almost always had a positive effect.

Despite this, it’s been shown that people with more muscle mass use more calories, so by increasing your muscle mass through regular exercise, particularly through strength training, you’ll be able to slightly increase your daily calorie burn.

Exercise – The recommendation

Don’t put your trainers away just yet!

Aside from weight loss , staying physically active has numerous health benefits, including reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, depression and better quality sleep.

As ever, when it comes to diets and weight loss, the message here is that a healthy, balanced way of eating is key to sustain long-term health. It’s recommended that you focus on a diet low in saturated fats, high in fibre, and one that includes unrefined carbohydrates, lean protein and some essential good fats every day.