Over the next several articles I am going to explain what really happens in the 10 most common myths and mistakes people encounter when they are trying to lose weight. Of course that means some science will be applied and I will preface that by saying, it doesn’t matter if you fully understand the science as long as you understand the concepts.
Adipose tissue is commonly known as body fat. It is found all over the body. It can be found under the skin (subcutaneous fat), packed around internal organs (visceral fat), between muscles, within bone marrow and in breast tissue. Men tend to store more visceral fat (fat around their internal organs), leading to obesity around the middle of their abdomen. However, women tend to store more subcutaneous fat within the buttocks and thighs. These differences are due to the sex hormones produced by males and females.
Adipose tissue is now known to be a very important and active endocrine organ. It is well established that adipocytes (or fat cells) play a vital role in the storage and release of energy throughout the human body. More recently, the endocrine function of adipose tissue has been discovered. In addition to adipocytes, adipose tissue contains numerous other cells that are able to produce certain hormones in response to signals from the rest of the organs throughout the body. Through the actions of these hormones, adipose tissue plays an important role in the regulation of glucose, cholesterol and the metabolism of sex hormones.
With obesity rates over 35 percent in America (and rising every year), reducing body fat is much more important than simply aesthetics and abs. To truly lose fat you’re going to have to finally break free of fad diets, yo-yo dieting, and all the nutritional lies/myths that keep women overweight and frustrated. To be the master of your body you are going to have to first, debunk and correct what I consider to be 10 of the worst and most permeated fat loss myths and mistakes, and second master your mindset. This is another critical part of your education because chances are you have heard or even believed several of these myths and made a few of these mistakes in the past. So let’s sort through the myths and mistakes so they never impede your progress toward the body you have always wanted.
“CALORIES IN VERSUS CALORIES OUT DOESN’T MATTER”
Said another way, calorie counting doesn't work or dieting is all about food quality, not calories. It sounds great as a social media post, “Get lean and fit without ever having to worry about how much you eat”! This is not true and in fact it’s a lie if anyone says something different. How much you eat or how many calories you eat is far more important than what you eat. There are multiple studies including University professor Mark Haub losing 27lbs in 10 weeks eating only junk food like hostess cupcakes, Doritos, Oreos, and supplementing with whey protein shakes. Of course I don’t recommend eating this way because the nutritional value of your food does matter, but it proves the point that if calories are controlled, you can lose body fat and even gain muscle.
The key to understanding what really drives weight loss is energy balance. This is the relationship between energy intake (how much you eat) and output (how much energy you expend).
If you add up all the calories you ate in one day and then compared that to how many you burn in one day, one of three things will have happened:
You ate more calories than you burned (if this happens often enough you gain weight).
You ate fewer calories than you burned (if this happens often enough you lose weight).
You ate about the same amount of calories as you burned (if this happens often enough you maintain your weight).
My favorite analogy for calories in and out is your checking account. If you put more calories into your account (eat more) than you “spend” (burn), you will be saving energy (positive energy balance) or storing body fat. If you put fewer calories into your account than you spend, now you are creating a negative energy balance, and your body will have to use “savings” (body fat mostly) to make up for the deficit of energy and keep functioning.
Our bodies are incredible energy management machines. We are constantly using, storing, and directing energy to all our systems to stay alive. If we couldn’t do that subconsciously then we would have to eat on a strict schedule just to stay alive. If we are consistently taking in fewer calories than we need to function everyday then what do you think happens over a few weeks or months? Right, we lose fat and get leaner. This isn’t a hypothesis or a guess, it’s the first law of thermodynamics which states that energy in a system can’t be created or destroyed but can only change forms. Excess calories (food) becomes stored energy through our digestive system changing it into chemical energy (body fat) and our organs use it for thermal energy (heat). Every activity we do on a daily basis requires mechanical energy (movement) and that is where non-exercise activity thermogenesis (everyday activities) and specific exercise (gym/sports/etc..) “burn” calories.
Every study ever done on metabolism has proven that energy balance is the basic mechanism that regulates weight gain and weight loss. Having said that, it doesn’t mean you have to count calories to lose weight, it just means you have to understand how calorie intake and expenditure dictates your body composition and then regulate your intake accordingly. Sounds easy right? It can be if you apply what you just learned to the next two myths as well.
“CERTAIN PEOPLE JUST CAN’T LOSE WEIGHT”
What do you think is the biggest reason why people “inexplicably” can’t lose weight? Right, they are taking in too many calories whether they think so or not.
I’m not saying people do this on purpose because most people are really bad at estimating the actual calories they eat. I encounter this everyday when people weigh out protein or a “serving size” of nuts. People underestimate portion sizes, assume foods contain fewer calories than they do, inaccurately measure food intake, and unfortunately in some cases lie to themselves about how much they are really eating.
I won’t go into any exact studies but from the ones I looked at, people were underestimating their calorie intake by as much as 2,000 calories per day, so if you think your eating 1,000 calories a day and not losing weight let’s go back to the basics and get accurate with your measuring system.
I don’t want to sound like I’m blaming all this on you because as usual big business food is trying to work the system. Food manufacturers and restaurants are extremely inaccurate when it comes to reporting nutrition facts. In fact, they can be as much as 20% inaccurate and still pass FDA inspections. So that 200 calorie “healthy” snack could really be 240 calories. If you eat out a lot and eat a lot of packaged foods then you can quickly eat several hundred calories more than you think in just one day.
So stick to what you prepare, weigh and measure your food, and you're golden, right? Let’s look at this scenario. You scoop out a tablespoon of peanut butter, ¾ a cup of plain greek yogurt, and a cup of oatmeal. The cup of oatmeal you scooped out contains 100 grams of dried oats and 350 calories but the “cup” on the label assumes 1 cup is 81 grams of oats and 289 calories so that is what you record. The tablespoon of peanut butter was actually 25 grams but MyFitnessPal tells you a tablespoon is just 18 grams. That’s a 7 gram difference in fat calories or 63 calories (7g x 9cal). Those small mistakes can add up and this usually explains the “mysterious” lack of weight loss or even weight gain when someone thinks they are in a calorie deficit.
“CARBS, ESPECIALLY SUGAR MAKES YOU FAT”
This one has really been perpetuated in social media and even by physicians that are influencers to thousands of people. Maybe this is because people love to have simple explanations for things and they make for compelling social media headlines. Hence the fad diet is born. Media and influencers pull on our emotional heart strings by making us the victim in a food conspiracy. Getting us to demonize fat in the 80s and 90s, and then renounce carbs as the latest villain standing between us and the body we have always wanted and deserve. If this is true then how does someone eat only twinkies, cupcakes and junk food and lose 27 pounds? How do multiple well designed studies that have been peer reviewed find no difference between low and high-carb and low and high sugar diets? When science repeatedly points to the fact that overall calorie control is the ultimate predictor of weight gain or loss (we aren’t talking about health, just body composition) then how can we blame a single macronutrient for all our problems? I am making a point here to debunk this myth but I don’t want to undervalue the quality of the food you eat. We will get into this in great detail in future articles but I’ll end this myth with this fact, if you consistently consume fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight, regardless of the make up (sugar or not) of your calories. Do you know someone who is always eating the “healthiest” foods on earth and still overweight? “Eating clean” doesn’t always equate to a healthy body composition and on the flip side eating junk food all the time doesn’t mean you will be overweight...enter the skinny fat person.
These 3 myths are pervasive and misleading at best. Now that you are armed with the truth, you can make more informed decisions when it comes to your health and body composition. In the next article we will talk about the myths of “cheat meals”, spot reducing body fat, and breaking your metabolism.
Spread the truth and be confident in your actions when you stick to the basic principles of weight loss. Time is your friend and consistency always wins in the long run so prepare your mindset for the long haul because this is your life, make it a lifestyle.
Live Well, Eat Smart