It’s heartbreaking to hear overweight people tell you their false beliefs about diet and fat loss, because until these myths are dispelled, they are going to continue making the same mistakes and sabotage their fat loss efforts.
Myth 1: “Junk food is OK as part of a balanced diet”
This myth is carefully nurtured by the junk food industry for obvious reasons. It leads people to think that a balanced diet means a balance between unhealthy foods and healthy foods. Nothing could be further from the truth. A balanced diet means a balance between the main food groups: lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, good fats (as opposed to saturated fat or hydrogenated fat), fruit and vegetables. It doesn’t mean a balance between fried chicken, ice cream, vegetables, pizza, and fizzy drinks.
Junk food is refined, processed, laden with sugar and salt and chemicals, and does little or nothing to contribute to your nutritional needs. Don’t fall for this myth that junk food has any role to play in a balanced diet.
Myth 2: “Diet” or “Half Fat” versions of junk food are harmless alternatives
The junk food industry has caught on to the growing trend towards healthier eating, as consumers become more educated about the effect on food on their bodies and minds. Hence the growth of ‘diet’ or ‘half fat’ version of junk foods. This is a cynical and cunning ploy on the part of the industry, but one you can see through on careful examination.
If an item of junk food is laden with saturated fat and salt and sugar, a ‘half fat/salt/sugar’ version is still high in fat, salt and sugar. Better not to eat it at all than settle for a slightly less bad version of the original.
Same goes for ‘diet’ versions of fizzy drinks. Although there may be zero sugar, the manufacturers add an artificial sweetener called aspartame, which is toxic to the body, and interferes with your metabolism, hormone levels, and amino acid ratios.
Myth 3: You can eat anything you like, as long as you exercise enough
The truth is that you can’t out-train a bad diet. Your only realistic chance of becoming fit and healthy is to eat healthily and get plenty of exercise.
If you’re eating a diet of junk food, you won’t have the energy to exercise properly. And when it comes to the body repairing and growing muscle, if you’re deficient in good quality protein, there’s no way you’ll recover and grow after your workouts.
Good diet and regular exercise go hand in hand, they’re mutually reinforcing. Effective exercise is hugely dependent on an optimally nutritious diet. One cannot make up for a lack of the other. People complain to me that they don’t have the energy to exercise properly, and the reason is primarily diet. How can you expect your car to drive any distance without fuel, or with sewage in the petrol tank? The same goes for your body.
Myth 4: All fat is bad for you
This is a common belief among weight-loss fanatics. It’s a case of hearing that saturated fats and hydrogenated fats are bad for you, and wrongly assuming that all fat is bad for you.
Saturated fat occurs naturally in red meat, the skin of chicken, and to a lesser extent in other natural foods like cashew nuts. Processed foods like cheese and cream are also high in saturated fats. Although it’s hard to eliminate all saturated fat from your diet (and I don’t advise cutting out all saturated fat, because there is nutritional value in lean cuts of red meat for instance, which is high in protein, zinc, and iron) it’s worth cutting down on foods high in saturated fat.
Hydrogenated fat (also known as trans-fats) is an artificial fat created by the food industry, and designed to boost shelf life of processed foods, and give solidity and bulk to the foods that contain them, as hydrogenated fat is solid at room temperature. There is absolutely no nutritional need to eat anything that contains even the smallest amount of hydrogenated fat, and every reason to avoid it. The effect on the body is even worse than saturated fats, because it lowers your HDL cholesterol levels (good cholesterol) as well as raising your LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol.
In contrast, there are fats that your body needs for good health. These are the ‘essential fats’. You’ve probably heard of omega 3 fatty acids, found in fish, and these have multiple benefits for your cholesterol levels, and the health of your skin and hair. Essential fatty acids are also needed to store the fat soluble vitamins E, D, and K. The other essential fats are omega 6, found in nuts and seeds. Other good souces of essential fats are avocados, and olive oil.
Myth 5: All carbs are bad for you
The truth is that there are ‘good carbs’ and ‘bad carbs’. The carbs to avoid are the refined processed carbs churned out by the food industry, and include while bread, white rice, refined pasta, cakes, biscuits, and patries. Why are they bad for you? Because they’re deficient in fibre, vitamins and minerals, and create an ‘insulin spike’ due to the high blood-sugar levels that result from eating them. And excess refined carbs convert more easily into body fat than the ‘good carbs’.
What are ‘good carbs’? Generally any carbs that are not refined and processed, or at least ones that are less refined. So foods like brown rice, sweet potato, quinoa, wholewheat pasta, porridge oats, and wholemeal bread, all these are much better for you than refined carbs. They’re higher in fibre, and higher in vitamins and minerals.
So don’t believe the crazy diets that demonise all carbs!