What are some diet and exercise myths/ideas you hear but wish didn’t exist?
- Egg yolks should be avoided because they are high in cholesterol, which increases risk of heart disease.
- It’s better to eat 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day to boost metabolic rate.
- To lose weight, eat less and exercise more.
Why are each of these myths/ideas damaging or unhelpful?
1. Over the years, eggs have been one of the most demonised foods in the Western world. This is highly due to the cholesterol myth. The misguided belief that cholesterol, such as in egg yolks, will give you heart disease is simply untrue. This myth has been debunked in recent years by studies, which have shown that eggs do NOT have a detrimental impact on cholesterol levels and in fact, the more you eat of cholesterol, the less your body produces it. This is because a majority of the cholesterol swimming around in our blood is produced by our liver.
It turns out that amount of whole egg consumption that is deemed to be ok depends on the individual. Some individuals (approximately 70%) who consume eggs, it has no effect on total or LDL cholesterol, but in a small group of people (approximately 30%) these numbers might go up slightly.
Having said this, research has suggested that up to three whole eggs per day are safe for consumption in healthy people who are trying to stay healthy. Why is this myth unhelpful? It may have been deterring people from consuming eggs, which have been labelled as one of the world’s most healthy foods, out of fear it will increase their risk of heart disease. TIP: Where possible, choose organic, free range eggs to optimise the levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
2. It is often claimed that people should eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day to keep the metabolism firing. However, many studies have refuted this clam showing that eating 2-3 meals per day has the exact same effect on total calories burned as eating 5-6 (or more) smaller meals.
Eating frequently may have benefits for some people such as preventing excessive hunger, controlling blood sugar levels and aiding digestion but it is incorrect that this affects the amount of calories we burn.
In addition to these studies, there are other studies that show eating too often may be harmful in that it dramatically increased liver and abdominal fat on a high calorie diet. When deciding if it’s best for you to eat smaller meals, more frequently or three-square meals a day, or even employ intermittent fasting, it’s best you get the advice from a nutrition professional such as a Dietitian.
3. Weight loss (and gain) is often assumed and even taught by some health professionals, to be all about “calories in versus calories out.”
However, this is completely inaccurate for many reasons. The human body is a highly complex biological system with many hormones and brain centres that regulate when, what and how much we eat.
It is well known that genetics, hormones and external factors such as stress, smoking, alcohol consumption and poor sleep hygiene, have a massive impact on body weight.
Although it is still the individual’s responsibility to do something about their weight problem, blaming obesity on some sort of moral failure is unhelpful and inaccurate.
What are the most effective ways to lose weight, for both the short and long term?
There is no magic to weight loss, nor a quick fix. Changing your eating habits is a good place to start, which should occur gradually, especially if you have existing poor eating behaviours. A successful weight-loss program looks at many aspects including nutrition, exercise, hormone balance, stress management and proper sleep hygiene. Although it is important to set realistic and measurable short-term and long-term goals, it’s more vital to focus on the improvements in your health that go hand-in-hand with weight loss such as, improved energy, better mental health, more vitality, better sleep etc.
Some simple tips for a healthy approach to weight loss include:
- Avoid yo-yo dieting, fad diets or weight cycling – crash dieting is a short-term solution that will increase your body fat levels in the long term due your body lowering its metabolic rate as a result.
- Don’t skip meals – if you do, you are more likely to eat more when you do eat, and this may lead to a larger stomach capacity.
- Exercise regularly – aim for at least five days per week and make sure it is a combination of resistance/strength training and cardiovascular training for best results.
- Cut down on the carbs – refined carbohydrates such as cake, biscuits, cookies, muffins, chips, cupcakes, soft drink, fruit juice, and most supermarket breads will make you store fat if not burned off.
- Be cautious of portion size of main meals and snacks – always eat to 80% full before returning for seconds.
- Keep tempting foods/indulgent foods out of the house or out of reach in the office.
- Don’t drink your calories – avoid beverages that contain empty calories and don’t fill you up such as soft drinks, large fruit juices, energy drinks.
- Increase vegetable intake – most non-starchy veg are low in calories and high in fibre, which means they will fill you up and keep your waist in check.
- Get a good night’s sleep – optimise your sleep hygiene and routine and aim for 7-8 hours per night.
- Make water your choice of drink – water can help boost metabolism as well as keeping you well hydrated for optimal energy and performance.