Following a mono diet, skipping meals, doing exclusively intensive cardio workouts, swearing only by the numbers on the scale, avoiding carbs, fat, certain fruits and eating out… These preconceived ideas can make your weight loss journey very difficult, be source of frustrations, and ultimately lead to failure. Having a clear understanding of how weight loss works and being able to knock out these misconceptions will be your key to success!
Myth #1: I will quickly lose weight if I follow a mono diet
Fact: People following a mono diet will eat only one food (or one type of food) for several days. They usually choose fruits (apple, watermelon, grapefruit…), vegetables (cucumber, cauliflower, spinach…) or focus on one group of foods such as protein. Because the calorie intakes of such diets are drastically low – and to be honest, you will quickly get sick of this food and eat less – weight loss will follow, and quite fast. However, on the other side of the coin, after such restrictive diets, you will most likely take back all the weight you lost, or even more. Furthermore, no matter which group or specific food you will choose, you will be missing some nutrients brought by other groups. For instance, when eating only apples you will not get enough protein to support your muscle mass. And when eating only protein-rich food, you will not get enough fiber to support a good digestion. That’s the reason why a varied and balanced diet is the pillar of a healthy and sustainable weight loss journey.
Myth #2: I will lose weight if I stop eating carbs and fat since they are fattening.
Fact: Mistakenly, carbs and fat are often considered the enemies of a weight loss diet. The truth is that carbs nor fat – in the correct proportions – are responsible for weight gain (eating more calories than what you actually need is the one to blame). On the contrary, both nutrients are of great importance for health. Carbs (4 kcal per gram) are the body’s main source of energy, and when brought by whole-food sources (fruits vegetables, milk, grains…), they usually come with fibers, vitamins and minerals. Fat (9kcal per gram), when taken in the right proportions and from healthy sources (nuts, avocado, fish, seeds, plant-based oils…) support the body’s function (hormone synthesis for instance). Therefore, on the short term, low carbs/ fat diets, such as all other restrictive diets, will lead to weight loss - because of the low calorie intake. However, on the long term, deprivation periods lead to decreased metabolism and step by step to the yoyo-effect .
Myth #3: Skipping some meals is my best chance to lose weight
Fact: Skipping meals when you are hungry has a major downside: it increases the risk of overeating later in the day – which is totally counterproductive for your weight loss journey. Of course, eating when you don’t feel hungry is not the solution. However, making skipping meals an habit – having a very restrictive diet – can have adverse effects on health on the long term: fatigue, low energy levels, migraines, and ultimately slowed down metabolism. Your body, thinking it is in undernutrition period, will lower its basal calorie expenditure and will store all energy intake as fat.
Myth #4: Cardio workouts are the best to quickly lose weight. Strength trainings should be avoided since they tend to make you look bulky!
Fact: A regular physical activity is essential in a weight loss process. However, doing exclusively intense cardio trainings is not a solution. Such as in nutrition, it is essential to balance your workouts and have both cardio AND strength exercises. Strength/ weight trainings are ideal to maintain/ develop the muscle mass. The objective in a weight/ fat loss process should be to reduce fat while maintaining muscle mass. Why? 1) Having properly functioning muscles helps staying active. 2) Staying active helps burning calories and 3) The body requires more energy (calories) to maintain the muscles rather than the fat (increased basal metabolism). That’s one of reasons why a protein-rich diet that supports the muscle mass is of great interest during a weight loss process.
Myth #5: I don’t see any progress on the scale. My efforts don’t pay off…
Fact: First of all, no need to weigh yourself every day. Your weight can fluctuate over time. A lot of factors can potentially impact your weight when it’s time to get on the scale: when was your last meal/ workout, the fluctuations due to digestion/ menstrual cycles for ladies… However, if you have been consistent in your trainings and daily diet, no need to panic and consider that your efforts were useless. A good way to track your progress is to take your body measurements regularly: waist, hips, chest… Significant changes can be seen on this side, even when the numbers on the scale are not changing or not that much. Furthermore, progress can be tracked with non-quantitative facts: are you feeling more comfortable in your clothes? Are you able to run longer than before? Are you taking the stairs more often and are less out of breath? Those improvements could seem little, but they are actually even more significant than the numbers on the scale.
At the end of the day, the real key to a successful and sustainable weight loss is balance. Forget all restrictive and drastic ideas about weight loss since they only make your life more difficult and make you more prone to failure (and ultimately to health issues). Sustainable weight loss is achieved with a varied and balanced diet, source of protein, associated to regular physical activity – including cardio and weight trainings.