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Busting common weight-loss myths

The New Year is here, which means so are the resolutions to improve ourselves and our well-being. I wanted to take a few moments to dispel some common weight-loss myths so that we can collapse time and be as efficient as possible on our quest to better our health and our bodies.

Most often when we want to drop weight, we watch portions, count calories and attempt to exercise more. We expect to see immediate, strong results. But, sometimes, it doesn’t happen that way. That’s because there are scientific explanations for why weight loss is incredibly difficult, and nearly impossible for some people without the right resources. You see, much of what we know about dieting and exercise does not address human variables, such as environmental, genetic and other factors that contribute to how we metabolize food. For example, if you’re a Type 2 diabetic, your metabolism is really different compared to someone who has 20 to 30 pounds to drop and has no underlying medical conditions.

Some people are naturally lean and their metabolism very tolerant, so they can eat and exercise and their bodies burn the calories easily. But that’s not usually the story. The secret to successful weight loss is understanding that it’s not just about science or what and when you eat; it’s also about how you’re thinking and feeling. Successful weight loss requires a holistic approach that tackles the mind and body in an unconventional way.

Let’s dive into three myths that we know don’t work for weight loss:

Myth No. 1: Exercise

Exercise is an awesome wellness tool that is important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but it’s not an effective weight loss tool for most people. When you try to drop weight through exercise alone, you may experience the opposite effect. You would need to cycle 1,000 miles or run 350 miles just to burn 10 pounds of fat. The key is to move because you love it. Once you improve your health and drop excess weight, your desire to move will naturally increase as you experience less pain and fatigue. My husband, an orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon, likes to tell me that for every pound of excess fat we carry on our frames, it equates to 8 extra pounds of force pushing through the ankle and 6 pounds through the knees. Every pound of excess fat you carry in your belly specifically, equates to 4 to 5 pounds of force pulling off your spine. If you’re carrying 50 pounds of excess fat weight, this equates to 400 pounds of force through your ankles with each step! He sees one patient after another lamenting about foot pain from trying to exercise the weight off. His advice for these patients time and time again is to drop the weight first: reduce the amount of force pushing through those fragile joints, then think about exercise.

As much as we would like to believe it, our bodies aren’t as simple as a mathematical equation. I’m not saying we defy Newton’s Laws of Thermodynamics, but many issues factor into why the scale tracks up or down.

Here are some key factors to consider:

  • What are you eating?
  • When are you eating?
  • What is your environment and emotional state?
Myth No. 2: Calorie restriction

Severe caloric restriction is not a sustainable weight-loss tool. When calories are too restricted, the metabolism slows and may not normalize over time. Research shows that calorie deprivation is also more likely to lead to anxiety and depression. This method might allow for a short-term weight decrease, but weight regain is very likely.

On another note against severe calorie restriction, four tightly controlled in-patient studies compared calories consumed to calories burned. If you did the math, you would estimate that every participant should drop 10 pounds when considering their “ins and outs.” Guess what? No one did! The average person shed 7 pounds, whereas many of the participants dropped only 2 to 3 pounds.

Myth No. 3: Eating in moderation and will power

Obesity or being overweight is not a personality flaw. It’s not because of lack of will power or discipline. Eating in moderation when many of us are addicted to food and carrying around active belly fat leads straight to repetitive weight-loss failure and frustration. Weight gain is not your fault, but it is a metabolic scenario that you can overcome.

Dropping and maintaining weight is a complicated process. It’s not as simple as counting calories, points, or anything else. It’s not about restricting a food group, exercising more, or eating between 12 to 8 p.m. It’s about figuring out what’s right for you metabolically, nutritionally and behaviorally. And then it’s all about having the faith, belief and confidence that you can make a long-term change for the rest of your life and simply because you want to.

Ashley Lucas has a doctorate in sports nutrition and chronic disease. She is also a registered dietitian nutritionist. She is the founder and owner of PHD Weight Loss and Nutrition, offering weight management and wellness services in the Four Corners. She can be reached at 764-4133.