I’ve been hanging around diet boards of one sort or another for the past 20 years, off and on. They can be powerful motivators, and they can provide a lot of information. The problem is, some of it just is not true. And depending on the type of diet the board is geared toward, some of that information can be downright dangerous. I’m amazed at what people will believe, and then parrot, when it comes to weight loss. I’ve known for quite some time that there are people who either don’t or can’t employ critical thinking skills, and it becomes quite evident just how common that is when you read diet forums.
Muscle Weighs More Than Fat
I think the myth, if you will, that makes me most nuts is “muscle weighs more than fat.” No, actually, it doesn’t. Say it with me – Muscle. Does NOT. Weigh More. Than FAT.
What people actually mean is that muscle is more dense than fat, and when you’re trying to gain muscle, your body holds on to certain things to help in that process. Things like water, protein and – gasp! – carbs. But a pound of fat is the same weight as a pound of muscle. They both weigh a POUND. Muscle, though, is leaner and takes up less space. That’s why a 300 pound athlete looks lean and trim, despite his weight. And that’s why a 300 pound couch potato looks like he does – NOT lean and trim. He looks more … well, fluffy.
You Can Gain Muscle And Lose Weight
This one isn’t true, either. I mean, to a degree I guess it is, but you’re not building a lot of muscle if you’re in a calorie deficit. You have to eat more to gain the muscle. If you’re losing weight and finding muscle, it’s muscle you already had, but it either wasn’t noticeable under layers of fat, or it wasn’t defined enough for you to see it. Most RD’s I’ve spoken to agree that if you are 30 pounds or more overweight, you want to focus on weight loss while maintaining your current muscle mass. That’s why we see all the advice to work out while losing weight. And those workouts do help burn fat. But you’re not gaining muscle when you’re in a calorie deficit. You have to choose either to gain muscle or to lose weight, but you can’t do both at once because the process to do each are truly at odds with each other.
I’m Skinny Fat
Ugh! If ever I wanted to deliver a beatdown to anyone, it’s the ignorant person who came up with that ridiculous term. Skinny Fat. What the hell does that mean, anyway?? It means people are stupid, if you ask me. But I think what they actually mean is that they are thin, but not in shape. You can be thin and not be in shape. You can also be overweight (or even obese) and be in shape. Don’t believe me? Look at Shaq, or JJ Watt, and tell me those men aren’t in shape. They are in phenomenal shape, but according to every weight chart in the world, they are obese. Ha! As if.
If you’re thin and not in shape physically, then just say that you’re out of shape. Why do we need this stupid made up term – Skinny Fat. Insert mind numbing eye roll right here.
Fats are Bad For You
No. Fats are NOT bad for you. Granted, trans fats aren’t good for you. But there are other fats that ARE good for you – like those found in avocado, nuts and olive oil. Without healthy fats in your diet, you risk losing your hair, trouble with your nails, and believe it or not, cholesterol problems. I’m not a RD, but I do now that there is a certain amount of fat everyone needs in their diets – and most sources say that’s about 30% of your calorie intake. Remember, if you’re buying low fat everything, and seriously reducing the amount of fat in your diet, you’re probably falling victim to unintended consequences such as increased insulin levels. That’s because manufacturers remove the fat but replace it with high carb substitutes like sugar and other highly refined carbohydrates. Those things play havoc with blood sugar and can cause people to gain weight instead of lose it. Fats help increase your feeling of satiation and can help you avoid overeating, too.
To Lose Weight, You Need a Serious Calorie Reduction
I have seen people who weigh 250+ pounds suddenly try to go from the 2500-3000-ish calories they were probably eating each day to 1200. They last for about a week and then they wash out. They can’t understand why they’re always so hungry! But unless you only have a few pounds to lose, there’s no reason to drop your calorie count so much. Everyone needs to eat at least 1200 calories just to maintain bodily functions, but I regularly see people eating around 1000 calories a day to lose weight. In fact, dropping below 1200 for an extended period can put a person in to a yo-yo dieting situation. It’s unlikely that most people will be able to maintain such low calorie counts, and after a few days or a couple of weeks, many people go on a binge. All that does is completely derail the progress that’s already been made.
Instead of dropping to a very low calorie count, try logging your food for a week and see where you are without changing your eating plan. This is what I did before I started losing weight. I found that I was eating, on average, about 2200-2500 calories a day. And that was WAY too much, obviously, because I just kept gaining weight. I dropped back to eating around 1500 calories a day, and while I don’t see as big a loss each week as you’d think, I have been averaging about 1.5 pounds a week. That’s not to say I lose every week – there are weeks when I don’t lose anything. But then there are weeks where I’ll drop four pounds. The key to weight loss, I’m learning, is consistency. There are a lot of factors that affect day to day weight. Things like the foods you eat, sodium intake, medications, and exercise all play a part in what the scale says from one day to the next.
I have a bad habit of stepping on the scale daily, but I’m trying to break it. When I see a gain, I get discouraged, but it could just be because my popcorn was too salty the night before, or my body is holding on to water due to my last workout. One of the pieces of advice I’ve seen recently is to put away the scale and get on it no more than once a month. I think that’s great advice, but I’m not sure I can do it. I’m trying to just get down to once a week at this point. Still, I understand that a modest calorie reduction of about 500-800 calories a day for most people will cause them to lose weight. The basic idea is that if you cut your calorie intake and do a little exercise at least three to four times a week, you will be able to lose one to two pounds a week. And let me assure you – two pounds a week is often more difficult than you’d think.
The Latest Diet Has All the Answers
No. No no no no no no no. No.
I see people on WW who are looking to combine WW with Keto. Or intermittent fasting. Or maybe it’s some other fad diet they’ve recently read about. But the reality is, diets that restrict what or when you can eat are probably just setting you up for failure.
There are tons more of these myths flying around on dieting boards across the internet. I beg you to please do your research and make sure that what you’re reading is true. Don’t take someone else’s word for it; do your own homework and make sure you’re following the best path.
And if you’re losing weight, or trying to, rock on. Do what works for you, so long as it isn’t putting your health in danger. 🙂