Through my career in the military, I have come across a variety of tall tales about eating and exercise. The extent of misinformation is so great that you’d think we were dealing with Cold War propaganda. If a lie is told frequently enough, it is treated as the truth.
Seven Myths about Eating and Weight Loss
Eating Myth # 1: Eating fat is bad for you.
The Truth: Eat fat, Soldier! It’s good for you. Just do not eat too much, and stay away from bad fat. If you want to be healthy, you must have body fat, and you must eat fat. Do not eat too much, and make sure that the fat you eat is the good stuff. Eliminate the bad fats first. Trans fats and hydrogenated fats are bad news for the body. Stay away from them. Trans fats and hydrogenated fats are almost exclusively found in processed foods. Read the labels and you will quickly learn about the sources of these bad fats. Saturated fats can also be a source of artery-clogging and cholesterol-increasing fats. So where do you get those good fats? You get them from plant products (plant-based oils and nuts). Your best bet is to look for plant-based fats that contain predominately monounsaturated fats and a lesser amount of polyunsaturated fats. Olive oil fits this description. No more than 30% of your daily caloric intake should be made up of fat (example: one tablespoon of olive oil has 120 calories). Some athletes, like professional soccer players, actually consciously increase their fat intake to as high as 40% due to special athletic needs.
Let’s take a quick look at what fat is used for in the body: Stores energy. Gives shape to your body. Serves as a protective cushion to your skin. Insulates the body to reduce heat loss. Is a part of every cell membrane in the body. Is essential to brain and nerve cells function. Serves as a protective cushion around your internal organs. Is an integral part of many hormones and other biochemicals, such as Vitamin D.
Eating Myth # 2: The best way to lose weight is to cut back on the calories.
The Truth: Exercising and eating right are the best ways to lose excess weight. The best weight-loss is one where you watch the quantity and quality of food you eat and exercise regularly. If you just reduce calories, especially without exercising, your metabolism will slow down to compensate for the reduction, and your weight-loss strategy is out the window. (See the chapter on “Six Keys to Permanent Weight-loss”). Increased stress can even cause your body to store more fat. That’s right. Your body has a protective mechanism when it’s stressed by dieting. Merely cutting back on calories without eating healthy or exercising will cause you to lose good, lean, muscle mass. This means that your body has practiced cannibalism on itself and is “eating” your flesh. As you can see, you will actually create a whole array of health issues if you listen to the enemy on this one.
Eating Myth # 3: You can eat as much as you want if you are eating healthy foods.
The Truth: No! Even if you are healthy and exercise regularly, overeating healthy food choices lead to poor performance and reduced energy. After trampling through all the other landmines (= myths) above, this should be an easy one for you. This myth focuses on the quality of food while disregarding the quantity. Truly healthy eating focuses both on the quantity and quality of food.
Eating Myth # 4: You can eat whatever you want if you work out regularly.
The Truth: No! Unhealthy food choices reduce energy and physical and mental performance. “I’d go to put low-octane fuel in that gas tank. Performance and energy would suffer and races would be lost. It is no different with the human body. Put low-octane fuel (= unhealthy food choices) in your body, and your performance will suffer. You will have less energy and more health issues. Poor food choices will affect your mood, compromise your immune system, and get your hormones out of whack. Need I say more? The occasional indulgence in food and drink, even if it may be “low-octane fuel,” will probably not negatively affect your overall health. Occasional means no more than once a week.
Eating Myth # 5: Eating late at night will cause you to gain extra weight.
The Truth: Eating a regular meal after 8:00 PM does not cause weight gain. If you are hungry and are considering missing a meal because it’s late, by all means, eat something. Weight gain is caused by eating too much and/or not exercising regularly. We all do not have the same schedules, so we have to design our own eating plans. Eat at least three times a day with one or two (unprocessed) healthy snacks, if necessary. We generally want to avoid eating less than an hour before bed only to prevent digestive sleep interruptions, which may result in some very interesting dreams.
Eating Myth # 6: Skipping meals is a good strategy to cut back on calories and lose weight.
The Truth: Skipping meals is a one-way ticket to weight gain. Intentionally skipping meals is the fastest way to gain weight and possibly get sick. Your body is smarter than you are and will protest your skipping a meal by slowing that metabolism down so that you will not lose one single pound of fat.
Eating Myth # 7: Eating less than 1200 calories will speed up your weight-loss.
The Truth: Here we go again. This is a myth and will slow your metabolism making you more susceptible to weight gain. See our Intel on Eating Myth # 2.