…by Mary Pearsall

Many, many millions of Americans have spent many, many millions of dollars trying to lose weight. And let\’s face it – the natural human tendency is to want a quick fix. The weight loss industry is banking on that and taking full advantage of it by offering a myriad of pills, potions and gadgets promising to melt fat off in record time. It doesn\’t have to happen anymore. I am going to name the top ten weight management lies and give you the truth once and for all. You do not have to become prey any longer. The truth will set you free! And the sooner you un-learn these weight management myths that have been pounded into the heads of American consumers, the sooner you can start on the true road to health and fitness. We\’ll do this like the Letterman lists – starting with number 10 and counting down to the number one all-time winner (or loser).

MYTH 10 Fat makes you fat.

Fact: The only way a human being physiologically can gain 1 pound of fat (aside from a metabolic disorder) is by eating 3500 calories on top of the calories used for their basal metabolic rate (BMR) and daily activities. It is irrelevant whether the calories are from carbohydrates, protein or fat. It still adds up to the same thing – 3500 calories are 3500 calories, regardless of the source. Our bodies do need a certain amount of fat to function properly. What is important is that you get the right kinds of fat in your diet. The wrong kind of fats would be those pesky trans fats you have been hearing about, animal fats and any fat found in junk food and deep fried fast food (yuck!). Fats that are beneficial to your body are those found in nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, and other plant sources. Remember, fats are very dense – they have more than twice the calories of proteins and carbohydrates. So – you don\’t have to eat a lot in order to eat enough. The best choices are low-fat meats, dairy and plant sources.

MYTH 9: If you are not going to work out really hard and every day, you might as well forget it.

Fact: This kind of thinking keeps people overwhelmed and paralyzed. They don\’t even want to start because they are sure they will fail, or probably have failed in the past with this all or nothing attitude! Research is showing that any exercise is better than none! Just get moving – do anything that gets you up out of the chair and burning some calories. For example, regular walking for as little as an hour a week has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Starting out gradually, building up over time is much more likely to become a lifestyle change or a habit. The positive feelings and the improved energy you gain will move you forward. If you go all out when you haven\’t done anything at all for years, your risk of injury and just plain exhaustion will get you back on the couch in a big hurry and will do nothing to improve your health and well-being. You can burn anywhere from 50 -100 calories in 10 minutes. If you did that four days a week (do you realize 40 total minutes is only 0.4% of your week?), you could burn 200-400 calories. So, if you do just brief bouts of 10 minutes for three weeks, that means 600-1200 calories you otherwise would not have burned had you gone the route of “all or nothing.”

MYTH 8: Vitamin and mineral supplements are needed to lose weight and will give me more energy.

Fact: A supplement is just that – a substance that supplements, or adds to what you are taking in caloric consumption. If you are eating good whole foods and your diet is balanced, you should not need any supplementary nutrition. But let\’s get real – most people, even those who give it the old college try, do not get enough nutrients; so supplementation will give the added boost you need. However, the only component that can give a human being sustained energy is a calorie, and calories are only found in food and possibly a few herbs. Since vitamins and minerals do not contain calories, they cannot give you energy unless you are severely deficient. Most supplements are safe and effective if they are used correctly. What exactly does effective mean? I\’ll answer that in a minute, but first let me say that you definitely do not need supplements in order to lose weight and get fit. And taking supplements will not get you fit and healthy unless you have a fit and healthy lifestyle. That being said, a proper dietary supplemental strategy can be some help in losing weight, especially if your caloric intake is lower.

MYTH 7: If you eat after 6:00 or 7:00 PM, you will gain weight.

Fact: Once again, you can only gain 1 pound of fat by eating 3500 calories. If your total excess calories in a given period of time don\’t exceed 3500, how can food consumed in the evening be “chosen” to put fat on your body? Despite what you have heard for years, researchers have shown that night eating does not cause any more weight gain than eating most of your food during the day. Many people come home from work and snack before dinner, then eat dinner, and then snack in front of the television before going to bed. Avoiding mindless eating in the evening, by eating throughout the day when you are hungry, is the key to keeping weight off.

Myth 6: A regimen of aerobic exercise will burn the most fat.

Fact: I see women who spend 4 days a week, 60 minutes at a time, on the Stairmaster or treadmill or bicycle who don\’t lose weight! I know men who run 6 miles a day who have no muscle tone or rolls of fat around their waists. You\’ve been led to believe that if you want to lose fat, all you have to do is regular aerobic exercise. There\’s more to it than that. You must be able to monitor and control your cardiovascular intensity to maximize the number of calories you burn. And if aerobic exercise is not supplemented with resistance training (lifting weights) to at least maintain muscle mass, you cannot effectively accelerate the fat loss process. Each pound of lean muscle tissue burns 35-50 calories a day while your body is at rest. Whereas body fat is not metabolically active, so little to no calories are burned for each pound of body fat. Therefore, a combination of properly monitored aerobic exercise and resistance training enables you to rapidly burn the maximum amount of fat.

MYTH 5: Sugar or carbohydrates make you gain weight.

Fact: Again, only if your overall caloric intake exceeds your output. But sugar and carbohydrates do burn off very quickly, making you hungrier and potentially leading you to eat more food. If you eat sugar or carbs with a little protein or fat, these will buffer the carbohydrate from burning off so quickly and keep you satiated longer (3-4 hours). Our bodies actually require carbohydrates for energy especially during a workout. And our bodies are very smart. If it doesn\’t get enough carbs, the body will breakdown protein and convert it to chemically resemble carbs. What tissue in our bodies consists of protein? The muscles. Breaking down our muscle tissue is totally counterproductive to any kind of permanent healthy weight loss. Fat burning takes place in the cells of the muscle tissue; so if you are losing muscle, you are decreasing the body\’s rate at which it burns fat. In other words, you are lowering your metabolism causing your body to hang onto more fat. Not good for weight loss or health.

Myth 4: Resistance training (weight lifting) doesn\’t burn fat.

Fact: Nothing could be further from the truth. As mentioned above, muscle is metabolically active tissue. Fat is not. Fat is an energy source for the body, but most people have much more than they need. Fat does not use energy – it is used as energy. Muscle uses energy. Lots of it. The more lean muscle you have, the more fat you burn. And here\’s the biggest benefit and why everyone needs to incorporate resistance training in their exercise program: the more lean muscle you have, the more fat you burn – WHILE YOU ARE AT REST! You see, that\’s really the ultimate weight loss and fitness secret. Looking great is not just a function of how much fat you burn when you\’re working out, because you can only exercise so much in a given week. The real secret is how metabolically active your body is the other 95% of the time. People with more lean muscle burn fat at a much greater rate than those with less lean muscle. That doesn\’t mean you have to look like Arnold or Madonna to be an efficient fat-burning machine. But you do have to at least maintain – and preferable increase – your lean muscle mass. It\’s easy with the proper resistance-training program. Special note: women will NOT become “bulky” or “muscle-bound” by incorporating resistance training into their exercise routine. In fact, just the opposite is true. Lean muscle is more compact and firmer than fat. Resistance training will make women smaller, firmer and sexier. Women are not genetically predisposed to adding muscle mass. Men, on the other hand, will gain mass and see exciting muscle growth through the proper use

MYTH 3: If you eat breakfast, you\’ll be hungrier all day and not lose weight.

Fact: Your body is like a wood-burning stove. The fire is like your metabolic rate. When you get up in the morning, your metabolic rate is lower, but it is ready, red hot, to get started. When you think of food from now on, replace the word “calories” with “fuel.” Calories are fuel. Fueling the fire inside your body provides you with needed energy, strength, and potential for greater control. Just like the wood-burning stove, it is important for you to get your metabolic fire going in the morning while your coals are prime to start. Each bite of food that you eat is like placing some twigs on the coals to start your fire. You could eat small amounts of food throughout the morning, or fuel your stove by putting all the twigs in at one time in the morning. About two or three hours later you may need to place more fuel in your stove to keep the fire going. (You may feel a gurgling sensation in your stomach. That is your message that your fire is beginning to go down.) Add more fuel to the fire or the fire will die down. Once the fire get going, it burns best if you put something substantial in it for lunch. It doesn\’t have to be a huge amount – just a couple of small logs to keep your fire going into the afternoon.

MYTH 2: Vegetables are a “free food.” You can eat unlimited quantities and not gain weight.

Fact: This philosophy encourages many people to binge. While vegetables are low in calories and do not have fat, every food on earth has calories. Many vegetables have a low satiety level, which can lead to eating more quantity (calories) of other foods, and thus cause excess calorie consumption and weight gain. One of the most common binge foods that cause many people to gain excessive weight is baby carrots.

MYTH 1: The number one Myth . . . Restricting foods such as desserts or alcohol will help you lose weight.

Fact: This may be the number one reason people gain rather than lose weight. It\’s been called Diet Deprivation Backlash (from Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, St. Martin\’s Press 1995). This is what happens when we restrict certain foods; and then when we do have a cookie, we subconsciously think we\’re never going to have one again, so we eat the whole box, planning to “start our diet tomorrow.” We end up gaining weight from all the calories we consumed in our “backlash” thinking – not from eating that cookie! So, eat the things you enjoy, in moderation, and you will be less likely to binge.

So there you have it. Hopefully you have gained some good insights and corrected some faulty thinking. You are not to blame. There is so much misinformation and hype out there; it is very difficult to sift fact from fiction.