4 Big Fat Food Lies: Why You Shouldn’t Believe Them

If you want to lose weight, don't listen to this outdated advice

4 Big Fat Food Lies and Why You Shouldn't Believe Them

Most of the health and weight loss advice out there is misguided, outdated and scientifically inaccurate. Don’t let these myths, debated endlessly in the media, create road blocks for your weight loss and overall health.

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Myth 1: All calories are created equal

A calorie is a calorie is a calorie, right? Wrong. This myth just refuses to die.

The current thinking is that you’ll lose weight by burning more calories than you consume. This calories in-calories out theory vastly oversimplifies the truth. Your body is much more complex than a simple math problem.

When you eat, your food interacts with your biology, a complex system that transforms each bite and tells your cells what to do. This affects your hormones, brain chemistry and metabolism.

Sugar calories cause fat storage and spike hunger. Calories from fat and protein promote fat burning.

You’ll find the highest-quality calories in whole foods, which are lower in calories than processed foods:

  • Quality proteins: Grass-fed animal products, organic eggs, chicken, small wild fish, nuts and seeds.
  • Good fats: Avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, coconut butter and omega-3 fats from fish.
  • Good carbs: Brightly colored vegetables, fruit like wild berries, apples, kiwis
  • Super foods: Chia, hemp seeds and more

Myth 2: Your genetics define you

Conventional wisdom says you’re predisposed to weight gain because of your family history. In other words, you’re heavy because your mom and grandma are heavy. That was the card you drew in the genetic lottery.

But in functional medicine, we do not believe your genetics dictate your future health. We believe food is medicine and information for your cells.

Consider this: Today, about 35 percent of Americans are obese. Yet by 2050, that number will exceed 50 percent.

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What accounts for this drastic change? It’s not our genes, which evolve at a snail’s over very long periods of time. It’s that we went from eating about 10 pounds of sugar, per person, per year in 1800 to eating 152 pounds of sugar (plus 146 pounds of flour) per person, per year today.

That amount of sugar and flour will hijack your metabolism, make your weight skyrocket and invite chronic disease.

A number of factors contribute to obesity, but genetics is the least of them. You’ve got more power than you think.

Myth 3: You can out-exercise a bad diet

The belief that you can eat whatever you want and burn calories off with exercise is completely false. When you treat yourself to a sugar-laden smoothie or a “healthy” muffin, or suck back Gatorade® after 30 minutes on the treadmill, you’ve set yourself up for failure.

That’s not how the human body works. If you change your diet, you can lose weight. If you exercise and keep your diet the same, you may gain in muscle, endurance and overall health. But you won’t lose many pounds.

Put it into perspective: To burn off one 20-ounce soda, you’d have to walk four and a half miles. To burn off one super-sized fast food meal, you’d have to run four miles a day for a whole week. If you at one every day, you’d have to run a marathon every day to burn it off.

Yes, exercise is extremely important. But to lose weight and keep it off, you need to couple exercise with a healthy diet, filled with plenty of plant foods, good fats and protein.

Myth 4: Fat makes you fat

This is a major pet peeve: Fat is not a four-letter word. Eating fat not only doesn’t make you fat, it is critical for health and weight loss.

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Dietary fat actually speeds up your metabolism, while sugar slows it down. The right kinds of fat cool down inflammation, while sugar fuels it.

Studies comparing high-fat to high-sugar diets — with the same number of calories — had totally different effects on metabolism. The higher fat diet caused people to burn an extra 300 calories a day. That’s the equivalent of running for an hour (without doing any exercise)!

In studies of animals fed diets with the exact same number of calories, the diets higher in fat and protein led to fat loss and more muscle mass. But the diets low in fat and high in sugar led to more fat deposition and muscle loss.

Yes, stay away from trans fats. But the right fats are the preferred fuel for your cells: extra-virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, nut butters, and coconut oil and butter (both of which contain nutritious medium-chain triglycerides).

These fats will keep you full and lubricate the wheels of your metabolism.

Don’t let the poor advice found in these myths keep you from successful weight loss and vibrant health.

Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD, is Director for the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, Chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine and founder of The UltraWellness Center.
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