After helping thousands of people shed extra weight, I’ve seen some pretty common myths that still prevail about calories. Today I will go over the nine most common misconceptions, and why what you think about calories may actually be very incorrect.
1. It’s All About “Calories In vs Calories Out”
This is probably the most prevalent myth that somehow still persists. The best way to quickly debunk this one is to offer up a simple example. If all that mattered was “calories in versus calories out,” couldn’t you lose weight on an all-McDonald’s diet? Would you believe that people have actually attempted such preposterous stunts, like the all-Twinkie diet? Sure, you can lose some weight this way, but the obvious problem here is that this myth completely ignores food quality. And by that, I mean that this myth ignores the importance of vegetables, healthy fats, protein, avoiding gluten, and more.
Sure, you could eat nothing but Burger King for the rest of your life — but you would likely live a very short life, and develop heart disease, high cholesterol, and a whole laundry list of health problems. If those problems aren’t enough, this idea also ignores the rest of human biology, biochemistry, endocrinology, and many other facets of science. In fact, some people have reported consuming a “perfect” amount of calories, and exercising a “perfect” amount — but they still didn’t lose weight. This is truly where the idea of “calories in versus calories out” becomes a myth.
2. A Calorie = A Calorie
This is similar to our first myth, but slightly different. Our body responds differently to sugary candy than it does to a grass-fed steak, for example. (1) This myth is also precisely how many overweight people got there. They may have been eating a fairly accurate amount of calories, but eating huge amounts of sugar as well. One common example here is soda. Since soda is just sugar water, pulling it out of your diet is one of the single best things you can do to actually lose weight. One scientific study even looked directly at this myth, and in the process, completely debunked it.
3. Calories Are Labeled Correctly
Sadly, I have seen this myth trick even the most knowledgeable of people. In reality, foods fluctuate wildly when it comes to caloric totals. At best, these calorie counts are a pretty good “guesstimate” of what is actually contained in food.
For example, did you know that the FDA has about a 15-20% caloric leeway when labeling foods as approved? (2) Restaurants are another huge guilty party here, as their calorie counts are notoriously inaccurate. (3) The best way to combat this? Cook for yourself at home. While this still won’t be perfectly accurate, you will have much better control over the food going into your mouth. It will also end up saving you a boatload of money in the long run. Win-win.
4. It Matters When You Eat Calories
This is one of the most popular calorie myths. While it certainly isn’t a good idea to load up on ice cream before bed, it has almost nothing to do with the hour, and everything to do with the ice cream. I am continually amazed at the popularity of insane diets in which you must only eat during a certain time window. And in that window, supposedly, you can eat whatever you want. These diets have been scientifically debunked, repeatedly. Steer clear.
5. Calorie Counters Are Accurate
Ah, the 1990s. A time of great technological advancement, as well as advancements in many other important areas of industry. However, the 90s were notoriously poor for nutrition advances. In fact, the 1990s created and popularized some of the worst (and sometimes downright dangerous)nutrition myths. Calorie counting is one of the “borderline eating disorder” behaviors I have seen in a huge number of clients. Food becomes their life, and they completely disappear down the rabbit hole of being neurotic.
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