Food shouldn’t be complicated. We eat to live, fuel our performance, enhance our health and enjoy bountiful flavors. Food is a gift meant to be enjoyed–not something with which we go to war, but rather something that sustains our well-being.
While eating disorders are statistically prevalent among women and men in our modern society, “disordered eating” is a little more gray. There are no hard facts or stats regarding how many in our culture struggle with the diet mentality, binge eating, overeating, undereating, poor nutritional intake, food fears, the inner drill sergeant, and otherwise, a flat out unhealthy relationship with food. But the implication?…A lot.
In this blog post (part 1), I highlight a handful of 20 of the dumbest food myths I’ve heard (and believed) over the years.
- To lose weight, you need to eat 1200 calories or less per day. Hello increased cortisol, holding on to stubborn body fat and the continual vision of sugarplums dancing in your head. In other words: physical stress, weight retention, and food obsession (as you count out each almond, one by one).
- Avoid sugar at all costs (but satisfy your sweet tooth with artificial sweeteners). Bahh! Artificial sugar is just as bad for you, if not worse, than regular sugar. Read: headaches, nausea, constipation, blurred vision, clouded thinking, impaired memory, bloating, cancer (yes, I know everything nowadays seems to cause cancer). In clinical studies, artificial sugar consumption has also been linked to the same insulin response you get from sugar and glucose itself, impacting your metabolism. An exception? The herb stevia may be a lesser evil, however, the best way to enjoy a little hint of sweetness is through some natural enhancement (a la a touch of raw honey, raw maple syrup or fresh fruit).
- Only eat when you are hungry. Ok, while this is true to a great degree within an intuitive eating model…meal skippers are more prone to an impaired metabolism, thus enhancing stress levels in the body…and impacting their hunger-fullness signals. For many meal skippers (i.e. the daily breakfast skippers or the ‘I only eat two times per day, but why can’t I lose weight’ preachers), weight retention or weight gain is a byproduct of not fueling your body with enough energy. And on the other end of the spectrum, for those who are chronic dieters or walking the line of disordered eating habits…they have often lost touch with their body’s own signals in the first place. What actually may ‘feel’ like hunger may not be the growling sensation you get in your stomach, but instead…low energy, a headache, foggy thinking, difficulty concentrating, obsessive thoughts about food, etc. Skipping meals on the regular is a surefire way to throw your body out of sorts. The bottom line? Your body is like a car—it needs gasoline (fuel) to keep going. Don’t wrestle too long with this fact…mindfully fuel your bod throughout the day.
- Everything in moderation. One person’s moderation may look completely different from the next person. A cookie every day with lunch? Apples every day at breakfast, lunch and dinner? Wine and cheesecake multiple nights per week? What does 80/20? Or 70/30 really even mean? Moderation is a loose term really with no clear definition, as it may vary meal to meal, day to day, and therefore, this ‘diet myth’ really just leaves people more confused and fending for themselves to define that meaning. Aim for the majority of your nutrition to come from real, whole foods sources you know your body is innately wired to thrive upon…and when the dinner parties, birthday parties, weddings, vacations happen…let that be your moderation.
- There are no good or bad foods. This philosophy goes hand in hand with the above listed. Technically, within the realm of a healthy relationship with food, no food should be feared or off limits, and to an extent, yes, this is true…you can eat anything, taste anything, and chances are survive it. But, on the regular, nutritionally speaking, some foods just don’t measure up in nutrient density or quality you get from them. A French fry and baked potato provide a completely different gamut of energy and nutrition. A piece of pizza from Papa John’s or some spaghetti squash with pizza sauce, ground sausage and veggies tossed in there (like this awesome recipe) boast a completely different set of nutrients, vitamins and mineral (or lack thereof). There is simply no getting around it: Your human body was designed and wired to need and thrive off of particular nutrients and foods; Like a plant needs water—you, like a plant, too, have requirements (you need proteins, fats, fruits, veggies and lots of water—all with optimal nutrition). Twinkies versus apple and nutbutter? Ramen noodles versus zucchini noodles? Frozen waffles or bagel and light cream cheese versus homemade almond-flour-based waffles or coconut-flour based muffins? Aiming for more nutrient-dense foods, and keeping the occasional nutrition-less foods to an occasional minimum will serve your bod’s basic needs well.
- Opt for the low-calorie, low-fat or fat-free option. It’s healthier. Low cal, low-fat, no-fat diets have been all the rage now for the past 20+ years. However, when we neglect calories, particularly healthy fats, we neglect…clear brain function and power, good digestion, a revving metabolism, hunger-fullness cues, hormone regulation, sugar-handling capabilities, power, energy, decreased stress levels, and on and on. And, if anything, removing healthy fats from our plates makes our food less satiating/sustaining, so you ultimately may end up eating more. Stick with the original versions, and watch your portions or better yet, eat more unprocessed foods. Bring on the grass-fed butter, ghee, coconut oil, lard, tallow, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut butter, hempseed oil, pumpkin seed oil, avocado oil and on and on. Fats don’t equal fat…excess sugar, low-fat grains and elevated glucose does.
- Paleo and “eating real food” are really low-carb restrictive diets. Contrary to popular belief, Paleolithic or real-food diets are by no means carb-elimination, low carb or weight loss diets. In fact, it is often advised that adherents consume at least 40% (the majority of nutrients) from carbs—particularly fruits and veggies, and incorporate a wide variety of nutrient dense foods in the day to day. Other carb sources include starchy foods such as sweet potatoes, squashes, potatoes, and for some, even properly prepared rice and beans (pre-soaked) can all find a place in a person’s intake, as well as a host of flavors! Citrus glazed salmon with broccoli, banana pancakes, shrimp curry, turkey meatballs over spaghetti squash, homemade coconut-crusted cod, grass-fed beef chili, pulled pork and coleslaw, sweet potato hash, taco wraps, chicken BLT salad, stir fry, flank steak with roasted asparagus, and more—just to name a few. You are not limited.
- Ok , well (even if you don’t ‘do Paleo’) going low-carb help you lose weight faster. Many people believe that by simply cutting the carbs (a la Atkins), they will begin to extinguish pounds left and right. However, despite all the hype around ketogenic and no-carb/low-carb diets, your body still does need some carbs to function: especially fruits and veggies. Not to mention the fact that often times, when a single food group is eliminated, people feel they have a free for all within the other food groups. Bring on the jars of nutbutter, the packs of bacon, the butter coffee, butter spread, butter by the stick…In other words, in order to satisfy unmet needs, the overconsumption of other foods may occur. In addition, cutting out the carbs altogether, for some, can lead to adrenal burnout, hormone imbalance and clouded thinking. I particularly see this often in women who fight to maintain a low carb diet because ‘it’s the thing to do’, at the detriment of their own vitality.
- Gluten-free is the way to go. Piggybacking off the low-carb, no-carb mentality, ‘gluten free’ is another buzzword nowadays. Gluten free crackers, gluten free cookies, gluten free pizza, gluten free sandwiches, gluten free pasta, gluten free cereal, gluten free wraps, even “gluten free yogurt” (yes, even foods that have always been gluten free are being advertised as so in the market place). Gluten free products and menu items are everywhere. The problem? Many of these are still processed and fake versions of food, just like the crackers, cookies and bread you replaced them with.
- Eat dairy for calcium. The dairy industry has you wrapped around their finger to sell you more cheese…milk…yogurt…ice cream—all good for building strong bones? Not quite. In actuality, you more than likely have enough calcium circulating in your body…and are missing out on other co-factors to help assimilate and absorb that calcium…Like Vitamin D (sunshine!), Vitamin A (egg yolks, cod liver oil) and Vitamin K2 (fermented veggies-aka probiotics too!, and grass-fed ghee and butter), Magnesium and zinc (more typical deficiencies). On the calcium front as well, you actually get quite a bit of calcium from Popeye’s food of choice: Greens! Spinach, collards, mustard greens, chard, Bok choy, Brussels sprouts…as well as salmon, almonds, even oranges and cinnamon. Many of the highest calcium sources in our diet do not come from dairy at all.
The rest of the ‘top 20’ to be continued…