January, often, is a time of strict diets, juice cleanses, and trips to the gym. We all feel those few extra pounds from the holiday season (I know I had my fair share of cookies) and we just can’t wait for the fresh start that comes along with the first month of the year. So much so, that we almost expect our entire lives and all of our habits to change in the span of a few days.
But whelp, that’s not happening.
Of course, I am a firm believer in resolutions and goals. And I FEEL that breath of fresh air that comes in January, that promise of a healthier lifestyle. But one thing I beg that we leave in 2018? Diet culture myths. Unrealistic goals and standards. Becoming unhealthy in the name of health.
Alright thats three, but they fall under the same umbrella.
Allow me to debunk some myths and falsities before you drown in them this resolution season.
*I’m not a doctor, this is just my educated understanding. Always consult a physician or expert when beginning a new health journey*
Diet Culture Myths to Leave in 2018:
1. Counting Calories is your Best Bet for Losing Weight
Enough with the 1000 calorie a day, 900 calorie a day, 500 calorie a day diets.
Your body NEEDS food, friend! The food you choose to consume is fuel for your body. Those nutrients are essential to every-day bodily functions that keep you alive and well, and you need a certain amount of them.
I’m guilty of this, I get it. There were weeks at a time in high school when I’d just eat one rice cake a day and do 2 hours of cardio. I know it seems like a good idea, I know the weight flies off (until it doesn’t anymore). But PLEASE lets have a mindset shift here. Your body is this amazing, mind blowing, powerful being. It deserves respect, love, and care.
These diets we see all over Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest are often super restrictive, only allowing you a few different foods in very small quantities. But listen, (insert basic analogy here) when you run your car on E for too long, it quits on you. Your body will too.
These crazy-restrictive diets don’t do you any good, except for the few pounds in water weight you’ll lose at first. It’ll look nice on the scale, but a few days later when you binge out of starvation, you’ll be right back where you started.
Related post: Starvation Mode: What It Is and How to Avoid It
That being said,
counting (or being mindful of) calories can be incredibly helpful in your weight loss journey. We all need a certain number of calories each day to “maintain”, or stay at our current weight while also supplying our body what it needs. We gain weight when we eat in a caloric surplus, or more than our maintenance caloric allowance, and we lose weight when we eat in a caloric deficit, or less than our maintenance calories.
For those who are well into their fitness and weightloss journeys, watching your caloric intake more closely can be very beneficial to losing those last few pounds, or reaching a certain goal in a healthy manner.
Find out your maintenance calories here: Calorie Calculator
IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t get bugged out by numbers like “healthy weight range” or “ideal BMI”. Your BMI and ideal weight do NOT take into account your body composition, only your sex and your height. You could be 5’4, 150 pounds of pure muscle, and it’ll say you’re obese. We’re just using this tool to see maintenance calories. Breathe.
Instead of counting calories,
its recommended that beginners simply educate themselves on the caloric densities of their food choices. For example, 1 cup of lettuce is 5 calories, while 1 cup of rice is 206 calories. Knowing which foods contain more calories can help you determine appropriate portion sizes, which is hugely important when it comes to weight-loss eating habits.
2. The best diet is Paleo, Keto, Vegan, etc…
There is no best diet. There’s no one-size-fits-all meal plan.
Despite what you may see, read, and hear, none of these diets are perfect for everyone. All of our bodies are unique. We all metabolize foods in different ways, have different allergies, deficiencies, and sensitivities. No one diet is perfect for everyone.
start slow. Focus first on cutting out the foods that you know are bad for you: fast food, sweets, soda, sugary snacks, processed foods.
Your primary focus when starting to eat healthier should be on eating whole foods (basically anything that comes in a box = no go).
Think about your local grocery store. Around the perimeter of the store, you have your basic food items: Fruit & Veg, Meats, Dairy, Breads & Grains.
Along those inner aisles, you have snack foods, pasta, high-calorie cereals, sauces, etc. These are the foods you don’t necessarily need.
Try filling your fridge only with items from the perimeter of the store on your next grocery trip. Stuff your cart with lots of vegetables, leafy greens, fresh fruits. Stock up on your protein sources (whatever they may be: meat, poultry, nuts, beans, tofu, etc.) Choose healthy alternatives for your usual snack foods.
However, if you’re already eating whole nutritious foods and want to break through a plateau, it’s a great idea to try a diet like Paleo, Keto, or something similar. Changing your style of eating, not just your calories, can help you eliminate bloat, and potentially help you lose weight. It’s all dependent on your own body. You’ll see after a few weeks if you’re losing any weight and feeling better/more energetic. If not, feel free to keep switching it up!
3. Carbohydrates are Your Enemy
Noooooooo no no no.
An EXCESS of carbohydrates, yes.
But carbohydrates in general? No ma’am.
Your body needs them. Carbs are your body’s energy source. Remember in Biology when we learned all about energy synthesis and cellular functions and such? Yea, carbohydrates do all that.
Carbs have a bad rep, but really, it’s the type of carb you’re consuming that matters.
There are 2 types of carbohydrates: Simple, and Complex. Simple carbs are your enemy, not complex. Simple carbs are all of those sugary, fatty, deep fried foods that call to us after a night of drinking or after a rough day. Complex carbs are those delicious whole grain (not just whole wheat!) breads, leafy green veggies, and fruits.
If you keep the simple carbs to an absolute minimum (hey, cheat day!) your complex carbs should make up between 45 to 65% of your daily calorie intake, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Remember, complex carbs are VERY calorically dense, so pay attention to portion sizes!
Just because they should make up 45%-65% of your daily calories, doesn’t mean you should overload on them. Most often, the serving size for rice or bread is 1 cup or 1 slice. Even little amounts of these foods add up to lots of calories, so be mindful of what you put on your plate.
When an excess of carbohydrates are eaten, the leftovers that aren’t used for energy or functions are stored in your body as fat (hence why they have a bad reputation) – which is what we’re trying to avoid. So always be aware of your portion sizes.
4. “Lose 20 pounds in 2 days – safely!”
No joke, that was the title of an image I found on pinterest after searching “weightloss”. 20 pounds in TWO DAYS.
Images, posts, advertisements like this are SUCH a problem. Because truthfully, nobody can lose 20 pounds in two days. It’s simply not possible.
But people will believe it. People will believe that they can drop 10 pounds in a week.
Realistically, safe weight loss is 1-2 pounds a week.
And losing 2 pounds a week is considered intense.
Weight loss is a slow process. In order for your habits to stick, you need to allow yourself time to commit to them, to make them routine. Any product, regimen, or diet that claims extreme weight or fat loss like this is simply unhealthy, and will not provide you lasting results.
Remind yourself that although this process is slow, and results can fluctuate, you are doing this for you. You are on this journey to health in order to treat your body and your life with respect. You and your body deserve love, health, and happiness.
The more you tell yourself that every workout, every meal is for your benefit, the easier it will become. Trust me, I know how good ice cream is. I know how easy it is to take a row of Oreos to the face. But I mean it, you feel better when you do better. Eating well and getting your body moving are habits that are difficult at first, but soon become a craving, a part of your lifestyle.
Allow yourself some grace as you start this journey, or continue on your path. Nobody functions at 100% every single day. But any healthy lifestyle change you make will be worth it.