Nutritional Myths and Where To Find Them
Okay. I’m going to try and not to get too triggered, I promise.
I’m not ‘triggered’ by those who believe these myths. How are you supposed to know?! And believe me, I’m not ashamed to say I’ve fallen victim to a good few of these in the past myself.
I am, however, triggered by the fact that this information is still spouted and perpetuated by those who should know better, despite the swathe of research that has continuously disproven, or failed to support, these ideas.
In the interest of keeping this to blog-post length rather than dissertation length, I’ve picked my top 5 most infuriating myths to debunk. Or we’ll be here all day.
So, let us begin…
- ‘Carbs make you fat’. As does eating fat or eating after 6pm, apparently.
Really? What we know is the law of thermodynamics. This gives us energy balance and says:
- If you are consuming more energy (eg. calories through food and drink) than you are expending, you will gain weight.
- Equally, if you are consuming less than you are expending, you will lose weight.
- And if you are consuming just as much as you are expending, you will maintain weight.
The only thing that will make you gain weight is consuming too many calories. I’m not talking about acute fluctuations in scale weight – there are a number of reasons for that. I’m talking about weight gain through increased energy storage in adipose (fat) tissue.
The ONLY reason for that is too many calories. It’s not because you’re eating carbs. Or fats. Or after 6pm. Or 3 large meals rather than 6 small meals.
If any of these factors lead to an increase in your caloric intake and put you into an energy surplus then sure, but you see my point.
2. ‘Being vegetarian/vegan is better for your health’
Well this is a weird one but essentially, no.
There is associational data that finds vegetarians to be ‘healthier’ but can we definitely say this is due to the fact that they are not eating meat? Correlation =/= causation people.
Vegetarians and vegans are often more health-seeking individuals who lead generally ‘healthier’ lives, something that is not often accounted for within the research on this topic.
We seem to have gone from a world where everyone was suggesting that you HAD to eat meat to be healthy (wrong), all the way to one in which a solely plant-based diet is now the only way to achieve physical health (also wrong).
The recent Netflix document, ‘The Gamechangers’, is a prime example of this but the fact of the matter is that yes, you can be healthy and perform well without eating meat, but the natural conclusion is not then that eating meat is unhealthy.
Can we get a bit of balance please people?
3. Celery juice and it’s magical healing properties
Okay please no.
Firstly, anything that claims to have magical healing properties is something to be approach with caution. If only it was that easy.
Most importantly, however, these magical claims are not evidence-based and are ultimately disempowering to people who are desperately looking for answers, particularly when managing chronic illnesses.
So just eat your veggies and save yourself the trauma of having to down a glass of celery juice every morning.
4. ‘Sugar is as addictive as cocaine’
Okay so, imagine this: You’re up in the club. You’re having a great time. Someone offers you a drink. NO BISH GIMME THAT SUGAR. Now you’re being dragged out of the club, with white powder all over you and gummy bears coming out of your ears, the shame sets in… but at least you got your fix, amirite?
But seriously though.
This idea originated in a study performed on rats. Putting aside the fact that you can’t draw direct conclusions for practical human application from animal studies, the ‘addictive’ nature of sugar has since been refuted.
“There is no support from the human literature for the hypothesis that sucrose may be physically addictive” – Benton (2010)
Added sugars can increase food palatability making these foods easier to over-consume and weight loss harder, but that is not the same thing.
5. ‘Yeah but, Starvation Mode’
Ooh this one will get ya. I must admit I got caught by this one.
The idea here is that, if you eat too little, your body will notice this and go into ‘starvation mode’, causing you to store everything you eat as fat.
The Minnesota semi-starvation study by Ancel Keys in 1945 showed us what really happens when the body is pushed into a state of starvation, and it wasn’t that. The law of thermodynamics will always apply and, if you are in a calorie deficit, you will lose weight.
What is often confused is a process called adaptive thermogenesis. This is a process that can occur after prolonged periods of dieting. Essentially your body starts to adapt to the lower energy intake and, alongside some hormonal changes that can increase hunger and decrease satiety levels, it starts to become more ‘efficient’. This is mostly seen through a reduction in NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis – your conscious and subconscious daily activity) and EEE (Exercise Energy Expenditure). You might start sitting instead of standing, fidgeting less, feeling too tired to go to the gym and even using less facial expressions. All of which is your body trying to conserve energy.
Adaptive thermogenesis can make prolonged dieting harder because it reduces your energy expenditure, but it does not negate the idea of calories in vs. calories out.
Now, I really could continue all day but I’ll save you the trouble of seeing me type myself into a full blown fury.
Again, my fury is at those who actively decide to ignore the research and disempower so many people with these claims. This sort of food fear plagued me for years and made my life so much harder than it needed to be but now, hopefully, that won’t happen to you.
So if any of you have fallen victim to any of these myths, do not worry yourself. I’ve been there. I get it. You’re most certainly not alone.
But now you know and you can go forth, ignore the bullsh*t and ENJOY your nutrition without any of these fears weighing you down.
Because you’re doing great.
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