Everyone and their mother thinks they could stand to lose a little weight. Whether that’s true or not can only be confirmed by a medical doctor or licensed nutritionist.
And while those are the only people legally certified to give weight loss advice, everyone and their mother also has their own weight loss tips.
The problem is, some of those tips are actually weight loss myths. We’re here to set the record straight on three often-touted falsehoods below.
1. Switching to Diet Soda Will Help You Lose Weight
If you’re a soda drinker, you probably think switching to diet or “zero” sodas will save you some pounds. And while it will save you some calories upfront, many studies have shown diet sodas backfire later that day.
How? Well, your brain never got the memo that artificial sweeteners exist. When your taste buds taste something sweet, they tell your mind and your stomach to expect a certain amount of calories.
When your body doesn’t report back with those calories to burn, your brain gets confused. It thinks something is wrong and will actually trick you into replacing that fake sugar with real sugar later in the day.
Basically, it’s your brain saying, you can’t trick me. Now that you have a general idea, here are the stats.
Studies Looking at Diet Soda Consumption
People who drink large amounts of diet soda have a higher associated risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome, which is a precursor of diabetes.
Artificial sweeteners in diet soda are thought to increase your appetite instead of decrease it by activating dopamine receptors in your brain.
While there are multiple studies that show the correlations above – the idea that they activate your hunger response or cause you to seek more dopamine (through sugar) is disputed. It’s worth mentioning that the artificial sugar industry has run studies itself, and their more-favorable results are throwing off the true data.
Replacing Diet Soda
So what should you drink instead? Sorry to be the wet blanket, but if you really want to help your weight loss along, drink water.
If it’s the carbonation you miss, La Croix and other bubbly waters don’t have the artificial sweeteners that diet sodas do.
Try green tea. You can drink it iced or hot, and it has a range of health benefits of its own. If you buy green tea pre-bottled, look out for those sneaky artificial sugars.
One teaspoon of sugar is 16 calories, and it’s worth it, according to the data above.
And if you’re really dying for a soda – the data would support you having a full-calorie one. Try to only get a mini-size (one serving is 8 ounces) and only drink it occasionally.
The 150 calories or so you get from the full-sugar soda will probably be less than the amount of food your brain will trick you into eating later in the day.
Not Eating Enough Calories
Most people understand weight loss as calories in vs. calories out. And on a very basic level, that’s true.
But what that theory fails to mention is how hard it is to judge average calorie burn through things like online calculators. Those almost always under-estimate the number of calories people are burning in a day because they’re often selling products – and want you to see fast (but not sustainable) results.
The number one way to calculate the number of calories you burn in a day is to see a nutritionist who can use clinical tools and expertise to calculate your average calorie burn.
A second, less expensive method involves fitness watches. While we know they’re not the most accurate things in the world, they’re likely more accurate than a random calorie calculator you found online.
To get a good estimate from your watch, make sure you are (1) wearing at all times for at least a week and (2) that your stats on the watch are updated.
While it can suck to admit to yourself (and your watch software) that you’ve gained weight, someone who weighs 20 pounds more than another person will burn more calories during the same activity than the smaller person.
A Note on 1200 Calorie Limits
A lot of calorie trackers will set your daily calories to 1200. Unless you are under five years old, that’s too few calories. 1200 calories is the average recommended intake for a two-year-old – not for a grown adult.
While we can’t give official nutrition advice, experts at the National Federation of Personal Trainers recommend not eating less than your daily BMR, or basal metabolic rate – even though logging lower numbers can be tempting.
You’re Not Resting
Not only is overexercising taxing on your body and a symptom of eating disorder-like behavior, but it can also stop you from losing weight.
How? Well, when you workout, you activate hormones released by your adrenal gland. The most significant of which is cortisol – the stress hormone.
A balanced workout routine will release excess cortisol from your system, while overexercising will create more.
It’s complex, but here’s how it works in simple terms. If you work out too much, your body doesn’t get enough time to rest, and it goes into a high-stress mode.
It doesn’t understand that you’re running every day for fun, not because you’re not constantly being chased by bears. Seriously – our brains have not evolved much since tribal times.
Talk to your doctor to find out their recommendation for your activity level, but at the very least, you need to work one rest day into your week.
Weight Loss Myths You Need to Lose to Lose Weight
Whether it’s dropping diet soda, actually adding more calories to your diet, or giving yourself a rest day, we hope you integrate one of the strategies from this article into your daily life.
Remember to always talk to your doctor before starting a new diet or fitness program, as your medications could put you at risk or give you unique considerations.
What weight loss myths should we bust next? Let us know!