Nutrition is hard, most of us can agree on that. With all of the noise in the industry and promises of results from extreme dieting protocols, how can we navigate what “works best?” Heather Huntsman, Ph.D., CSCS provides an overview of common mistakes people make in nutrition and how to bounce back from misconceptions.
For many people, getting nutrition right can be the hardest part of a healthy lifestyle. Between busy schedules and the convenience of less healthy food options, to the overwhelming number of diets, strategies, and products that exist in the healthy eating space, not knowing where to start prevents many from even trying. Sometimes working out at the gym just seems like the better option. However, experts agree: you can’t out-train a bad diet. Honing in on a nutritional strategy that works for you (while also budgeting time to stay active) is the best way to reach your healthiest potential.
While we have posted several articles about evidence-based nutritional strategies that do work, you can often learn just as much from what not to do as you can from knowing what works. For that reason, I thought it would be important to discuss some of the most common nutrition misconceptions made make while trying to do the “right thing.”
Common Misconception #1: To lose weight you have to give up all of your favorite foods
This belief, in my opinion, has two misinformed parts to it. First, the term “diet” has many negative connotations. On the top of that list is the idea that diets have to be hyper-restrictive. It’s all or nothing, black and white, good foods and bad foods. Next is the idea that all healthy foods taste bad. So, in order for a diet to be successful, all of the tasty “bad” foods are on the “do not eat” list while the zero-flavor, healthy, “good” foods are the only option.
There are two major flaws in this way of thinking. While it is true that many delicious foods tend to have a lot of calories because of their high fat or sugar content, there are a lot of healthier options available that have less calories and a better macronutrient breakdown. Also, (and this may surprise you) as you start to eat healthier, your palette can actually change and what you once thought was delicious. What you thought was good turns out to be too heavy or too sweet. Secondly, and this speaks more to the behavior of healthy eating, if you find ways to incorporate small amounts of the higher calorie foods that you crave into your diet while not overeating in your total calories for the day or week, you are more likely to stick to a diet longterm.1-2
Common Misconception #2: Belief in “The Perfect Diet”
The elusive “perfect diet” theory. You may have read about people having success certain diets. Their results may seem so amazing and inspiring that they convince us hope that there is still something out there that will make dieting actually work. We want to believe it, and we want to think there is a silver-bullet answer. Unfortunately, that just isn’t true. What is true? There are several diets that work ⎼ more diets than I even have space to write about, in fact. It may be disheartening to hear this: there is one common thread running through every diet that “works.” No matter which diet we talk about, if it creates a caloric deficit, the end result will be weight loss. Period. And if you can adhere to that diet, you will successfully lose weight.3 So, the only perfect diet that exists is one that you will stick to because it fits your preferences and lifestyle.
Common Misconception #3: Overeating healthy foods
Finally, there is the misconception that if a food is healthy then you can eat as much of it as you want. Superfoods, vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins: I see people make mistakes with these foods all the time. Just because a food is classified as healthy doesn’t mean that the calories don’t count. Over-eating these foods will cause you to gain weight in the same way that a cheese burger, fries, and a chocolate shake will.4 You’d be surprised at how many calories are hidden in a salad with an olive oil based dressing, nuts, avocado, and goji berries. Our bodies are pretty straightforward when it comes to energy intake ⎼ if we don’t burn it we will store it, and unfortunately the most common and efficient storage method is excess body fat.
So, as you continue to hone your nutritional habits to lose weight or optimize health try, to keep these principles in mind. Finding a balanced plan that works for you, while being calorie-conscious, will hopefully keep your feet on the ground and headed toward a healthier you.
Want to learn more about nutrition planning that works for your goals? Our Nutrition Coaches are here to set you up for success.
- Weight Management. (2017, April) Some myths about nutrition & physical activity. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/myths-nutrition-physical-activity.
- Harvard Health Letter. (2018, January) 5 mistakes that will sabotage a healthy diet. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/5-mistakes-that-will-sabotage-a-healthy-diet.
- Gardner CD, et al. (2018) Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin Secretion: The DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of the American Medical Association. 20;319(7):667-679. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.0245.
- Loyola University Health System. (2012, July 24). Is there such a thing as eating too many fruits and vegetables?. ScienceDaily. sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120724144423.htm.