If there is one thing I have learned and see proof of on a daily basis, it's that many of the traditional rules for weight loss are based on all the wrong information. In fact, some are more than responsible for causing people to feel frustrated, helpless and unsuccessful in their efforts at doing the right thing.
Here are three of the worst offenders and rules to break immediately if you are struggling to lose weight.
1. Never, ever, skip breakfast.
The breakfast industry sure wants you to believe this. There's a lot of money to be made on the fear of sabotaging your metabolism by skipping breakfast.
But the painful reality here is that it's often these very foods that are most at fault for wrecking your metabolism in the first place. Breakfast foods are usually highly processed, full of sugar and refined ingredients and are a surefire way to inspire cravings, weight gain and high/low energy spikes all day long.
Now obviously there are plenty of people who SHOULD eat breakfast. Those who have diagnoses (especially metabolic disorders) and are required to eat breakfast, and children to name a few. And if you wake up hungry in the morning, by all means, eat breakfast.
But what if you aren't hungry?
Then simply wait to eat until you are. Maybe that's mid-morning. Or perhaps you will just eat a bigger lunch. Stretching that time between your last meal yesterday and your first meal today is not self-sabotage. In fact, it's the way your body has been optimized for millions of years. Multiple studies* have shown there is NO benefit to increasing the amount of meals you consume in a day. And to be honest, grazing all day makes me feel more out of control than consuming a few big meals.
The bottom line is your metabolism WILL NOT be offended if you don't eat first thing in the morning. Some days I want breakfast, some days I don't. The difference is that I don't feel guilty either way, knowing I am listening to my body.
There is no physiological need to eat breakfast. And if you want to argue this, I strongly suggest you reconsider your embrace of nutrition gospel from the last century. I think we all see where much of that advice has led us.
2. Add more cardio to promote weight loss.
I received this advice seven years ago when I approached a trainer at the gym and complained that I was stuck with the last five pounds of baby weight I was hoping to lose. I was already going to the gym five days a week. To hear that I needed to do more to break out of my weight loss slump was devastating. And, it turns out, completely wrong.
Chronic cardio and that harder, faster, stronger, longer mentality (example: when the elliptical or treadmill or pavement is your bff and you spend each day trying to beat your best minute mile) has been shown to cause muscle loss and inflammation, increase your risk of injury and force your body to retain fat to conserve energy. (cringe) None of these bode well for weight loss or healthy living in general.
The good news is as BodyRock fans, you know the proper equation for building muscle, boosting metabolism, and weight loss while being efficient with the time you have. I too made the most progress when I got smart about my efforts. I switched to resistance training and HIIT and built in rest days to let my body heal and repair itself the way it needed to. That, coupled with improvements to my diet, made weight loss effortless.
3. Eat whole grains at every meal.
Just like the advice to kickstart that metabolism by eating breakfast as soon as you get up, eating whole grains at every meal is equally biased and unfair to those who don't understand how these grains are converted to sugar in our body.
While technically whole grains (actually seeing the whole grains, not pulverizing the whole grains to a highly refined flour) are healthier to consume than refined grains, grains in and of themselves are not a nutrition requirement in our diet. When the US Government made the recommendation to eat 6-11 servings of grains with the launch of their Food Guide Pyramid (and thanks to certain players in the food industry) in the 90's, we happily obliged. Now our focus every day is on breads, muffins, pasta, buns and the like. And you can tell.
But beyond the fact that these processed foods inspire cravings, promote weight gain, bloating and inflammation, and are partially responsible for our obesity epidemic, there is no nutrient in grains that can't be found in higher amounts in healthier, whole food choices. Period.
Vegetables are an incredible source of vitamins, nutrients and fiber - something grains often lack. Proteins and fats are nutrient dense and slow to digest, promoting satiety and reduced appetites. These whole foods don't have to be "enriched" to the standards our bodies require, nature simply makes them that way.
Sure, grains are lower in calories than other foods, but at the expense of having to consume an incredible amount in order to achieve fullness the same way a plate of protein and vegetables provides.
Do you have to eliminate them forever? Not at all. But treat these foods as dessert because their effect on your body is exactly the same. Small portions with a bigger focus on vegetables, proteins and fats.
At the end of the day, we are all desperate for truths and answers. For understanding why our willpower isn't enough. For a way to satisfy our eternal and unending hunger.
And the best advice I have found is to personalize your journey and your efforts.
Be open to breaking the rules if the rules aren't working for you.
Get educated. Get results.
Eat with purpose.
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