MYTH #1: Healthier foods are more expensive
It may seem like healthier foods are more expensive (especially when buying convenience items, like frozen meals or cereal), but many healthy foods will cost you less. Replacing meat with garbanzo beans or lentils is one example (dried is even less expensive than canned), and purchasing frozen produce when fresh produce is out of season (hence, more expensive) is another example. We sometimes prefer convenience over price. While consuming nutritious meals can take a little more time, it doesn’t have to add hours in the kitchen. Oven-roasted vegetables are an easy way to prepare a healthy side, and you can move on to other things during the cooking process. A piece of fresh produce (a peach or bell pepper, for example) is a great way to boost a meal’s fiber and nutrient content, and it requires no extra prep time! There is much controversy around purchasing organic produce versus non-organic. Including fruits and vegetables as part of your daily food intake is better than not including them at all! These foods are full of nutrients and antioxidants that provide wonderful health benefits. A farmer’s market near you likely offers in-season produce that is more affordable than what you’ll find at the grocery store.
MYTH #2: Starving yourself is the best way to lose weight
This could not be farther from the truth. Inadequate consumption of calories will only backfire in the long run. Studies show that dieting is a predictor of weight gain. In most cases, people who restrict calories will gain back more weight than the amount they initially lost. There are biological and psychological responses to dieting. When we restrict calories, our body adapts, and it learns to do more with less. At the same time, our metabolism is slowing down, and we become more focused on food. The reason? Our levels of leptin (fullness hormone) decrease, and our levels of ghrelin (hunger hormone) increase. This is a normal physiological response by our body in an attempt to maintain homeostasis. It is a survival mechanism! It is our body’s way of conserving energy to protect us from periods of starvation.
MYTH #3: All calories are equal
If this were true, a sugary beverage would be better for us than a handful of nuts because fat contains more calories than carbohydrates. While all calories have the same amount of energy (4184 Joules of energy, to be exact), not all calories have the same effect on our weight. Different foods are metabolized differently by the body. Some require more work to digest. The impact foods have on our hormones and satiety varies widely as well. Each specific food contains a unique macronutrient and micronutrient profile. We must look past calories alone and consider the entire package: the vitamins, minerals, protein, etc., the food provides. If we need a boost of vitamin C for our immune system, we may reach for broccoli, strawberries, bell peppers, or oranges. If we want to consume foods that help to fight inflammation, we may consider adding walnuts, chia seeds, or ground flax seeds to a salad or smoothie. We can benefit from all types of foods. It is also important to remember that we eat for nourishment and enjoyment. Let’s say you have family that lives out of state, and each year they have everyone come together for a weekend filled with fun activities and a variety of food. Maybe it is a tradition that your aunt makes root beer floats or saltine cracker toffee. I doubt anyone enjoys the tradition while thinking, “this is so nutritious!” No, they enjoy it and the company! Emotional health and human connection are just as important for our overall health as consuming nutrient-dense foods. When we are connected to our body, and what it needs, it is easier to eat intuitively. Consider taking a pause, checking in, and asking yourself, “what is it that I really need right now?” It may sound simple, but how often do we do this?
MYTH #4: If you’re skinny, that means you’re healthy
While it may be true that there is a correlation between obesity and an increased risk of certain chronic illnesses (like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers), plenty of obese people are metabolically healthy. There are also plenty of skinny people with the chronic illnesses mentioned above. Health encompasses far more than an individual’s weight. Eating nutritious foods, moving our bodies, managing stress, building healthy relationships, getting enough sleep, and staying hydrated can improve our overall health. Weight is not a behavior. Instead of focusing on the number on the scale, focus more on your behaviors. What is going to help you with getting to bed on time? What types of movement do you enjoy? How can you make that turkey and cheese sandwich more nutrient-dense? When is the last time you allowed yourself time and space to engage in an activity that would rejuvenate you? Are you aware of your energy-boosters and energy-zappers?
There is so much misinformation online and in the media about food, weight, diets, nutrition, and health. Speaking with a registered dietitian when you have questions on these topics is important. Registered dietitians have years of nutrition and health education under their belt, and they are required to continue diving into the most recent research in the form of CEUs each year. They also look at the whole picture rather than at food alone. They dive deep into the root causes of differences in health outcomes and provide individualized and evidence-based recommendations rather than sticking to a one-size-fits-all standard.
Kristi Edwards, co-founder and owner of 901 Nutrition LLC, is a licensed and registered dietitian in Memphis. She has several years of experience in both acute care and outpatient settings, and she is passionate about helping clients ditch dieting for good, through intuitive eating and the enjoyment of food. You can reach Kristi at 901.800.9526 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about 901 Nutrition or to subscribe to their free newsletter for monthly recipe books, visit 901nutrition.com. You can also follow 901 Nutrition on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.