4 Things I Would NEVER Do As a Nutritionist (Again)...
We've all heard the count your calories, calculate your macronutrients, detox plans, or the new big, evil carbs that need to be restricted. Well, some of these have been around for decades, but the weight gain and those being diagnosed as overweight or obese is increasing along with medications and surgery pushes.
For example, in the 80s, it was fats labeled as being evil. So, everywhere you looked, it was low or no fat, but the taste was like cardboard then sugar was added to help with the taste. However, the outcome wasn't weight loss but weight gain; health conditions, including mental health diagnoses, increased, and other ailments increased. These may seem like expert-approved strategies for losing weight, but most nutritionists and some dietitians don't agree.
Before becoming a clinical nutritionist and coach, I have been through all of these and more which was never for the right reason, which has left my body in a backlash of ailments and deficiencies. It has taken me years to be okay with my body and honor it again through the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating.
YES, I fell for the fad diets and lies, just like you, before I understood the science behind nutrition. Remember, diet culture is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry that benefits from you believing in the lies and playing off your insecurities. I am human and want the unachievable images fed as the "norm" in our society, but it isn't healthy or sustainable.
So I am now hearing speaking out about diet culture and the harm it is causing us as individuals as a whole.
"The obesity epidemic has been growing steadily across the world, and so far, not a single country has been able to reverse it. The World Health Organization states the cause of obesity is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. However, growing evidence suggests that the calorie imbalance concept may not be sufficient to manage and reverse the obesity epidemic." (Camacho et al., 2017)
Counting calories leads to an obsession with quantity over quality and often backfires regarding weight loss.
Counting calories makes sense because calories in vs. calories out determine whether you will maintain your weight or experience weight loss. However, it’s not that simple. Behaviors also assess health and weight loss. When people start counting calories, they often become fixated on these numbers — the quantity of what they’re taking in vs. the quality.
When you consume a lot of nutrient-poor, low-satiety foods that are lower in fiber or protein, you may eat less immediately but feel less satisfied.
People may eventually reach a breaking point and end up overcompensating and eating much more food later. It could backfire for weight loss and is also not the best overall health option. Suppose you focus on something lowest in calories vs. highest in micronutrients. In that case, you may find yourself with nutrient deficiencies which leads to health ailments like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and more.
"The possible advantage for weight loss of a diet that emphasizes protein, fat, or carbohydrates has not been established, and few studies extend beyond one year." (Sacks et al., 2009)
Aim to get protein, fat, and fiber at each meal — no need to quantify it.
Counting macros has become a modern dietary technique for weight loss and body composition, but taking such a micro approach to nutrition is unnecessary. First, it’s difficult to quantify our differences and determine the best macronutrient composition. Again like counting calories, you could miss proper nutrition, creating stress that would deplete you of nutrients. Focusing on counting anything will lead to possible deficiencies, eating disorders, and more.
Also, when it comes to losing weight, research shows that isocaloric diets — meaning the same amount of calories — result in similar weight loss, whether they are a different proportion of fat, carbohydrates, and protein. No research shows one is better than another if calories are constant.
There’s a caveat: if you’re eating a certain way — eating more fiber, for example — you will feel fuller with fewer calories. So it’s not precisely that macronutrients don’t matter, but counting a specific amount is unnecessary for weight loss and overall health.
You want to hit a certain amount of protein for muscle gain goals. But that doesn’t need to be measured out to a T, and it isn’t as essential to balance it precisely with the carbohydrates and the fat. You want to ensure you’re hitting your bare minimum of protein needs which can run from 15-25 grams per meal.
Do a juice cleanse
You’re not “detoxifying your system” or “resting your organs,” but loading your body with sugar. Juice Cleanses don't work.
Juice cleanses that faddish quick-fix appeal. People think, “I’m going to do this miracle two-day, three-day, or week-long cleanse, and it’s either going to solve all of my health problems or result in weight loss.” If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
We don’t have randomized controlled trials on juice cleanses, but I can say anecdotally that it doesn’t result in long-term weight loss. Juice cleanses very restrictively. People may be able to consume a low amount of calories for a few days or even a week and see some weight loss, but then they go back to eating the way they were eating before, and the weight comes back.
Juice cleanses also leave you feeling very hungry. You’re getting calories from sugar but have no fiber because it’s been removed from the fruit, so it takes away that satiety factor. Juice is lower in nutrients than whole fruit. A whole apple would be a much better choice than juice.
If you want to incorporate more fruits in your diet, make a smoothie with bananas, strawberries, or blueberries, add in a handful or two of greens, plant milk or unsweetened milk, and maybe some silken tofu or a protein powder to get a balanced, nutrient-dense meal that’s not going to leave you feeling hungry shortly after.
When I mention detoxes, it's to support the liver's natural detoxification process or system or to lessen one's sugar and/or caffeine intake, and it's therapeutic with balanced smoothies similar to what is mentioned above. Our bodies already have an innate (born with) detoxification system. Research does not support the diet culture claims that specialized justices are more beneficial than well-balanced whole food-rich diets provide.
Carbs are our life fuel. Restricting them is ineffective and unsustainable.
The satiety factor is one reason you want to include more fiber-rich or complex carbohydrates- vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. The fiber in carbohydrates will help people stay fuller longer and reduce overeating. In one randomized controlled trial, one group of participants ate a low-carbohydrate diet, and the other ate a high-fiber, high-carbohydrate diet. When both groups ate as much as they wanted, the high-fiber group ate fewer calories daily and experienced more significant weight loss. They felt so satisfied that they didn’t need to eat more.
Also, carbohydrates are one of the most health-promoting nutrients when consuming whole foods, meaning carbohydrates come packaged with fiber. Again, fiber-rich carbs include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds.
Glucose, the primary sugar found in carbohydrates, is what our whole body is fueled by, as it's our number fuel source. Our bodies need fuel to create healthy red blood cells and to provide energy in our brains. Evolutionarily, it’s our preferred energy source. Carbs are found in most typical meals around the globe. People like carbohydrates. It’s hard to avoid them, and preventing them is not necessary.
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Camacho, S., & Ruppel, A. (2017). Is the calorie concept a real solution to the obesity epidemic? Global health action, 10(1), 1289650. https://doi.org/10.1080/16549716.2017.1289650
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