“Why does she look like she’s gotten fat?” my grandma whispered to my mom.
She was referencing my sister while we were getting seated to eat dim sum at Empress in Chinatown in Honolulu.
“Shhh don’t just say anything,” responded my mom.
I gotta say that no one is going to be more honest about your figure than your Chinese grandparents, aunties, and uncles. If you didn't hear it directly from grandma someone down the grapevine will make sure you got the message.
Growing up Chinese American, my Asian descent predisposed me to having a dainty figure from genetics but being exposed to Western nutrition meant that my sister and I were bigger than my cousins who just immigrated from Hong Kong.
It’s a known fact that when immigrants come to America they often start gaining weight compared to natives in their home country due to the Western diet. My sister was no exception and neither was I.
We're Raking In Billions From Your Waistline
Western style diets creates billions of dollars of profits for the weight loss and fitness industry who help to reverse the effects of poor health and expanding waistlines.
A multi-billion dollar industry also means there are lots of gimmicks, myths, and misconceptions that prey on people’s desire for quick fixes and instant results.
I promise you that I will never sell you on any of that because my goal is never a quick fix for any of my clients or my readers. My intent is to make an impact long-term through habit creation, mindset changes, and education.
So here I want to dispel 5 big myths that still propagate through the general public about fat and weight loss.
Myth #1 The X,Y,Z Diet Is Perfect For You
As I mentioned in my previous emails I don’t believe in fad diets and I don’t follow them nor do I recommend specific ones to my clients.
Whole30, Paleo, Low Carb, Atkins, South Beach, Raw Food
I believe that all the diets on the market work for a short period of time for you to see a drop in bodyweight.
They all produce weight loss by decreasing overall calories in your diet through some form of macro or food elimination.
For Paleo, it’s a caveman diet. Anything processed or refined gets cut out. Eating whole, nutritious, unprocessed foods is great for general overall health.
For Whole30, it’s very similar to Paleo. Eliminate grains, dairy, sugar, alcohol, processed foods. Again, it’s a great healthy diet. The processed foods and hidden sugars in food packages are responsible for excess and unnecessary calories in our diet.
Atkins, a protein centric focused diet where you eliminate carbs and sugars.
If I look closely at what I eat daily I mostly follow an Atkins diet and 90% of my carb intake comes from vegetables though my net carbs are not as low as a ‘pure’ Atkins diet. I follow a very protein centric eating habit for many reasons.
The Central Reason X,Y,Z Diets Will Fail For You
The problem with getting on a diet is that people think of diets as a temporary fix till they reach their desired weight or size then they revert back to their regular diet and the weight comes right back. That's why most diet books have a time stamp on them like 14-days or 30-days.
I rather you find a method of eating that you can stick with for the rest of your life even if it takes you longer to figure it out.
You wanting to become healthier and fitter shouldn’t be a temporary want, you should want it for a lifetime.
The Psychology Of Why You Put On Weight
When people start putting on weight something in their life has dramatically changed.
Either their stress levels, their work schedules, their eating habits, their choice of foods etc but in order to cope with these changes you have adopted a different set of habits to get through your day.
For weight loss to be permanent, for you to be fit the rest of your life you need to identify and undo these habits changes and reinforce healthier habits so you feel great and have energy EVERYDAY versus just temporarily.
This is why people fall off diets and their weight yo yos. It’s because they don’t have the right habits in the place to carry them the rest of their life.
There is no perfect diet for you there is only what works for you right now even if you have to take small steps to get there. This is better because you can slowly practice healthier habits and reinforce them therefore leading to a lifetime of great health and a body you love.
Myth #2 Eliminate All Fats From Your Diet
In highschool, one of the school lunches we had was baked Teriyaki Chicken.
If you’ve never heard of teriyaki chicken, it’s a popular marinated chicken dish in Hawaii that is a combination of sugar, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. When they served it in school it was always a piece of chicken thigh with the skin on.
Baked chicken skin always grossed me out! The fat would roll off the sides and on to my paper plate mingling with the sauce and the 1 scoop of white rice.
I always removed the skin and picked away at whatever leftover fat was left on the chicken.
Needless to say it was one of my least favorite school lunches.
My mom always told me to never eat animal fat because it would lead to me getting fat and she bought low fat packaged foods when I was growing up in the 90s.
There was always this fear in my household of becoming unhealthy and fat.
Mom would meticulously skim off all the chicken fat in the chicken soup she made.
She would cut away the fat in my foods when we ordered BBQ plate lunches before giving it to me and my sister and ask the butcher in Chinatown for the leanest cuts of meats he had.
Turns out that we need fat in our diets to keep us full and for our brains to register satiety signals.
Healthy Fat Keeps Us From Getting Fat
Studies in Gary Taubes book Why We Get Fat show that even when Americans are eating a lower percentage of their calories in fat the average waistline has been growing.
In the 1990s the obesity rate was 12% and in 2005 that number has grown to 23%.
If you want to see this neat animation that shows how the US obesity rates have changed from the 1990s to present time click here . It's so dramatic that in the year 2000 and 2010 a new BMI measurement appears to account for an even heavier population.
It’s funny that in that 1990s the food fad was fat free everything but the obesity rate just skyrocketed a decade later after the fat free popularity.
People interpreted the low fat message on the foods thinking that’s good for you, it’s better for you than the one with regular fat.
That’s what my mom thought and when she bought packaged foods that’s what she picked out at the Safeway.
People did not know that when manufacturer’s remove fat they remove the taste and texture from the food that make it appealing to eat.
In order to keep selling their products they needed to add the taste back in by adding other ingredients to compensate usually sugar and other types of carbs. When they do this the calories per serving is usually increased compared to if they left the fat in.
Low fat foods are often higher in calories and carbs than their full fat counterparts which means more insulin-spiking, quick to digest sugar.
Fat does not make you fat, a high calorie diet makes you fat.
Myth #3 Eat 5-6 Small Meals A Day To Keep Your Metabolism High
I love this misconception because I fell for this one years ago myself. I was snacking around the clock thinking I got to keep up my metabolism burn.
At the time I still lifting weights at the 24 Hour Fitness but I was hungry all the time!
So at night before bed I was always in the kitchen rummaging through my cabinets for some quick carbs.
At work I would walk across the other side of the building every 30 minutes or so to go to the free vending machine to nab those Tim's Cascade style Jalapeno chips before they ran out. Those were so addictive and delicious!
I prided myself on my high metabolism that kept me hungry unknowingly I was eating mostly empty carbs. Not the brightest back then.
Shocker Of A Lifetime
Luckily I hired a coach who made me get bodyfat measurements.
At the time I had no clue what was healthy. What I did know was that I was wearing the same size clothes as I did in highschool so I thought not bad Candace!
My bodyfat came out to be 28%. I picked up a bodyfat chart and my jaw dropped.
I was on the high end of ‘Average’ which was a few percentage points away from ‘Obese’.
So much for still fitting into my highschool size. I was fat AND slender.
OMG. I became skinny fat.
This point is where I learned that I needed to eat more protein to curb my hunger.
Why Small Meals Prevent You From Burning Fat
You see when you eat more frequently around the clock likely you are eating more calories then someone who eats 3-4 meals a day without snacking.
When your meals or snacks are too small and does not contain enough protein or fat your brain does not register satiety.
There is not enough food in your stomach to trigger a signal back to your brain to have it turn off the hunger signal. This results in experiencing more hunger and more frequent eating.
Eating more often does not increase your metabolism throughout the day versus if you eat less often for the same amount of calories. Your body uses the exact same amount of energy to digest 1000 calories in 3 meals versus if you eat the same 1000 calories over 6 mini meals.
You don’t burn any more calories by eating more frequently, research proves this.
Eating 3-4meals a day improves your body’s ability to burn fat because you experience longer periods of being in a fasted state.
When you’re in a fasted state it means you are not digesting any food and your body is deriving it’s energy from stored energy sources such as fat. When you’re asleep your body is in a fasted state and in order to wake you up your body pulls energy from its fat stores because you haven’t had a meal in 8 hours.
If you keep eating around the clock you interfere with your body’s ability to burn fat. To learn more about fed and fasted state this is a fantastic illustrative article that explains the difference.
Myth #4 Doing So Much Cardio That You Could Watch A Movie
If you’ve managed to watch an entire movie at the gym or on your phone while cycling the bike or jogging on the treadmill you’ve done too much cardio for one day.
Excessive cardio is not only a waste of time but also unproductive.
If you’re only doing cardio and dieting for weight loss you will certainly lose weight and you’ll lose muscle too. This is why when you’re done with your diet the weight comes back and brings its friends along, those extra pounds.
People’s weight yo yo because metabolically their bodies cannot handle the extra calories once they get back to eating a regular diet and cut back on the exercising.
It’s a vicious cycle because losing muscle mass decreases your metabolism. This is why I strongly encourage lifting weights over doing just cardio.
I write more about this here and here.
Myth #5 You Can Spot Reduce Fat
“Can you show me exercises to help me eliminate my arm/back/belly fat?”
This is one question that I constantly get asked by women to help them troubleshoot their problem areas. They think specific exercises will help eliminate the looseness and sag they are experiencing in the body parts they dislike about themselves.
And magazines reinforce that spot reducing works with headlines such as,
“Flat Abs Fast – No Crunches Required”
“Flat Abs, Killer Legs, Tight Tush in 14 Days”
“Get A Tight Butt and Thighs Fast”
People believe they can spot reduce by working on that bodypart.
And guess what is the most popular machine at my 24 Hour Fitness besides the cardio ones?
It’s the Ab Coaster!
Oh yes hear the gimmicky-ness in that name! Gym goers love that machine and they rock out on it.
They think more reps equal flatter stomach and a 6-pack so they start adding plates and use momentum to complete a rep instead of their muscles.
But sadly, you cannot train your body to reduce fat from one area of your body.
Fat reduction happens on a whole body level. When you are focusing on doing lots of reps on a particular area without reducing the layer of fat your muscles will grow making that area look bigger and more jigglier.
Genetics determine our trouble spots and everyone loses fat at different rates for different parts of their body based on the insulin sensitivity of that part. But you cannot tell or train your body to remove fat from specific places.
Can you imagine what would happen if we could spot reduce specific areas of our bodies?
We'd all be dead because we'd want to get skinnier and skinnier.
My diet would be off the charts!
I'd stock up on ramen, tiramisu, Belgian waffles with real maple syrup and Tim's Cascade Style chips but never get fat because I'd burn off the fat in the gym!
We'd be in a different world if spot reducing was true!
Yep, I can only dream of eating junk without it sticking to me.
Let's Do A Quick Re-Cap
The 5 fat loss myths that aren't true,
- Finding the perfect diet. Create habits not follow diets to keep the weight off permanently.
- Eliminate all fats from your diet. Incorporating healthy fats into your diet helps to keep you full.
- Eating small meals throughout the day does NOT burn more calories. You burn the same amount of calories whether you eat it in 1 big serving versus spreading it out through the day.
- Doing lots of cardio to lose weight. Focus on building muscle to boost your metabolism and prevent weight regain.
- You can spot reduce. We lose fat from all over our bodies and genetics determine how quickly and from where.