What I Had To Unlearn After Studying Nutrition
Growing up, I couldn't have cared less about cooking, nutrition or health. I could have eaten a grilled cheese sandwich every day and been as happy as a clam.
It took several different personal experiences — my struggle with body image, my mother's gastric bypass surgery, my grandpa's Type II Diabetes diagnosis, to name a few — to motivate my own research on food and nutrition, ultimately inspiring me to go to college to be a registered dietitian.
Now that I am a registered dietitian and have gotten some real life experiences with nutrition, I've realized there are several things I was taught in college that simply don't fly in real life. I don't believe we're intentionally taught untrue things, but I do believe that even our professors were fooled into believing these common nutrition myths:
Here are four nutrition myths I had to unlearn after college:
1. Counting your calories will help you lose weight.
The thought process behind this one is that if we're tracking where all our calories come from, we'll be more conscious of what we eat and eat less of the high calorie, "bad" foods. The problem with this thinking is that there are no "bad" foods. Calories are not bad.
It's like ultra-marathoner, Sarah Stanley said, "All the calorie counting apps in the world will not help you if you continue to eat chemical-laden junk."
Have you tried a calorie counting app? THEY ARE MISERABLE. I tried to make myself enjoy tracking calories by getting a fun smartphone app. I tracked them down to the T. And guess what? I didn't lose any weight from it.
2. Everything in moderation.
The idea that you can eat all foods in moderation is nice … and that's about it.
I truly believe that in most cases, you don't have to give up any one certain food you love and you CAN incorporate any food into a healthy diet.
A caveat: your version of moderation may not be what your body processes as healthful. If you have particular foods that you'd like to work into your diet in a healthful way, then it is important to work with a nutrition professional to determine if/how you can incorporate all your favorite foods and still treat your body right.
Case in point, I tried desperately to cut down my soda intake. I hated how much I loved it but when I'd try to cut back, I'd end up bingeing. A soda every now and then won't hurt me, but soda is a trigger food for me and I don't believe I can healthfully incorporate it into my diet in moderation, so I abstain from it all together.
3. Eat less, exercise more.
This is one of the hardest myths I've had to unlearn.
More than two-thirds of adults in America are considered overweight or obese. The logical thing to teach these people would be to eat less and exercise more. But with every health professional screaming this at the top of their lungs, why are obesity rates and obesity related deaths still rising?
Your body needs real food. It needs to be regularly activity. Your body does not need chemical-filled, highly processed, food "product." It does not need hours and hours of stress-inducing, agonizing workouts.
Instead of eating less and exercising more, we need to practice honing in on what our bodies are asking of us: real, nourishing foods and joyous, productive, activity.
4. If you eat well and exercise, you'll be healthy.
Believe it or not, your health is more than what you eat and how you move. Your mental health has such a huge impact on your physical health.
Your mind can create success or sabotage with your physical health goals. If you are trying to become healthier through diet and/or exercise, I highly suggest you do some inner work too. Try contemplating your goals — whether or not they're "healthy" — your reasoning for wanting change and how you want to feel.
Ultimately, your health is your responsibility. Do the research, take the imitative, find the motivation. You are worth it!