The 5 Most Unproductive Health Messages We Inherit

The_5_Most_Unproductive_Health_Messages_We_Inherit_06.02.15The health and fitness field certainly has no shortage of conflicting opinions.

Published studies with various (and sometimes questionable) funding sources, research and development in the food and pharmaceutical industries, not to mention the endless number of bloggers, commercials, and gimmicks all play a role in the whirlwind of wellness confusion.

While it might feel more comfortable to ignore it all and resort back to long-held viewpoints, the longevity of a health message doesn’t necessarily determine its accuracy.

The power of repetition is mighty – whether it’s in the media culture or around our kitchen tables. We all have familiar, standard messages that we either grew up with or we’ve heard so often that we’ve accepted them as truth.

Here are five common concepts that are surprisingly unproductive for your health.

Burn more calories than you consume to lose weight.

While this might work to an extent for some people, this statement seems to be the granddaddy of nutritional misnomers.

More often, however, it puts people on weight loss/weight gain roller coasters that can not only destroy their health but their motivation as well. Shouldn’t a healthy way of life feel satisfying and sustainable instead of exhausting and deprivation-focused?

Willpower from calorie control will eventually run out. The notion that parsing out your daily caloric intake will ultimately determine your weight is physiologically incorrect for many reasons.

Yes, calories matter – but trying to control them without first addressing the quality and balance of what you’re eating is like trying to adjust your heating bill without caring for the furnace. At the end of the day, we would not have a societal weight crisis if our metabolism simply operated like a giant calculator. A calorie is not just a calorie.

Everything in moderation. 

This seems like an innocent, rational and appropriate view of balanced eating. However, did you know that certain processed foods can have genuinely addictive properties? If you’re committed to achieving your optimal level of health and well-being, ask yourself this: do I want to walk that line?
It has to be your personal choice. For many, this can be sabotage. If you have a history of eating well for a particular stint of time, then veering off course for days, weeks or even months after giving into “that” food, a definitive break might be the best route for you.
Check out Chapter 3 of the Eat Well. Live Well. guide for more perspective.

Start every day with whole grains…

…and a significant spike in blood glucose, which will trigger unstable energy levels and carbohydrate cravings hours later? No, thank you!
The food industry behind the production of most standard American breakfast food (e.g. cereal, English muffins, muffins, toast, waffles, pancakes) would have you think that missing out on your morning carb dose is a crime against your health.
Think about it. Does it make sense that we should start our day with food that doesn’t actually exist in nature?Replace that cereal with a natural, higher protein option such as scrambled eggs and veggies with avocado to welcome more satiety and more stability in your energy.

It’s best to eat six small meals per day.

It might be; it might not be. The fact is, it depends.
Some people do better eating more frequently, while others do better eating their three square meals per day. Finally, some do better with occasional intermittent fasting. Check out Paul’s post on meal frequency for the details on those options.
Having had the honor of playing a part in hundreds of people’s health and fitness journeys as their nutrition coach, I can vouch for the fact that your nutrition program has to be just that – your nutrition program, individualized to your metabolism, your preferences, your schedule, etc.
Do not force yourself into the often inconvenient routine of eating every two hours if that’s not a sustainable option for your schedule – or an effective approach for your weight loss process.

Supplements are dangerous and unnecessary. 

Many of us grew up with this notion or have simply read enough dramatic media headlines to settle on this belief.
Here’s where it gets tricky – supplements can be one or both of these. There is a lot of fancily packaged, irresponsibly manufactured, garbage supplement options on the market. I personally know a pharmacist whose medical team recently did a laboratory assay on a particular probiotic supplement from a popular supplement store, only to find that it was 100% placebo.
Still, don’t let this scare you away from the structured pharmaceutical grade supplementation that can and should be a critical, effective component of a healthy way of life (including probiotics!).
Supplement quality, ingredients, sources and processing methods are integral to the interplay between that supplement and your functioning. Know where your supplements come from. There are no miracle pills, but there are supportive, research-backed options that can absolutely help you in your journey toward effective weight loss, improved performance and optimal health.
Would you like more information about the false messages we hear or inherit and the straight story on what really encourages health and weight loss? Speak with one of our dietitians today.

In health, Samantha Bielawski, Registered Dietitian

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.