5 Myths from the Last 30 Years About Health and Weight Loss

photo of avocados

Everything changes, including the health and dietary information we were once taught in school, in mainstream culture, in the media and that we accept as common knowledge. In particular, there are 5 myths from the last 30 years about health and weight loss that we now know are inaccurate.

In the 1800s, heroin was used as a cough suppressant. In the 1930s and 40s, cigarettes were promoted as “physician tested and approved.” And in the 60s, some doctors believed that LSD was a cure for all manner of health concerns including alcoholism and schizophrenia.

However, many of us tend to think that these kinds of examples are from times past when people were too ignorant to know better, and we assume that the health wisdom of today is modern and therefore trustworthy.

Often, we continue using our outdated information until new information becomes so mainstream – or we become so desperate for change – that we begin to question what we believe and dig deeper.

To make sure you’re not basing your dietary choices on outdated information, check out these five long-held beliefs that have been proven incorrect in more recent years.

Fat Makes Us Fat

Yep, you heard me right. Ladies over 40, what we learned in the 1980s, 90s and 2000s has been proven to be incorrect. Not only will fat NOT make you fat, it is healthy and needed for a healthy body.

Healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, avocado and fatty fishes like salmon, are excellent for our health, providing energy, absorption of vitamins, protection for cells and nerves and assisting the brain to actually function better among other things.

Contrary to popular belief, eating fat does not make us fat. Rather, some studies show that it may even help people to maintain a healthy weight. And, there is some evidence to show that people following high-fat Ketogenic Diets may have extra protection from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Not only is healthy fat good for us, we should actually be wary of low-fat products which often have added sugar and salt to make up for the flavor that is lost when the fat is removed. Be sure to read your labels on products that have been reengineered to be low fat!

Fat Causes Disease

This one is a little controversial. For so many years, dietary recommendations have been anchored in the idea that diets high in fat cause heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and any number of other terrifying diseases. As it turns out, fat is not the evil villain after all.  Specific kinds of fat, for example all trans-fat as well as saturated fat in large quantities, is still believed to be associated with disease. However, unsaturated fat from oils, meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables is not only healthy, but encouraged for a healthy lifestyle.

Sugar is Fine

Growing up in the 1980s, I can clearly remember eating bread (sans the butter, of course) at nearly every meal and believing that pasta was great as long as I steered clear of the creamy sauces. Health professionals are now much more clear about this. Over consumption of refined sugar is a primary contributor in the shocking obesity epidemic in the United States and directly contributes to more disease than any other single food in our diets.

In fact, many now say that the rise in obesity in the United States can be directly correlated to the low-fat movement of the late 20th century, where products were modified to reduce fat but other, less healthy items such as sugar and salt were added to make them taste good.

40-60% of Our Diets Should Come from Carbs

Here’s an exercise to try –  Use Google to search the following phrase: “what percentage of our daily diet should come from carbs?”

My guess is that you found several sources in the top ten search results advising that a person needs 40-60% of their total calories in a day to come from carbohydrates. And, many people will get quite animated while trying to convince you that we need to intentionally eat carbs in order to have energy.

From a lot of reading, and plenty of first-hand experience, I believe that both of these points are completely untrue.

Further, the US Department of Agriculture’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, while flexible in recognizing and acknowledging a variety of possible eating styles, continues to recommend that grains represent a substantial portion of our daily food intake.

While this document does make some great recommendations, there is growing consensus that it may be unnecessary to eat grains at all, much less have them represent a substantive portion of our daily diets. Studies have shown that grain-free diets may help you lose weight, reduce gut inflammation, and fend off some autoimmune diseases.  

One word of advice: If you’re going to eliminate grains from your diet – which may well help you lose weight – be sure to eat plenty of vegetables to make sure you get the fiber and nutrition you need.

Many Small Meals per Day are Better Than Three Main Meals

Many of us grew up hearing that it is better to eat many small meals per day, than to eat two or three larger meals.  This was the prevailing wisdom of our generation. Here’s the problem, eating many small meals throughout the day causes your insulin levels to go up and down, keeps you from burning fat and ultimately makes you hungrier. If you get hungry throughout the day, try increasing your protein consumption at meal times with healthy proteins such as fish, chicken or eggs which have been shown to keep people satisfied for longer periods of time.

You may have recently heard that Intermittent Fasting is a healthy lifestyle that will help manage your weight. Intermittent Fasting is a way of restricting your eating only to certain times during the day. For example, some may choose to only eat between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. This theory is based on the idea that intermittent fasting stabilizes your blood sugar, helps you lose weight and may be helpful in reducing diseases associated with inflammation in the body such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Arthritis and Asthma.

If you read my blog, you know that I am not a doctor, nutritionist or other health professional, and I don’t claim to be. In fact, you should do your research and talk to your own health care professional if you are considering making major dietary changes.

However, as a woman over 40 myself, I care about the topics I write about and I like to think that perhaps my posts are useful and inspirational to you. If you are interested in learning more, here are some resources that I found helpful. Maybe you will, too!

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Photo by Ryan Quintal on Unsplash

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