There is a big myth out there, and it is holding people back from achieving their desired weights. It’s the myth that
If you eat clean/healthy foods, you won’t get fat
While I would always recommend that people eat the vast bulk of their diet as whole and unprocessed foods, the statement is still a falsity.
The first issue is to define what a clean food is. When I first got into health nutrition, clean food was synonymous with low fat. Rice, chicken breast and broccoli were the call of the day, usually calling 6 times a day. While I thought I was eating clean at the time, it certainly wasn’t fun, and I was probably severely undernourished.
These days, clean is more associated with gluten free, sugar free and unprocessed. Thankfully, the days of vilifying fat as the culprit for our obesity rates has gone. But, while our attention has turned to those ‘evil carbs’ and cocaine-like sugar (cough), people are still not getting where they want with their body goals.
Whether you count them or not, calories count
That’s right – you can run, you can hide, but you can’t escape the law of thermodynamics. While it is popular these days to be a “calorie-denier”, claiming that hormones such as insulin override energy amounts in food, anyone looking at the science can see that this is plain wrong.
Now, I am not saying that what you eat doesn’t matter. Some foods have a higher thermic effect (such as protein), some foods are more likely to get partitioned towards muscle rather than fat (protein and carbs), and some foods have a lower bioavailability (such as almonds, for example).
However, when all is said and done, if you eat too many calories – from any source – you will gain weight.
That’s right, it doesn’t matter how paleo, gluten free, low carb, vegan, vegetarian, fruitarian you eat, if you eat to much of it, the scales will show. I should know, I have gained weight on almost all of the diets (when I am not watching caloric amounts).
I went through a period of 6 months where I decided to clean my diet up a little, and go about 90% paleo. I stopped counting calories, and relied on my body to tell me when to stop eating. I thought, “If I am eating high quality foods, I am bound to maintain my weight”.
By the end of the 6 months, after eating bacon, steaks, avocados, olive oil and nuts – what most would consider very healthy – I had gained 21 pounds. And I was eating quite mindfully too. To say I was disappointed was an understatement.
Yes, it is very easy to overeat when you are eating calorie dense nuts, cooking vegetables in grass fed butter etc.
Cruising to obesity
And to those who think that insulin and carbohydrates are the cause of all ills, it’s quite possible to gain weight, even when carbo-void.
Cruises are known for one thing – food, lots of it, and FREE. In order to try and maintain my summer body I had worked hard for, I decided to go ‘low carb’ for my 2 week cruise. I ate nothing but steaks, chicken breast and salads, staying at or around 50 grams of carbs a day. Now, I was well versed enough in the science to know that low carb wasn’t the ‘magic bullet’ that many purport it to be. However, I thought that it might be a good way to increase satiation while I was unable to calorie count.
2 weeks later, I was 12 pounds heavier. And that was with me only having an 8 hour eating window (I was intermittent fasting at the time). Also, I was exercising more than normal – not only conducting an onboard gym session, but I was walking around for around 6 hours a day on our land tours.
Can you tell which side of the ship I was on?
I am not here to tell anyone what foods they must eat. On the contrary, I believe you should be free to make your own choices (with certain recommendations). However, one thing will always remain true – it doesn’t matter what ‘diet-cult’ you choose to drink the Kool-aid from, if you aren’t losing weight (or if you are gaining weight), you may have to manage your calories more consciously.
Sure, there are reports of people just deciding to ‘eat clean’ and spontaneously dropping weight. But this is because they have found the right side of the energy balance. But, this doesn’t work for everyone, and there is a point where it will stop working for everyone. If you reach your ‘ideal’ bodyweight by that time, great. But for those who don’t, they may need to be a little more aware of calories.
Many people are finding solace in Flexible Dieting, where people eat their own food choices with certain caloric and macronutrient targets. Of course, this can be combined with the ‘diet-cult’ of your choice, but it offers people much more flexible food choices. There is a certain irony in the fact that, in both cases of me gaining that weight through eating ‘clean’, I subsequently lost it while eating pizzas and ice cream (as part of a healthy overall diet, of course 😉 ).
To find out more about The Flexible Diet, Click here, or click the below image to purchase your copy today