As you may have realized, I love asking you things on Instagram because I end up learning so much from you all. Last week on Instagram, I asked you all to tell me the weirdest weight loss tips and diet “hacks” you’ve ever heard and I was blown away by some of your responses. If you follow me on Instagram or YouTube, you already know how I feel about the weight loss industry (hint: dieting for weight loss doesn’t work), so I’m sure it’s no surprise that reading through the tips you all sent in made me really sad. I tried to pick 5 that would be a good representation of the kind of extreme advice that you might find in a listicle (list-article) titled, 5 Weight Loss Tips That Are Actually Easy (I made this up, but I’m sure this title exists somewhere in the world).
And I’ll be honest, the reason I even know a lot of these tips is because I’m not innocent in this game either. I’ve definitely spread my fair share of weight loss tips back in college when I was a ghostwriter for health bloggers (and heavily under diet culture’s spell). I feel a lot of empathy for that little girl inside of me who desperately wanted a solution to binge eating, but was too fooled by diet culture to know how to get out.
Thankfully, I’ve spent the time in my own recovery (and in reading the research) to know the truth now, so the best I can do to make up for those years of spreading misinformation is to debunk some of the very weight loss tips that I have recommended in my past. That’s why I wanted to make this video – to debunk some of the weight loss tips that you all have heard and even some that I myself have said.
As always, if you prefer to watch me talk about these, scroll to the bottom to check out the full YouTube video below.
5 Weight Loss Tips Debunked
#1: “If you don’t wear a jacket outside in the cold, your body has to burn more calories to stay warm”
This one honestly just blows my mind, and I truly thought it was a joke at first because it was my friend who said it, but then I saw 2 OTHER PEOPLE say the same thing. Like WHAT?!
I’m not even going to justify this one with a breakdown of the science. I’m just going to say that if you are willing to be uncomfortably cold or risk hypothermia in order to lose weight, please ask for help. I’m taking new clients and I can help you reprioritize.
#2: “If you constantly fidget, you will burn more calories, thus allowing you to eat more”
This one might be just as strange as the first, if not worse.
The fact that you burn more calories when fidgeting is something that Dietitians learn in school in the context of malnutrition risk factors in diseases like Parkinson’s where people can experience something called Dyskinesia, which is abnormal, uncontrolled, involuntary movement. This condition is incredibly difficult to live with because it gets in the way of being able to accomplish even the most simple activities of daily living, like drinking water or trying to send a text.
Recommending this as a weight loss strategy is not only super insensitive to people who struggle with this (read: ableist, meaning able-bodied people taking things that are difficult for people with disabilities and turning it into a weight loss tip), but it’s also just weird. Unless you naturally fidget a lot, this is something you would have to actively think about all day to do.
If you’re so desperate to lose weight that you’re willing to try something like this, chances are you thinking about dieting and weight loss too much as it is. You don’t need to add obsessively fidgeting to your list of things to think about. I honestly wonder how people who diet (including old Whitney) have time for literally anything else (hint: you’ll never have time to accomplish the things you really want in life if you think about dieting 24/7)
#3: “If you wouldn’t eat an apple then you’re not hungry”
This one has always made me laugh. The person who said this one actually said: “if you wouldn’t eat fish or broccoli then you’re not actually hungry”. Normally I like eating fish and broccoli, but something about the way she phrased that made me feel instantly not hungry for fish and broccoli. It’s such an oddly specific thing to ask yourself as a way of gauging hunger.
It would be ridiculous to say that true hunger is only defined by craving one specific food. Have you ever been to a restaurant – very hungry – and chosen one meal over another because it sounded better to you? That doesn’t negate your hunger. It just means you were craving one thing over another (I feel like I shouldn’t even have to explain this one).
This also invalidates any motivation to eat that isn’t about health. “if you’re not hungry for healthy food, then you’re not really hungry and you should probably just starve yourself” like okay no that’s not how hunger works.
If you are chronically undereating, like in a diet, your body physiologically changes to crave things like refined carbohydrates, sugar, and high-fat foods. This is a survival mechanism to help you seek out the quickest source of calories to give your body energy. So no, if you are dieting and restricting, you probably won’t crave things like fish and broccoli. You’ll crave things like sugar, bread, and fried foods. Listen to your body and feed it what it is looking for.
#4: “Drink water when you’re hungry because you’re probably just thirsty”
I would like to formally apologize to anyone who I have told to drink water instead of eating because you might just be thirsty. I used to follow this advice and I’ve told many people the same thing.
The problem with this is that if you are dieting or restricting, your body may be shutting down your hunger cues because that’s what happens when your body thinks that food isn’t available for us. It makes sense if you think about it. During periods of famine or food scarcity, it’s not helpful for our bodies to feel physical hunger. It’s unnecessarily painful. The body is designed to survive and thrive. Hunger signals will eventually shut down if not responded to and the body will start to physiologically adapt to thinking that it is starving.
Preoccupation with food and seemingly uncontrollable urges to eat are signs that you aren’t eating enough for your body. If you find yourself going to the fridge constantly to graze or feeling out of control around food, it’s probably because your body is trying to refeed. Drinking water may make you feel full temporarily, but it does nothing to actually address the cause, which is you not eating enough. You will continue to graze and become increasingly preoccupied with food until you start eating enough. So just eat.
#5: “Sabotage half of your meal”
Last week I made a video about why you can’t pursue weight loss and intuitive eating, and this is exactly why. Sabotaging half your meal or forcing yourself not to eat half your meal is by definition not listening to your body and regulating what you’re eating without even giving yourself a chance to eat until you are satisfied.
Not going to pretend like I haven’t done this in my past, but talk about feeling inadequate every time you go out to eat. The idea that you have to literally sabotage your meal or get half of it to go in order to stop yourself from “eating too much” is just a constant reminder that you can’t trust your own body. This is only hurting you in the long-run.
I hope you enjoyed these tips! If you would like another one of these posts, head on over to YouTube and let me know in the comments of this video some of the weirdest weight loss tips you’ve ever heard.
And as always, if you’d like to work with me, I’m currently taking new clients. Check out my coaching page here.
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