NYC Dietitian Discusses Weight Loss and Exercise Myths

I bet you’ve heard that 3500 calories equals a pound of weight loss. And don’t forget that soy causes breast cancer. Everyone knows stretching before exercising prevents soreness and injuries. And women really shouldn’t lift weights because they don’t want to bulk up.

April Fools!

This month, we’re going to be debunking myths – some of the most common – about nutrition and exercise, weight loss and weight gain. Age-old knowledge changes with information, science and research. It’s hard to let go of those old ideas, but, hopefully, through myth busting, we can understand our bodies, nutrition, weight loss, and health better.

Weight management and health isn’t an exact science. For years, we’ve been trained to think about weight loss as a balance between calories ingested and calories burned – specifically 3500.  A simple equation of subtracting 3500 calories from our diets or by burning 3500 calories, we’d lose a pound of weight. Nutritionists call this energy balance.

Certainly, there is a direct relationship between energy balance and weight loss, but to put a “golden number” for people to shoot for, without taking into account that the human body is much more complex and interesting than that, we’ve oversimplified an incredibly intricate process.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published findings by an expert panel that studied and put this 3500 calorie-per-pound to the test. In their published article Energy balance and its components: implications for body weight and regulation they came to a consensus that addresses energy balance/imbalance, energy intake and expenditure; interactions between the components of energy balance ; how these interactions are regulated;  food intake; exercise; the low metabolism myth; and the limitations of studying energy  balance.

Basically, every body is a world in and of itself. So by taking a flat rate of calories per pound, we’re making a gross assumption that shifts in body weight are linear. This is erroneous. For instance, the more weight we lose, the less energy we need when we’re at rest, so our resting energy drops. This isn’t because we have slow metabolisms. It’s simply because our bodies are efficient. Why use energy we don’t need?

The study takes into account the seemingly infinite variables and has come up with an equation that can be used as a weight loss predictor. That said, dietitians are becoming much more conservative in weight loss prediction when working with clients as metabolism changes in the human body are much more complex than once thought. There’s a mystery element in weight loss that even the best dieticians, nutritionists and personal trainers can’t predict.

For now, they’re cutting back on the predicted 52 pounds of loss per year to 25 and then an estimated 22 in the following three years, when calculating metabolism changes. One thing, though, remains: today is a great day to make steps toward a healthier weight.  Health is a lifetime goal, not one to be made just for bikini season.