It’s 2024. Let’s Debunk These 4 nutrition Myths for Good.

This post has been developed in partnership with Way.

Knowing what’s fact and what’s fiction is one of the first steps in nourishing your body properly. 

Unfortunately, there’s a ton of nutrition misinformation out there, and it’s hard to know what’s right and what’s not. When we believe the wrong things, this can lead to habits that can be physically and/or emotionally damaging. 

Let’s bust a few of the more popular nutrition myths that you may have seen.

Myth #1: Replacement foods work for weight loss.

You’ve seen the videos: someone tells their followers that instead of normal pasta, they can use hearts of palm noodles to cut calories and be ‘healthier.’ Fruit instead of chocolate, lemon juice instead of olive oil on a salad, and fat-free Greek yogurt instead of sour cream are other common replacement foods.

Replacement foods, or ‘food swaps,’ can help decrease the calories that we consume, but that’s not the end of the story. We have to consider a few things:

First off, let’s define the word ‘work’ in relation to weight loss. 

Does something ‘work’ if it results in weight loss? As a dietitian, I think that’s a low bar to set. When determining if a habit or action is effective for losing weight, I take it one step further: did the person lose weight, and keep it off?

Is the swap satisfying? Pizza crust made of egg whites might seem like a great option to cut calories, but is it really going to taste good? Are you going to feel satisfied and satiated after you eat it? What is the emotional and physical impact of consuming this swap, versus consuming the actual food in its original form? Will eating shirataki noodles instead of wheat pasta destroy the meaning of spaghetti night at your house? Will frozen yogurt drops really quell that chocolate craving you’re having?

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Can we all agree that the concoction above is not even close to being a Butterfinger?

As a dietitian, I’ve seen far too many people trying to ‘eat around’ their cravings, only to end up unsatisfied and eventually eat the food they wanted in the first place. I counsel clients to honor their cravings, not to ignore or try to replace them with another food that’s less desirable. 

It’s also important to set expectations around swaps. Are you planning on using this swap forever? Can you live happily while consuming a birthday cake made entirely of watermelon with coconut cream ‘frosting?’ Or, will you use swaps in situations that aren’t as meaningful for you?

Swaps can be effective, depending on the situation, your intention, and your expectations. If the swap results in dissatisfaction and compensatory overeating, or if it has negative impacts on your mood or life in general, skip it.

Myth #2: Shaming yourself about your weight helps with ‘motivation.’

‘Thin tastes better.’

‘No pain, no gain.’

We’ve been programmed by the diet industry to believe that shame leads to motivation and  ‘results,’ but research suggests that shame used to inspire weight loss has the the opposite effect (and here).

Let’s face it: shaming ourselves feels awful, and those feelings can have a ripple effect on our mental and physical health. When was the last time you were ever motivated to do anything long-term because you felt bad about it?

If you wouldn’t say it to your best friend or someone you love, you shouldn’t be saying it to yourself.

nutrition myths

Ads like the one above target women and imply that having a body that differs from the ‘thin ideal’ is wrong. This is harmful and shaming messaging that simply doesn’t work in the long-term (although it makes companies lots of money).

Bullying, whether it’s self-inflicted or from someone else, isn’t motivating, it’s destructive. It can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. 

When trying to make changes to your physical and/or emotional health, lead with compassion. Self-compassion can be far more effective than being self-critical when trying to make changes to your health, leading to feelings of self-worth and greater self-esteem. Self-compassion starts with recognizing that perfection doesn’t exist, and that failure is a normal part of growth. 

Myth #3: Everyone has an ‘ideal body weight’ that can be determined by a chart or simple equation.

The truth is a lot more complicated! In 2024, we know that weight as it relates to health is a lot more complex than one single number.

About those charts and equations: they were never meant to assess ideal weight; rather, they were developed by life insurance companies between 1885 and 1908 in order to predict mortality risk in large-scale populations, not individuals.

Frame size, muscle mass, and other genetic variables aren’t taken into account with a simple calculation, and these can differ from person to person. For example, my ideal body weight is supposedly 120 pounds. I have literally never weighed that in my adult life. My weight is stable at around 138 pounds, which accounts for the fact that I have above average muscle mass. This is genetic! I could not get to 120 pounds – and stay there – without practicing harmful diet and exercise habits.

For my clients, I use the term ‘comfortable weight’ to describe a person’s weight that can be maintained while still living their best life. Essentially, our comfortable weight is where our weight falls when we are nourishing our body properly and moving our body in a way that’s joyful, not punishing.

Your comfortable weight may not be exactly the weight you want, but it’s the weight that your body is happiest at. When you try to lose weight from your comfortable weight, you may find that your body continues to fight you on it. 

A recent survey suggests that just 2% of the nutrition information we encounter on social media is accurate, meaning the vast majority of posts, Reels, TikTok videos, and other social media content is either misleading or just plain wrong.

It helps to know who to follow, but also to remember a few tips to assess whether the information you’re seeing is probably legit:

The oversimplification of science, health, and nutrition is a big red flag. Is the person making promises that seem unlikely? If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. The ‘cure’ for a condition or disease is probably not going to be found in your kitchen, so be skeptical when someone claims that a simple smoothie or meal fixes a health problem. By the same token, no one food is a ‘miracle’ cure or a deadly harm, and the promise of a ‘quick fix’ is suspect.

Is the person selling a product? Not everyone who sells something is untrustworthy, but if their claims about a product invoke fear and anxiety around food, or just aren’t adding up, it’s a good idea to look into the research behind whatever it is they’re selling. One red-flag phrase is anything about an ‘ancient secret’ or something that ‘doctors don’t know/won’t tell you.’ Also watch out for affiliate links without disclosure. Anyone selling something for a company on social media must by law disclose their financial relationship. 

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Are they using words like ‘toxic,’ ‘real,’ ‘clean,’ or ‘chemicals’? These are often used by people in order to push a narrative that food is something to be feared. While some foods are more physically nourishing than others, it’s important to understand that black or white thinking around food is a huge red flag.

nutrition myths 2024

Is the person an expert in their field? Registered dietitians (RDs) are the only regulated health professionals in the nutrition space. That means that our practice and content is overseen by a regulatory body and must meet specific guidelines. 

Don’t go ‘all-in’ on one piece of content. Does it seem like the messaging of that content is echoed by legitimate healthcare professionals? Look for a consensus among experts. Look outside of social media – universities, medical centers, and your own healthcare professionals are good places to start – to really get a true picture of whether this information is being talked about elsewhere.

At Way, we want you to get the straight facts about food and eating. At Way, we want you to get the straight facts about food and eating. The Way app helps teach you how to eat intuitively while respecting your body and developing compassion for it.

Check out more about the Way app here!

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