Ditch These Nonsense Food Rules Right Away

food rules, nonsense, macros, intermittent fasting, eat less move more

One of the most common things I hear from active women who care about getting lean, strong and fit is that they can’t make sense of all the information available to make decisions that are right for them.  The reality is, the strategies that will help you make progress are really simple – but that doesn’t make them easy. 

We know you don’t need any more confusing, complicated or contradictory food rules to follow. You can ditch these food rules and simplify your nutrition strategy right away!  Read on for some of the most common nonsense food rules that are still out there, but need to quickly see themselves out!  

don't eat carbs after 6 pm

Do you think your body know’s what time it is, really? Does your body know what timezone you’re in or if it’s daylight savings? Naw.

One reason this nonsense food rule gained some traction is likely because by following it, it forces us to cut out the types of foods we tend to mindlessly eat late at night – think sweets and munchies. Combined with the types of activities we do in the evening, it’s very easy to overeat processed, packaged and refined foods with empty calories. Ice cream, chips, crackers go very well with Netflix binges or homework procrastination.

So let’s not demonize the time of day (or night), nor one macronutrient over another. Instead, we should be talking about mindless eating or eating to displace  an uncomfortable feeling we’d rather avoid. It’s a hard habit to break, but by finding ways to resolve feelings of stress, frustration, anger or boredom that do not involve food, you’ll feel happier and likely spend less time wondering why your pants are feeling tighter.

avoid fat, it makes you fat

On the surface, it seems like this makes sense.  It sounds logical that eating fat would cause you to gain fat, right? Well, that’s not necessarily true.

Thankfully, this food rule is on its way out. The last few decades of nutrition research shows us that gaining or losing weight has everything to do with personal caloric and macronutrient needs, hormones, and even the health of your gut, and little to do with the amount of fat in your overall diet. Sure, fat is calorically more dense than the other macronutrients (carbohydrates and protein) and it can be very easy to overeat, (hello block of sharp cheddar cheese) but that’s no reason to demonize the entire macro-group.

In my experience and the experience of so many of my clients, eating moderate or even higher amounts of fat makes us feel more energized. And, opting for egg yolks, avocados, nuts and heavy cream on a daily basis makes us feel full and satiated between meals.  

don't skip breakfast, it's the most important meal of the day

Don’t get me wrong, breakfast is important, but it’s no more important than a post-workout meal or second breakfast for that matter. In the past, we might have thought breakfast was the most important meal of the day for a couple reasons, but now we know that breakfast does not jumpstart your metabolism, make you inherently more healthy or leaner than the breakfast skipper, and opting out of breakfast doesn’t make you gain weight quicker. We can all sigh with relief that this one meal will not make or break your goals.

Maybe you’re in the camp that simply can’t skip a morning meal. If you’re eating to meet your calorie and macronutrient needs, chances are you need to plan for a substantial meal in the morning or you’ll be stuck rolling deli meat around cheese sticks for dessert at night as you play “catch up” to hit macro goals. For others, skipping breakfast could mean munching on refined, processed or packaged foods later in the day because you’re incredibly hungry. It might mean you’re crashing mid-morning because coffee is not a substitute for filling, satiating food with, you know, actual calories.

The bottom line is: know yourself and choose to eat or skip breakfast based on your preference and goals, not based on a silly food rule that’s not rooted in actual science. 

all you have to do is eat less and move more

This is another food rule that seems to make sense on the surface. Burn more calories than you take in and you’ll lose weight. Seems easy enough, right?

Well, not so much. The “eat less, move more” mantra forgets to take into account several factors like:

  • How much less you are actually eating? A 500 calorie deficit or a 200 calorie deficit? A 10% deficit or a 30% deficit?
  • What types of food are you eating? Are you filling your plate with processed and packaged foods or whole, real foods?
  • How much of each macro are you eating? The amount of carb, fat and protein you get does matter. 
  • Are you eating enough to support your hormones and overall metabolism? Too deep of a calorie deficit (aka eating a lot less and moving way too much) is tough on your metabolism if done too long.
  • How long have you been “eating less and moving more”? You cannot stay in a calorie deficit forever. 

If you’ve ever tried to “eat less and move more” then you likely know what hungry, tired, and cranky feels like. You might also be all too familiar with having to white-knuckle your way through family gatherings or dinner parties.

While “eat less and move more” seems good on the surface, it fails to take into account how the human metabolism actually works. Ditch this food rule if you actually want to be successful with changing your body composition and achieving fat loss. 

intermittent fasting provides superior fat loss benefit

Food rules around intermittent fasting (IF) stem from the idea that if you simply limit the number of hours in a day when you can eat, you’ll eat less and lose weight. Just like the other food rules we’ve covered here, it’s simply too good to be true. Here’s why:

IF makes it very difficult to eat enough throughout the day and also makes it very difficult for the body to build lean muscle mass. This is because your body will only trigger muscle protein synthesis (muscle building) each time you eat protein. So, if you’re (1) not eating enough protein during the day nor (2) eating protein spaced evenly throughout the day, you will limit the capacity and potential for building lean muscle. Remember, more muscle mass on your frame = higher metabolism. Even if you have a goal to lose fat, building and maintaining lean muscle by eating enough overall and eating enough protein, is still important.

Next, most of the research on IF is done on men. This means that the outcomes cannot be transferred to women because women’s hormones are much more delicate. Specifically, the thyroid and adrenal hormones prefer to get fuel within 1 hour of waking. When you body does not get fuel within this time frame, it typically spikes cortisol (your stress hormone) as a way to keep blood sugar steady when there is no fuel coming in. In general, keeping stress hormones to a minimum is important when you have goals for fat loss,

Lastly, most of the clients I work with need to eat more. IF puts unnecessary rules on their eating which makes it more difficult for them to get enough food in.

All of that said, there certainly are some benefits seen in the research on IF and that is can improve digestion and blood sugar levels. However, like I said, most of this research is done on men and does not account for MANY other factors in some people’s lives. IF is simply not a superior method, and should definitely not be a food rule that you feel the need to adhere to, if you have goals for fat loss.

eat mini meals to increase metabolism

This nonsense food rule is born out of the discovery of the “thermic effect of food” and perpetuated by mainstream, low-calorie diets. We know that it takes energy to digest and absorb food – essentially it burns calories to eat calories – so it might make sense that we could potentially expend more energy if we ate more frequently.

Not so much.

We know now that eating two or three meals per day has literally the same effect on metabolism as eating five or six meals. Metabolic rate depends on a few factors, but if you’re eating to meet your calorie and macronutrient needs you’ll burn the same amount of calories if you decide to gorge yourself in one sitting, or prefer to eat like a bird throughout the day.

if you’re still following any of these nonsense food rules, you can give them up now! And if you want to learn a better strategy for eating so you don’t have to fall for silly food rules again, check out this blog post about my PFC eating method.

check out my free balanced eating guide