The power of myths and our understanding of the causes of weight gain
At one time or another we’ve all experienced the jaw-dropping discovery that something we believed to be true, isn’t. I still can recall the unsettling moments in my childhood when I found out the truth about Santa Claus and the tooth fairy!
If you’ve had similar situations where something that you thought was a fact suddenly became fiction, then you understand the power of myths.
Myths often begin as a way to explain things we don’t understand. Based on my 30+ years as a consulting dietitian I know that over time myths can become “common knowledge” as more and more people accept and repeat them. Soon, there’s no one left to question whether that information is true or not, and the myth becomes part of our reality.
That is why it can be is so hard to accept some of the scientific reports we hear these days. When they challenge our long held beliefs, our initial reaction is to reject them, even if we have no evidence to support our version of the truth.
Too Much Myth-Information around the Causes of Weight Gain
The subject of weight loss, and specifically the causes of weight gain, is one where myths and misinformation often collide. I like to call the result myth-information. Here are just a few examples of widely reported myths I’ve bet you’ve heard before:
- Eating late at night makes you gain weight
- Starchy foods increase belly fat
- Sugar substitutes (even SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener, heaven forbid!) can cause weight gain and even obesity
None of those statements are true based on the best scientific evidence available, but many people still believe them. They have a hard time accepting the research that shows it is the total number of calories we consume each day that contributes to weight gain, not the time of day we eat them. Similarly, some people have doubts about the studies that demonstrate starchy foods, or foods high in carbohydrates, are no more likely to produce belly fat than any other source of calories.
Letting go of the myth about sugar substitutes as one of the causes of weight gain is particularly difficult for some people, despite the evidence to the contrary.
Research on the biggest users of sugar substitutes has found they are most often people who are trying to control their weight and improve the quality of their diets. In fact, a study of participants enrolled in the Weight Control Registry showed regular use of foods and beverages sweetened with low calorie sweeteners, including SPLENDA®, is a common strategy employed by those who have had long-term success maintaining a significant weight loss. (Note: SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener is a brand name for sucralose, the sweetening ingredient in the original SPLENDA® Sweetener Products, and has been enjoyed by millions of consumers for over 20 years.)
Using a low-calorie sweetener such as SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener in place of sugar, is probably not enough to prevent weight gain or make you reach your weight loss goal, but can certainly help, and is one of many small changes you can make in your diet and physical activity to get there. Just like using smaller plates to control portion sizes and taking the stairs instead of the elevator, small changes can add up to big results when they become part of a healthy lifestyle.
If you find it hard letting go of a myth, it may help to remember that it probably began to explain something we once didn’t understand. But after we have the facts to explain it, we don’t need the myth any more.
For more information, read “Dear Dietitian, Will Artificial Sweeteners Cause Me to Gain Weight?”
I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.
Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.
For more information, please visit:
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