At one time in your life, you’ve probably been on some sort of diet – whether you’ve consciously reduced your carbohydrate intake, cut out dairy products or even tried surviving off miracle-promising nutrition shakes. In today’s day and age, diet trends are a dime a dozen and nearly everyone has encountered a fad that they’ve either tried or advocated.
While some diet trends are effective, others may actually strip your body of essential nutrients, leaving you with overwhelming cravings or the opposite effect of your desired results. The reality is that you don’t need an expensive trainer, fancy meal plan or miracle pill to lose weight. What you really need in order to successfully achieve and maintain a healthy weight is education.
With so many Americans dieting today, countless misnomers exist that are not only wrong but may also act as obstacles to your ultimate goal.
Misconception #1: You Have to Starve Yourself to Lose Weight
One of the first steps people often take when starting a new diet is drastically reducing their food intake. While this is an obvious tactic that may prove effective if sustained over time, there is a catch. Depriving your body of food for a lengthy period of time – whether it’s several hours or several days – can actually have the opposite effect.
According to FitnessHealth101.com, starving yourself will help you drop pounds fast, but only in the form of water weight. Once your water weight is gone, your weight loss will slow down exponentially. In addition, because your body turns to muscle before fat as a source of energy, you will notice a decrease in muscle mass before you see a loss in body fat.
This will ultimately lead to decreased energy, lethargy, mood swings, and a slowed metabolism, which will hinder you from maintaining a productive diet and fitness regimen. Instead, eat healthy foods that are high in protein in small portions throughout the day to keep your metabolism working steadily and your energy levels high.
Misconception #2: You Should Avoid Carbohydrates
This is a common misconception about dieting because many people believe that carbohydrates cause weight gain. Popular diets such as Paleo, Atkins, Ketogenic, and South Beach are all designed to decrease your carb load and help you shed pounds quickly.
While reducing the amount of simple carbohydrates (soda, fruit juice, cookies, etc.) in your diet will certainly make an impact, you do not need to cut out carbohydrates altogether in order to see results. In fact, according to Health.com, including certain complex carbohydrates in your diet may actually help you lose weight.
High-carbohydrate foods such as vegetables, beans, potatoes, and whole grains fill you up so you eat less throughout the day, help you control your blood sugar, speed up your metabolism, and reduce cravings.
Misconception #3: You Can Eat Whatever You Want if You Exercise
Most people live under the guise that as long as you exercise regularly, you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Weight loss is contingent upon the ratio of calories consumed versus calories burned, so if your goal is to reduce your body weight, you need to keep track of the number of calories you are eating and those you are working off through exercise.
For example, if you burn 500 calories running on a treadmill, but eat a couple extra slices of pizza, you’re likely breaking even or even falling behind. Find a balance between the number of calories you eat (and the sources of those calories) and the amount of exercise in which you engage.
Aim for a manageable daily goal, such as reducing your food intake by 250 calories and increasing your caloric burn through exercise by 250 calories in order to attain a deficit. This may be as simple as trading your morning mocha for tea and taking the stairs instead of riding the elevator up to your office each day.
Misconception #4: All Calories are Created Equal
When it comes to calories, 100 calories of pasta is the same as 100 calories of tuna, right? Wrong! Your body processes everything you consume in very different ways. According to AuthorityNutrition.com, your body uses much more energy to metabolize protein than fat and carbohydrates, providing a “metabolic advantage” that speeds your metabolism and burns more calories.
Foods that are high in protein are also known to keep you satiated longer so you eat less throughout the day. To ensure that you get the proper amount of protein each day, you can supplement your diet by adding healthy protein shakes. If you decide to go this route, be sure to properly research the best options available as there are many products that contain unnecessary fillers.
Alternatively, foods that are high in simple carbohydrates or fructose cause your blood sugar levels to spike, so you may feel full immediately after consumption, but you are more likely to feel hungry again just a short time later.
The bottom line is that you don’t need to succumb to fad diets or cheap gimmicks in order to lose weight. Instead, maintain a diet that encompasses a healthy balance of whole foods, proteins, and complex carbohydrates, while including regular exercise and plenty of water.
Making these effective lifestyle changes will provide lasting results instead of “quick fixes” that will only leave you frustrated…and hungry!