Let’s be honest, we’ve all tried a crash diet now and then to try and shift a few pounds. Not all of them work, some do, though it’s never a long-term change, but why is that? We all know that diets are bad for us, but with no clear explanations for all the misconceptions that surround them it’s no surprise that we keep trying every new fad diet that come out through the media. I’m going to explain some of the myths that surround diets and give you an understanding of the right way to lose weight.
1. Going on a diet is the quickest way to lose weight
In the short term, your will power during a diet will help you shift a few pounds. Whether it’s from a liquid diet, smoothie substitutes or calorie deficit, in the beginning it will work. However, this change is only temporary – it’s not permanent. Christopher Gardner, an assistant professor of nutritional science at Stanford University School of Medicine, said: “A diet won’t work if you think of it as doing a different thing for a while and then you’re going to stop doing it.”
This mentality is what stops us from shifting the weight permanently. We should be aiming to adopt a completely new lifestyle as a whole, not just for the duration we keep up the latest fad diet.
2. Eating small meals will boost your metabolism and you will burn more calories naturally
The majority of foods we eat don’t have any impact on our metabolism. Things like caffeine may slightly and only temporarily increase your metabolism, but even this increase is not enough to have an effect on weight loss. Eating regularly helps keep your metabolism working consistently and this is good for you. It will stop your body from feeling hungry as it won’t be worried about not getting any energy from food. Large gaps in between meals can confuse your body, leading to unwanted cravings and unnecessary calories.
The only thing that’ll help you burn more calories is muscles – so get moving!
3. Too much pasta will make you fat
Ever tried a carb-free diet? I have! I now know better though. Carbohydrates don’t make you fat, it’s the extra calories you consume as a result that do it. Like, for example, the sauces or condiments you add to the dish to make it taste better, not to mention the amount of pasta you’re actually eating. Eating pasta in moderation, like most foods, will not make you fat. Just be aware of portion control and try not to have it every day!
4. Caffeine can help you lose weight
Somewhere along the way came the assumption that drinking caffeine can suppress our appetites when we’re feeling hungry. Theoretically it can, but this isn’t exclusive to caffeinated drinks. Water will do the same thing, and drinking four to seven cups of water a day won’t lead to anxiety, sleeplessness or an increase in heart rate or blood pressure, whereas comsuming the same amount of coffee might.
If you want a hot drink, try green tea – there are countless flavours to choose from and they’re much better for your health too!
5. Milk can help you lose weight
I read once that calcium helps the body break down fat more efficiently, thus leading to more weight loss. This doesn’t have any scientific evidence to back it up. A few studies in 2000 showed that dieters who consumed dairy lost more weight than those who didn’t, but there was no explanation as to why this happened.
6. Don’t eat after 8 p.m.
Ever heard the saying “double calories at night”? Many dieters believe that you burn more calories in the morning and when you eat at night the food sits in your system and then turns to fat. But calories cannot tell time. Mary Flynn, Ph.D., a research dietician at the Miriam Hospital in Providence notes, “Your body digests and uses calories the same way morning, noon, and night.” The misbelief may have come about because you obviously move around more in the morning and throughout the day than in the evenings, so you may have less of an opportunity to burn your intake off. Just be aware what it is you’re actually eating in the evenings and ask yourself if you actually need it.
7. Don’t eat protein and carbs together in the same meal – it’s too much!
This misconception relates to the enzymes the body uses when we digest food. Apparently eating foods that require the same type of enzymes aids digestion and evidently helps with weight loss. Your digestive system can actually handle a variety of food all at once. Christopher Gardner says, “There is no proof that eating protein and carbohydrates separately aids digestion or weight loss.”
So eat up, mix up and just enjoy your food!
8. To lose weight you need to cut down your calorie intake drastically
I’m not going to say drastically cutting calories won’t make you lose weight, because it will. But the damage it does to your body is not worth it. Not to mention that maintaining a calorie deficit of however much for the rest of your life is quite considerably unrealistic. This means the inevitable will happen – you’ll pile back on the pounds when you go back to how you ate before.
It’s not about eating less, it all about eating more of the right things.
9. Diet foods help you diet
We believe labels like “low fat,” “low carb,” “no added sugar,” etc. make losing weight easier. The truth is these labels don’t always equate to low calories and certainly don’t equal nutritious meals or snacks. Recent studies carried out by Robert Lustig have suggested that when the fat is taken out of foods and replaced with artificial sugar replacements that are low in calories this is actually much worse for our health than the stuff removed in the first place.
My advice? Stick to healthy foods that are natural, and that you can trust.
10. Eating fats make you fat
If you’re trying to lose fat, then why eat it, right? Wrong! Fat is not the enemy per se. Fat-rich products like cakes, chocolate bars, sweets, etc. won’t be good for you as a whole, let alone your waistline. Good fats on the other hand are essential for maintaining good cholesterol, keeping your arteries clear and your health in general in check. Fats also help with the absorption of certain vitamins and phytonutrients (compounds in plants that help promote good health).
You just have to be careful which fats you’re eating. But remember: dark chocolate is good for you!
11. Snacking is a bad idea
Not many diets promote snacking. They mostly dictate what we can or can’t eat, the amount of calories we should limit ourselves to and to control portion sizes. What they don’t tell us is how to handle the food we want in between meals, and because of this we think that snacking isn’t good for us and that we shouldn’t do it if we’re trying to lose weight.
In actual fact, snacking in between meals can actually help us eat less and beat off the urge to overeat or binge later. The only thing to be wary of it what it is you’re snacking on. Make it something healthy. Try a fruit salad, nuts or even go adventurous and have an apple or banana with some peanut butter! Just make sure you’re enjoying the food you’re eating.
12. You can eat what you want so long as you exercise
Some of us find it hard to eat the foods that are commonly associated with diets, so we compensate for a bad diet by overexercising.
Unfortunately, you can’t work off a bad diet. You need to be willing to make a lifestyle change. The fact is, your metabolism slows down as you age, and as a result you often have to either eat less or exercise more to avoid gaining weight. There is a common saying that abs are made in the gym but earned in the kitchen, meaning you have to back up your exercise with the right foods.
13. Cholesterol is bad for you
When we hear the word cholesterol, we automatically place a negative stigma on it. But there’s both good and bad cholesterol. That good cholesterol helps to build cells and make vital hormones that are essential for a balanced diet and healthy well-being. And that bad cholesterol is what builds up in your arteries and causes serious health risks.
14. Vegetarians can’t build muscle
People assume vegetarians just eat leaves and salads all the time and they struggle to gain muscle because they don’t eat meat. But meat is not the only source of protein. Cheese, nuts, pulses and grains all contain protein, and when eaten right can deliver the same benefit for gaining muscles as meat does. While protein is an essential part of a balanced diet, too much of it can cause damage to the kidneys. This is because the body can only store a certain amount of it and too much can cause long-term side effects. So as mentioned before, take the “in moderation” approach to food and you’ll be fine!
15. The scale is the only way to measure progress
Many diets focus on getting to that goal weight. They advertise losing seven pounds in four weeks and to have regular weigh ins to track progress. It’s really not the best way though. While it can be an indication of progress, your weight will fluctuate daily, weekly and monthly. This is because when you exercise you will be burning your fat but simultaneously you will be building your muscles. You may believe that muscles weighs more than fat but it is simply less dense, meaning one pound of muscle takes up less space than one pound of fat. So, how can you measure your progress? Simple. Take your own measurements: waist, arms, legs, neck, bust, chest, etc. This will help you have a clearer picture of your progress without getting fixated on a number.
I hope by reading this you’ll look into diet myths in more detail and consciously make the decision to not get caught up in them. The only real way to lose weight and keep it off is to eat healthily, exercise and be good to yourself.