Today, we live in a society that has become increasingly more aware of our health and quality of life. An overwhelming supply of information is constantly coming out about how to lose weight, how to get fit, how to eat, sleep, breathe—everything in order to help you get healthy! How do you decipher what is true and what is false?
I have compiled a list of the most popular diet myths, deflated and exposed for their inaccurate information. Keep in mind that losing weight and achieving health-related goals requires effort and commitment. The true solution involves lifestyle and behavior changes to typically achieve and maintain weight loss. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advised that anything above a weight loss of one to two pounds per week is difficult to maintain. You can refer to Choosemyplate.gov, which provides tools to help you plan and track your diet and physical activity. Some of these myths may surprise you:
- Never eat before you go to bed. You have heard this piece of advice for years, but seriously, to restrain from eating when the clock turns a particular hour is bogus, depending on your personal circumstances. Eating late at night—or at any particular time of day—will not cause you to put on more weight, depending on whether that is normal for you and the amount of activity you engage in. Weight gain occurs when you consume more calories than you expend, whether that happens in the middle of the day, the morning, or at night. However, in reality, people who eat a lot of food late at night tend to consume more calorie-dense foods and, therefore, eat more calories—which can cause weight gain. If you missed dinner or you are still hungry, and it’s after 8 p.m., EAT, but choose something nutritious. Healthy options are a low-calorie whey protein drink or two boiled eggs, raw vegetables, and ¼ cup of hummus. Another suggestion by Blythe Peters, R.D.N.L.D.N., is a high-fiber, low-sugar cereal, like Shredded Wheat, plus a cup of low-fat milk.
- Eating fat will MAKE you FAT. Eating fat will not contribute to weight gain unless you eat an excess number of servings of high-fat foods for your activity level. Remember that fats are calorically dense, so you want to choose healthier fats. Paired with a healthy diet, the good fats provide a benefit to your overall eating in order to lose weight. Skip the trans fats and select the mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Examples of monounsaturated fats are avocados and olive oil. For polyunsaturated fats, like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, try salmon and flaxseeds.
- Eating carbs can MAKE you FAT. Carbs are not the enemy. It is the quality and quantity of carbohydrates that can add extra pounds. Carbohydrates are essential for a normal healthy diet because they provide fuel for your body and your brain. As far as weight loss goes, the proportion of macronutrients—carbs, fat, and protein—consumed is not as important as the total caloric intake versus caloric expenditure. However, foods rich in fiber and protein tend to be the most filling, which means, in theory, that eating more of these foods would lead to a reduced intake of food and calories. On the other hand, choosing high-fat foods and low-fiber carbohydrates can lead to a cycle of continued eating. So, if you cut out the processed carbs and eat mostly fresh fruits and vegetables with some healthy proteins, you’ll likely lose weight. You can choose to add a variety of grains to your diet. Whole grains such as amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, and brown rice are great sources of fiber, B vitamins, and iron. And since these foods are so high in fiber, they keep you full for longer periods of time, which helps prevent overeating. Whether you eat whole grains or other carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables, these options are undoubtedly healthier than processed carbohydrates.
- You can eat WHATEVER you want as long as you EXERCISE. You train HARD almost every day, in the gym or running outside, so it shouldn’t matter what you put in your mouth, right? Wrong. The truth is exercise does not eliminate the effects of a consistently poor diet. When it comes to weight loss, decreasing calories and maintaining a healthy diet actually matter more than exercise. You should monitor the number of calories you consume and NOT outnumber the calories you expend for the week. Fitness apps and/or fitness trackers can help you stay within your goals.
- All calories are EQUAL. Sure, realistically, all calories have the same amount of energy. One dietary calorie contains 4,184 joules of energy. In that respect, a calorie is a calorie. However, the quality of calories found in nutritionally dense foods, like a chicken breast, fruits, and vegetables, do not match up with the calories found in a potato chip bag. Peters, a dietitian for over 20 years, noted that the calories in the potato chip bag may equal one chicken breast, but it is not giving you the same nutrients. She said, “You’re getting a lot of fat and salt without nutrients in a potato chip bag.”
- More protein is always BETTER. The amount of protein you need to keep your body functioning properly depends on certain factors: age, size, gender, and activity level. According to the USDA, the average person requires about 0.8 grams of protein per every kilogram of body weight. For example, a 130-pound person (60 kg) would only need 48 grams of protein per day. However, if you’re an endurance athlete, you will need 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight in order to maintain muscle mass and performance. Or, if you’re a weightlifter and your goal is to preserve and add muscle mass, then you will need two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For a 130-pound person, that means 120 grams of protein per day. So, if you break it down, the body can only use about 25 to 30 grams of protein at one time for muscle growth and repair. Inevitably, the extra protein that your body doesn’t utilize for its primary purpose basically gets broken down like a carb and can be either used for energy or stored as fat. Therefore, more protein doesn’t automatically equal more muscle.
- Don’t eat before a workout to burn more fat. Should you eat before a workout? This question raises debate, but it has been recently tested in the British Journal of Nutrition (August 2013). In this study, 12 active, healthy males were followed to compare total energy expenditure and amounts of fat and carbohydrate burned before, during, and after exercise. The results demonstrated that fasting before exercise gave a 15 percent greater rate of fat-burning during exercise compared to eating breakfast. However, eating breakfast led to a 20 percent greater total exercise energy expenditure compared to fasting. Conclusively, energy and fat-burning were greater with breakfast consumption.
- Grapefruit will speed up your metabolism. We’ve all heard of the grapefruit diet, which can be touted as the “secret ingredient” for quick weight loss. However, in a recent comparative study, found in the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition (February 2017), there was no significant change in body weight utilizing grapefruit vs. placebo. Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet to weight loss. The only way to speed up your metabolism beyond dispute is to exercise and build muscle.
- Rapid weight loss can be maintained. There are many diets that promise rapid weight loss, even 10 to 20 pounds in a week. This amount of weight loss is possible on extremely restrictive diets, but it can’t be maintained. The primary reason for such rapid weight loss on these types of diets is due to the reduction of water and lean tissue. So, when you get off this extreme diet and go back to eating normally, you’ll gain the weight back, with the risk of an additional 10 pounds. The most successful approach to weight loss and weight-loss maintenance is to make permanent lifestyle changes that include a healthful eating plan and ample physical activity.
- Picking the diet trend of the moment is your answer to quick and sustained weight loss. “Following trendy diet plans can cause cyclical weight fluctuations,” said Peters. “The anecdote is a healthy lifestyle, choosing nutritionally dense foods over foods with little nutritional value. Carefully choose your foods when you eat out. Also, limit your alcohol intake.”
Another important component for weight loss: Get moving! Increase your physical activity with an exercise program or do simple things like take the stairs, park farther from your destination, or walk to do your errands—all of which will increase your caloric expenditure. Additionally, Peters suggested getting up and moving during commercial breaks when watching television because even little things like that can add up. Next, surround yourself with support. Encouragement from friends and family is essential when you find yourself unmotivated. The best weight loss plan begins with you. As Venus Williams once said, “You have to believe in yourself when no one else does—that makes you a winner right there.”
Celeste Turner is a writer, blogger, and fitness guru who was born and raised in New Orleans. Please email comments, suggestions, or ideas for articles to ([email protected]) or check out her website at celestefit.com.