The world of nutrition is replete with bad tips and advice. This is particularly so when it comes to weight loss. Contradictions are galore, and what was good yesterday could be good today and vice versa. And all kinds of “experts” are everywhere dishing out flawed advice.
Elsewhere, I’ve told the “story” about one TV fitness “expert” who once said, “If you eat fat you will gain fat, period!” Any expert worth their salt will tell you that that advice is flawed.
With that said, here are some diet myths you probably believe:
1. Fat Makes You Fat
Yes, we had to start with this one while it’s still fresh on your mind (and presuming you read through the opening paragraphs). For decades, the traditional food pyramid had fats as the smallest portion you should eat. Fats continue to be demonized to this day.
In fact, fat has been so demonized that the very word now carries an ugly connation. Yet, we need fat to live and for optimal health. Yes, you read that right. Fat is not the enemy by itself. The type of fat is.
Also, studies have shown that low fat diets may not be effective in fighting fat and, in fact, you can eat fat to fight fat. The important thing is to watch the kind of fats you consume, and only get healthy fats. The healthy fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Good fats include fish, seeds, nuts, avocados, and cold-pressed vegetable oils. As a healthy oil, olive oil needs no introduction.
2. Cut Out Carbs
Going back to the same (traditional) food pyramid, carbohydrates were once supposed to be the largest portion of your meals. How things have changed. Now some health “experts” advice cutting out carbohydrates (carbs) to lose fat (see weight loss or fat loss). This is bad advice.
Carbohydrates provide energy and should not be cut out altogether. Like fats, it is the types of carbs you consume that you need to watch.
Avoid refined carbs such as white bread, white rice, and white pasta. Go for whole grain foods such as whole wheat pasta and bread and brown rice. By the way, some white foods are healthy.
3. Eat Less To Lose Weight
Eat less food (aka less calories) and lose weight, right? Not so fast. This is perhaps the most common flawed weight loss advice out there. It seems to make sense, as weight gain is often linked to overeating. However, ask anyone who’s ever been on a diet and they will tell you how hard it is to lose weight on a diet. Why is this so?
What usually happens when you start restricting food intake your body senses starvation. This can cause a drop in the hormone leptin, which in turn may result in increased hunger and decreased metabolic rate. This one of the causes for weight loss plateaus. Moreover, there are other causes of weight gain besides food consumption.
Related to this is the “eat less, move more advice”. This is based on the notion of creating caloric deficit, thus avoiding fat storage as well as burning fat. However, this can cause the body to go into starvation mode, decreasing leptin levels and increasing fat storage.
If weight management was simply a matter of eating more or less, we all would have control over our weight. But as we know, it is not this simple.
4. Avoid Sugar
True, excess added sugar can be a problem. However, advice that you should avoid all types of sugar including fruits and fruit juice is erroneous. Worse, they may also advice you to use certain sugar substitutes (such as aspartame and sucralose) now known to be unhealthy. Diet soft drinks are not healthy substitutes to their regular counterparts.
Sugar is not the problem; the type of sugar is. Fruit and natural fruit juice contains a type of sugar known as fructose that, unlike sucrose from table sugar, does not cause abrupt blood sugar fluctuations. However, some packaged “natural” fruit juices do contain added sugar. The new added sugar labeling regulations it may be helpful in alerting us on this.
All the same limiting added sugar especially table sugar is a good idea. Processed sugar should be avoided. Steer clear of high-fructose corn syrup.
5. Don’t Eat After 8PM
Supposedly, calories consumed later in the night do not get used for energy and just sit in your system to be turned into fat. Well, calories can’t tell time for one. Secondly, our activity times differ (some people like to stay up late or work nights, for example).
As long as you watch the type and amount of food you eat at night, and you don’t go over your recommended caloric intake, you should be fine having something after 8pm.