Dieting Myths

There is absolutely no doubt that a calorie-controlled diet is the best way to lose weight successfully. More than that though, it has the potential to minimize the chances of getting serious diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. With this in mind, many people embark on diet plans of various types but, unfortunately, very often fail to achieve their target.

The same goes for those attempting to improve their wellbeing by eating healthy food. One of the main problems here is the numerous myths and misconceptions spread on the Internet and social media. These lead many people to make bad decisions that can negate their efforts or even make things worse.

Lets take a look at the most common of these misconceptions:

There is no such thing as starvation mode
Starvation mode is when a person cuts back severely on their calorie intake. The body responds by switching into ‘starvation mode’ by lowering its metabolic rate. This enables it to conserve its stores of fat, and so the person finds it difficult to lose weight.

However, a current theory rapidly gaining ground states that this is a fallacy – there is no such thing as starvation mode. Well, be advised that this theory is not correct- starvation mode does exist and there have been numerous studies to prove it.

What we will say is that starvation mode is not quite as drastic as some people would have us believe. It does restrict weight loss to a degree but not by much. In any case, as long as the person persists with their diet, starvation mode or no, they will eventually lose weight.

Don’t weigh yourself too often
This myth states that it is counter-productive to weigh yourself frequently as doing so causes an unhealthy fixation. This is complete rubbish.
Humans simply aren’t designed to live in an environment where high calorie foods are readily available. However, in large parts of the world, particularly the western world, we are rarely far from a food outlet.

To be able to cope with such an environment – one that promotes unnecessary eating, we really have to be conscious about the choices we make. One way of doing this is by weighing ourselves frequently, if not daily – it focusses the mind. Studies have demonstrated quite clearly that people who weigh themselves several times a week weigh less than those who don’t.

It is essential to eat regularly
The thinking behind this claim is that irregular eating causes a person’s blood sugar to drop to possibly dangerous levels.
While this is true to an extent, the fact is that drops in blood sugar levels due to eating less are minor and perfectly safe. More important is the fact that eating less forces the body to burn fat – the whole object of the exercise!

Eat frequent small meals
Supposedly, eating small amounts of food at regular intervals throughout the day, instead of two or three normal size meals, will cause a person’s metabolic rate to rise. As a result, they burn more calories and so lose weight.
This doesn’t work in practice though. Studies have shown that people who eat two meals daily actually lose more weight that those who eat the same number of calories but in smaller, more frequent meals. One reason for this is that the people eating two large meals are more satiated and so simply don’t feel as hungry.

Exercise boosts weight loss
It’s a nice theory and is true to an extent. After all, exercising burns calories and so must result in loss of fat. There are two problems with it though.
The first is that it takes an extreme amount of exercise to lose a significant amount of weight. For example, to lose a pound of fat will require a person to run for some 40 miles or so (this does vary by how much a person is overweight).

Most people overestimate with the result that they actually lose nothing of any significance. The second is that exercise is hard work. And human nature is such that people like to reward themselves for doing hard work – a favorite way of which is to eat something nice. What happens all too often is that the treat contains more calories than was burned doing the exercise. Instead of losing weight, they actually put it on. While exercise does provide many benefits, significant loss of weight is not likely to be one of them unless taken to extremes.

Losing weight slowly is better than losing it rapidly
A lot of experts consider it is better to lose weight slowly. They think that doing so makes it less likely that any weight lost will be regained when the diet comes to an end.
This is indeed true but the trouble is, the weight must first be lost. And it is a proven fact that people who try to lose weight gradually are less likely to succeed than those who do it rapidly. 

The science, if it can be called that, is simple. Most people need to see tangible results when they are doing something they don’t enjoy, If they don’t, they soon give up. Therefore, someone who sheds the pounds rapidly is going to be more motivated, and thus more likely to persist. Having said that, it is also a fact that this same crash dieter is more likely to put the weight back on when he/she stops dieting.

This is because the appeal of food after having been virtually starved of it is much greater. Binge eating is often the result of crash dieting. Basically, then it’s all down to the individual with regard to doing it fast or slowly. If you are the type who can stick to something and not lose heart if you don’t get instant results, then slow is better. If not, fast is better (just try and take it easy when you start eating again).

Low-fat foods are good for you
For a long time now, the mantra has been that people concerned about their weight, or eating for a healthy heart, should eat low-fat foods. As a result, sales of high-fat foods, such as dairy produce have dropped.
To counter this, the manufacturers have removed much of the saturated fat from their products in an attempt to make them seem healthier.

However, they have chosen to replace the saturated fat with hydrogenated oils, otherwise known as trans-fats.  Furthermore, in order to make this supposedly low-fat food palatable (most of a food’s flavor is in the saturated fat), they have also had to add large amounts of sugar. So, containing very unhealthy trans-fats, refined carbs and sugar, as they do, these ‘low in saturated fat’ foods, rather than being good for us, can actually be positively harmful.

Lose weight by eating a large breakfast
This is another very common myth. The theory behind it is that by eating a hearty breakfast, we don’t get hungry or, at any rate, so hungry later on in the day. So we eat less overall and thus lose weight.
However, studies have shown that whether we eat a large breakfast or not makes absolutely no difference to the amount of weight we lose when dieting.

Don’t eat snacks
It all depends on the snack! If it’s chocolate, biscuits, candy, cakes etc, then yes, snacking should be avoided. If, however, the snack is something healthy, low in calories and high in fiber, then snack away.
Doing so will also help to suppress those feelings of hunger thus making it less likely that you will overdo it when you do eat something. Healthy snacks include salad vegetables, fruit and low-fat yoghurt.

Carbohydrates are fattening
It’s calories that count and, gram for gram, unadulterated carbohydrate has less than half the calories of fat and so isn’t particularly fattening. However, the same cannot be said of the carbohydrate-rich foods churned out by the processed food industry.

These are almost always unnaturally high in calories because of the fillings and toppings commonly added to them – such as creamy sauces on pasta, and butter or cheese on bread, baked potatoes, etc. Some carbohydrate foods, especially wholegrain versions, are rich in fiber which help to keep hunger at bay. For example, wholegrain pasta is more filling than white pasta and will keep you satisfied for longer.

Treats are a no-no
Depriving ourselves of all the foods we enjoy rarely works. Human nature being what is is, most of us will eventually give in to temptation. And when we do, we usually eat far more of the treat than we would otherwise have done.

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