It’s no secret that good health depends on your dieting habits. Whether you want to lose weight or maintain your current weight, what you eat plays a huge role. Your diet choices also affect your long-term health, including the risk factors for chronic diseases. Diet information is certainly prevalent, but it can be difficult to determine fact from fiction. Identifying the most common diet myths can help you break through misinformation so you can more effectively jump on the health bandwagon for good.
Myth 1: You can eat whatever you want as long as you exercise.
Weight loss occurs when you burn more calories than you eat on any given day. At first, some dieters are able to exercise a lot without changing their eating habits. However, this method can only go so far. If you keep eating a lot of calories, you’re bound to hit a weight-loss plateau, even with exercise. A healthy lifestyle is always dependent on both diet and exercise.
Myth 2: You can restrict calories during the week and splurge on the weekends.
It takes 3,500 calories to both gain and lose a pound. If you splurge on the weekends and end up with a surplus of calories for the week, you’re bound to gain weight. The process of losing weight can’t be broken if you want to see results.
Myth 3: Fad (temporary) diets are the best way to lose weight quickly.
Technically, fad diets do cause rapid weight loss because of extreme calorie deprivation. However, this hosts a slew of problems that will inhibit a healthy weight over the long-term. First, the human body cannot adjust that quickly to this type of calorie deprivation, causing the metabolism to enter starvation mode. Then the body begins saving calories instead of burning them, so after a while you will end up gaining weight. Another problem with fad diets is that they don’t provide balanced nutrition, which can lead to fatigue, irritability and illnesses. Even worse: the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) report that consuming less than 800 calories per day puts you at risk for heart disease. Your best bet is to commit to a healthy diet for life, instead of on a temporary basis. Reduce calories so you burn more than you take in, and watch your portion sizes.
Myth 4: Skipping meals can help you lose a few extra pounds.
In theory, skipping a meal means you eat fewer calories. However, the fact is that skipping a meal will leave you satiated, resulting in larger portions at your next meal. Like fad dieting, skipping a meal can also slow your metabolism down to starvation mode, so your body won’t burn calories as efficiently. According to NIDDK, adults who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight.
Myth 5: Healthy diets don’t include fats or sweets.
Balance and moderation are important to healthy eating. According to Medline Plus, you can eat your favorite meals and snacks while dieting, but the key is to still maintain a reduced-calorie intake. This means you might eat one cookie instead of two, yogurt instead of ice cream or olive oil instead of vegetable oil. Depriving yourself of your favorite food items will ultimately increase cravings and lead to diet sabotage. Instead, set a realistic expectation that you will need the occasional treat to satisfy your cravings and don’t feel guilty about having a small portion.
Myth 6: You should cut out all carbs.
Carbohydrates have been unfairly given a bad reputation. This is because of an increased consumption of simple carbs, such as white bread, that is known for leading to weight gain. The fact is, however, that carbs are necessary for energy. Complex carbs from whole wheat and produce provide more fiber and nutrients than simple carbs, which can help you maintain your weight.
Myth 7: Nuts and red meats are too fattening, and should be off-limits.
Nuts and red meat contain valuable nutrients that can aid in weight maintenance. Nuts are good sources of healthy fats and antioxidants like vitamin E. Since they are high in calories, you should limit portions to a small handful per day. Red meat is a smart choice for protein and iron as long as you choose lean cuts. Eliminating these foods from your diet is not proven to increase the rate of weight loss.
Myth 8: Low-fat and fat-free foods have fewer calories.
Consumers have learned a lot of lessons from the low-fat and fat-free diet crazes, including the not so diet-friendly facts within such foods. Fat itself is high in calories, so you may assume that food without fat doesn’t have many calories. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Some of these foods can contain the same—or even more—calories found in their full-fat counterparts. This is most often attributed to added syrups and sugar for flavor. Read labels carefully: you may be better off choosing a full-fat food product in a smaller portion size.
Myth 9: Healthy foods are too expensive.
It’s easy to feel discouraged about being able to afford fresh produce amid reports of rising costs. However, when compared with junk food, healthy food doesn’t cost much more. You can also take affordable short-cuts by choosing frozen produce, or canned versions without salt. Beans, canned tuna and bread are other affordable foods. The key is to plan ahead before you shop. You may even find that planning and cooking from scratch even saves money.
A lot of diet information sounds too good to be true—this is because it usually is. You may want to believe some of these myths, but dieting reality will serve you best towards your short-term and long-term health goals. When in doubt, run your concerns by a doctor.