With so much weight-loss information out there, it’s hard to make sense of it all and distinguish fact from fiction. Here are a few common myths explained and clarified!
To loose weight I need to…
1. Cut the fat in my diet
Fat is essential to every diet and should consist of 15 to 30% of one’s daily calorie intake. This being said, it is important to give your body the best fats (unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated; including omega 3 and 6), limit the saturated fats (animal fat from meat and dairy) and avoid the trans-fats (in many baked pre-packaged goods). Fats are important for many functions in the human body, as every cell membrane in our body consist of them. They play an essential role in many bodily functions as well as being essential for absorbing lipid-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K). The Mediterranean diet, world renowned for its health properties and healthy weight virtues is a perfect example of this. Fat consists of 25-35% of calorie intake, only 8% being saturated (dairy and meat), the rest coming from olive oil and other plant based sources.
2. Cut the carbohydrates
My defense of carbohydrates is continual! Why are they essential? Carbohydrates serve crucial functions in the human body. Among other things, they are your body’s principal source of energy and the only source of energy for many important cells such as neurones and red blood cells. This being said, an over consumption of carbohydrates transforms itself into fat, which is why, on average, an adult’s plate should consist of only 20% whole grains and or starchy vegetables, the rest being vegetables, fruits, protein and fat.
Most important of all is the type of carbohydrates you choose. The reasons this food group has a bad reputation is that chosen incorrectly they wreak havoc on your blood sugar and cause you to crave more food rather than fill you up and provide you with the nutrients and long-lasting energy you need.
Which ones are best? Choose complex carbohydrates like whole grains instead of ‘white’ or refined carbohydrates (white rice, white bread, white pasta… ).
3. Replace sugar with artificial sweeteners
You’ve heard that sugar makes you gain weight therefore you make sure to drink diet coke rather than the original, put sweetener in your coffee and feast on sugar-free cookies.
On top of the fact that there is not much research on the safety of artificial sweeteners, the consumption of aspartame and saccharine, like sugar, is very addictive, and they wreak havoc on our blood sugar, causing drops in energy that make us crave more food as a result. Ironically enough, diet drinks have also been linked to obesity and overeating.
There is a lot of research that links diet drinks to weight gain. The theory is that because the sugar-free drink contains no calories, its sweet taste sends a signal to the brain to expect food and calories, and because these are not arriving, the body starts craving food and more calories. Another explanation is that consuming high amounts of sugary substances dulls your taste buds and as a result, makes you crave more high calorie foods.
The ultimate solution to free yourself of this vicious cycle and loose weight, is to wean yourself off of sugar and sugar substitutes slowly. You can start the weaning process with Stevia, a safe and natural, no-calorie sweetener.
4. Eat less
Myth and reality
Reality: Portion control and snack control are two of the keys to maintaining a healthy body weight. The easiest way to control your portions this is to see your daily food consumption as a pie chart! On average, 60% of your plate should consist of vegetables and fruits; 20% from carbohydrates; and 20% from protein. This can be modified depending on your age, the season, your activity level and other factors.
Not making it to your next meal without a snack? Put an end to this snacking by:
- Increasing your consumption of satiable foods and decrease your refined carb consumption (white carbs). Satiable foods include those rich in fiber and healthy fats. Refined carbohydrates, including sweets will give you a quick burst of energy and then leave you tired and feeling hungry.
- Train your body not to eat outside of meals and put yourself on a fixed meal schedule. Notice that when you are jetlagged you are hungry at the times when you normally eat at home. This is because the body remembers that you usually eat at certain times at which point it prepares itself to digest. Getting yourself on a 3 meal a day with no snacks schedule should take about the same amount of time as getting over jetlag: a few days to a week. Most adults have a relatively sedentary lifestyle that does not require snacks if they’ve had decent satiable meals.
The myth part is that one should not starve him or herself. Consuming three meals per day and having only fruits or vegetables as occasional snacks, helps to avoid the feeling of being ravishingly hungry and making unsound food decisions while in a hypo-glycemic state. Meal skipping also slows your metabolism meaning that your body burns less energy throughout the day. Meal skipping also provides you with less energy to go for that jog or power walk which will burn calories and also increase your metabolism!
5. Do not eat 2 hours before going to bed or after 8 pm
I am not big on rules, especially when they are aimed at everyone but let’s see why this can partially hold true.
Our bodies have an energy stock to keep us going between meals called glycogen stock; it releases energy for 6-8 hours after your meal. Fasting for 12 hours between dinner and breakfast is an important weight loss tool for the simple reason that after the body has depleted its stock of glycogen it starts burning your stock of fat. If you are snacking in the evening, the body’s glycogen stock is replenished and you are not giving a chance for your body to burn fat.
My revised version of this weight loss ‘rule’ which is also important for your health is to: fast for 12 hours between dinner and breakFAST.
6. Eat low calorie foods
Diet foods may cause overeating. Professor David Pierce explains that foods with low calorie content disrupt the body’s ability to use taste to regulate caloric intake. (1)
In addition, diet foods contain more artificial flavors and products in order for the food’s taste not to be compromised. Why is this bad? The health consequences of regular consumption of these products are uncertain and little long-term research has been done.
7. Drink a lot of water
Myth and reality
It is commonly recommended that people trying to loose weight increase their water consumption. This is mostly because thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Also, while you are drinking water you are not drinking calorie containing drinks such as juices, soft drinks, alcohol, etc. Water also helps your body eliminate toxins which are more present in your circulation when you start eating healthier. Removing these toxins contributes to your health. In terms of losing weight though, water does not contain any magical component which will help you achieve this.
1. Smucker, Celeste M. ‘Evidence shows diet soda is not a healthy weight loss product.’ February 26, 2012 http://www.naturalnews.com/035070_diet_soda_weight_loss_aspartame.html#ixzz2CN7Qc2WS