Dieting Truths and Lies

There’s no getting around it: when you’re trying to lose weight, you often find yourself on the receiving end of all kinds of advice, many of it contradictory.

So, what exactly is the best way to get rid of those kilos? Paula Galvao of Eden Life sorts the facts from the fiction:

[highlight]The diet lie: Eating after sunset causes weight gain[/highlight]

The truth: Last time we checked, your food wasn’t wearing a watch. Your pasta doesn’t know if it’s eight at night, or in the morning, and there’s no proof that eating later causes weight gain. That said, research shows that those who eat late at night tend to overeat, probably because serotonin levels are low. What’s more, snacking on certain types of food, like dairy, can give you a better night’s sleep.

[highlight]The diet lie: The less fat you eat, the better[/highlight]

The truth: Cutting down on saturated fats, like butter and full cream dairy, will definitely help in the weight war. But remember that fat is critical for the body’s proper functioning: it is necessary to produce hormones, rebuild cells and give you energy. A balanced diet needs to contain all three nutrients: protein, carbohydrates and, yes, fat.

[highlight]The diet lie: All calories are created equal[/highlight]

The truth: Consider that one gram of fat gives you nine calories of energy, but one gram of protein or carbohydrate gives you only four calories. Not only that, while you store 97% of calories from fat, you store only 75% of calories from starch. Very few protein calories are stored because protein is a complex substance, and most energy is used up during digestion.

[highlight]The diet lie: Eat six small meals a day[/highlight]

The truth: Far from helping you lose weight, this habit can actually lead to weight gain. That’s because you’re setting in motion a cycle of insulin release that actually makes you store excess energy as fat. The latest research shows that if you’re serious about burning fat, two meals a day is optimal.

[highlight]The diet lie: You can eat as much fat-free food as you like[/highlight]

The truth: Many fat-free products have added sugar and starch to make them more palatable, so while they may be low in fat, they’re still calorific. Check the label to see how many calories a product contains before you decide to supersize it.

[highlight]The diet lie: Breakfast is the most important meal if you’re trying to lose weight[/highlight]

The truth: Actually, the jury is still out on this one. Researchers can’t agree if skipping breakfast causes weight loss or gain. One thing that is certain, though, is that you should never force yourself to eat if you don’t feel like it. Listen to your body – it knows what it needs.

[highlight]The diet lie: You’ll lose weight quickly by fasting[/highlight]

The truth: You won’t lose weight if you fast all day, then splurge on a calorie-rich meal at night. In fact, people who fast tend to lose muscle rather than fat.

[highlight]The diet lie: You didn’t put on weight quickly, so don’t expect to lose it quickly[/highlight]

The truth: Research shows that people who need to lose more than 20 kilos tend to become demoralised and abandon their diet plans if progress is slow. They respond to plans that show more immediate results, but it’s important to bear in mind that fad diets should be avoided. A balanced eating plan needs to include all the nutrients your body requires for optimal functioning.

[highlight]The diet lie: Coffee is bad for you[/highlight]

The truth: Actually, drinking between two and four cups of coffee a day can increase your metabolism by 3-6%. So drink up!

[highlight]The diet lie: You’re overweight because you have no willpower[/highlight]

The truth: Your weight has nothing to do with your willpower. Rather, it’s governed by a variety of complex factors, ranging from genetics to medical conditions like hormone, leptin or insulin resistance. Hormones play a role, too, as can biochemical imbalances. Your best chance at weight loss comes from addressing these imbalances – once it’s been corrected, you’ll lose weight easily.

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Author: Pedro van Gaalen