Maybe you've been struggling to drop the extra pounds you packed on over the holidays. Or perhaps successful weight loss has eluded you for years. Don't lose hope though. You might just be going about things the wrong way.
After all, there are loads of fad diets and myths floating around, and some of them sound downright sensible. If you follow the hype, you'll be jumping from crazy diet plans to weight loss supplements and back again - all without any real results to show for your effort.
Honestly, it can be tough to separate fact from fiction in the world of dieting. In this article, we're going to take some of the mystery out of dieting and weight loss. We'll discuss some of the most prevalent diet myths flying around - and give you some solid facts to blow those fallacies right out of the water.
Myth #1: You should eat "fat burning" foods like celery, cabbage soup and grapefruit.
The Facts: This myth has led to all kinds of crazy diet plans, including the "Master Cleanse", the cabbage soup diet, and the grapefruit diet. Folks have gone all-out, eating little more than cabbage soup or grapefruit (supplemented with a few scraps of lean protein). Ultimately, results are inconsistent and never permanent.
The Verdict: There's no such thing as a "fat burning" food. Certain foods will temporarily boost your metabolism (including celery and grapefruit); however, they don't cause weight loss on their own.
Myth #2: Cut out starches because they make you fat.
The Facts: Most starches are actually low in fat and calories. Bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, cereals, and beans are all low-calorie, low-fat foods. Sure, if you slather your potatoes in cream cheese and your bread with butter or mayonnaise, then of course they're fattening. However, natural and whole-grain starches are an important part of a healthy diet. They provide the fuel your body needs for energy, so cutting them out is a bad idea.
The Verdict: A few servings of starchy foods are an important part of your diet - even when you're trying to lose weight. Just stick to whole grains, potatoes, and beans, and avoid adding fatty toppings or spreads.
Myth #3: High protein/low carb diets are a good way to lose weight
The Facts: Steer clear of any diet plans that suggest cutting out key diet elements. When you eat less than 130 grams of carbohydrates a day, your blood builds up high levels of ketones. This leads to high levels of uric acid, which can ultimately result in gout and kidney stones.
In addition, when you cut out carbs, most of your daily calories end up coming from high-protein foods. Since these diet plans give you free rein to eat red meat, cheese, and other high-fat proteins, you may end up eating way too much fat and cholesterol, which can raise your risk of heart disease.
The Verdict: A high protein/low carb diet may cause temporary weight loss; however, it's just that - temporary. Plan your diet around a healthy balance of foods, including plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Myth #4: Over the counter weight loss supplements are a safe and effective way to lose weight.
The Facts: Since diet supplements aren't technically "medicine", they aren't held to the rigorous standards that other drugs face. We assume that because it's on the shelf at our trusty local pharmacy, it must be safe to use. Unfortunately, many diet pills make it onto the market without ever being tested or approved by the FDA. Occasionally, if a product is seriously defective or dangerous, the FDA will issue a warning; however, for the most part, the industry goes unregulated.
When you read "unregulated" that also means that there is no proof of these supplements being effective. A great sales blurb and persuasive before-and-after pictures may be hiding nothing more than an expensive placebo.
The Verdict: Just because you find it in your local pharmacy, that doesn't mean it's safe or effective. There is simply no pill or powder that can take the place of a healthy diet and exercise program. A supplement might speed the process along; but nearly every diet pill out there carries some kind of unpleasant side effects.
Myth #5: Fad diets are a good way to kick-start my weight loss goals.
The Facts: While you may be aware of the long-term ineffectiveness of fad diets, you may be tempted to kick off your diet with a "grapefruit cleanse" or "cabbage soup fast." After all, these diets generally promise quick and impressive results. And the fact is, many of them might help you lose five or ten pounds in a week.
Such rapid weight loss can actually be dangerous, however, and can increase your risk of gallstones. In addition, eating less than 800 calories a day can cause heart rhythm abnormality, which can be fatal in some cases.
The Verdict: Fad diets - even short-term ones - simply don't provide the nutrition your body needs to sustain itself. Depriving your body of fuel and nutrients will ultimately end up doing more harm than good.
Myth #6: Low-fat or non-fat foods are a great way to eat what I want and still lose weight.
The Facts: Low-fat or non-fat foods might be short on fat, but they are usually high in calories. When fat is removed from a product, something else has to be added to maintain the same flavor and consistency. Often, a low-fat product is loaded down with sugar, flour, or starchy thickeners - and these ingredients pack on calories.
The Verdict: A low-fat product isn't an excuse to go hog-wild - and it certainly isn't going to help you lose any weight. Read product labels for calorie information and stick to small serving sizes.
Myth #7: Skipping meals is a quick and easy way to lose weight.
The Facts: Interestingly enough, studies have shown that people who skip meals - breakfast in particular - tend to be heavier overall. The reason: when you skip one meal, you're ravenous by the next one, and you end up eating more than you should or would otherwise. So rather than slimming down, your waistline only expands.
The Verdict: Don't skip meals. In fact, four to five small, healthy meals a day can be better than three regular meals. Eating regularly helps you to control your appetite and prevents unhealthy snacking.
Myth #8: Dieting isn't necessary if you get lots of exercise.
The Facts: You'll only lose weight when you're burning off a sufficient amount of what you've consumed. You may exercise an hour a day, but if you stuff your gut three times a day with high-fat, high-calorie foods, don't expect to see any progress.
The Verdict: Diet and exercise go hand-in-hand when weight loss is your goal. You can't have one without the other, so eat a healthy, balanced diet, and get regular, vigorous exercise.
Remember: the most important part of weight loss is being consistent in your diet plans. You can't be sporadic about it or you won't see sustained results. However, if you stick to a healthy eating plan and exercise faithfully, you'll see those unwanted pounds begin to melt away, for good.
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