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Weight Loss & Diet Plans

10 Diet Rules Meant to be Broken

Some food 'dos and don'ts are best ignored, experts say.
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WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Do these diet truisms ring any bells in your mind?:

  • Don't eat before bedtime or you'll gain weight.
  • Skipping meals will help you take off the pounds.
  • If you want to stay on a diet, eat at the same time every day.

Experts say these are among dozens of silly food 'rules' we often try to follow to the letter.

"Some are half-truths, some are complete myths, and some are clearly more harmful than others, but most of them won't help you lose weight or make dieting any easier," says Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD, author of 10 Habits That Mess Up a Woman's Diet.

Yet many of us persist in believing our weight loss programs won't be successful if we don't "follow the rules."

"In some instances, rules can offer hope, almost like a superstition," says Abby Aronowitz, PhD, author of Your Final Diet. "In other instances, they can offer the promise of control -- certain familiar food rules offer a sense of comfort."

In the end, nutrition experts say, many of the food and dieting rules we hold dear are meant to be broken - without guilt! Three experts gave WebMD the low-down on what they say are some of the silliest food rules around.

10 Food Rules to Ignore

1. Eating at night will pile on the pounds.

"It's the total calories you consume over a 24-hour period -- and more often, over a week -- that is what causes you to gain weight, and when you eat those calories doesn't matter," says New York University senior clinical nutritionist Samantha Heller, RD.

That said, because you may be more tired at night, your resolve may be lower, Heller says. So you may tend to eat larger portions, or more high-calorie foods, than you would during the day. But as long as you keep an eye on calories and portion size, feel free to set your hunger alarm to the time that suits your lifestyle.

2. It's best to eat at the same times every day.

"Eat when you're hungry, not when the clock says it's time to eat," says Somer. While it can help to keep some consistency to mealtimes, Somers says that forcing yourself to eat when you're not hungry -- or forcing yourself to wait when you are -- only makes it harder to stick to your diet. If you must eat at a certain time - say, during a designated lunch hour at your workplace -- cut yourself some slack the rest of the day and eat only when your stomach says it's time.

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