No matter how well you follow your diet or fitness routine, there is usually some cheating and lying involved -- and not just fibs you tell about what you're really eating when no one is looking. Most of us have tried at least one quick fix to drop weight for good -- fasting, or eliminating certain foods and nutrients from our diets -- only to gain the weight back, often packing on even more pounds. Unfortunately, myths about how you can lose weight can sabotage even the healthiest relationship between you and your treadmill.
It's a great rule of thumb to be suspicious of quick and easy weight loss solutions. "The biggest misconception is that doing something in the short term will have long-term results," says Elaine Magee, the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic. While you may want a magic bullet more than anything, fad and gimmicks can actually do more harm than good when it comes to losing and maintaining your weight.
That's why we've enlisted two registered dietitians -- Magee and Elizabeth Pivonka, PhD, RD, president of the Produce for Better Health Foundation -- to come up with a list of lies so you can battle the bulge armed with the truth.
Myth: Snacking Is Always a Bad Idea
The good news is you don't need to starve to lose weight. "The idea that you shouldn't eat between meals is a myth," says Pivonka. When you're stomach starts rumbling, you probably hear a little voice in your head telling you not to ruin your appetite. But having snacks in between meals might actually help you eat less, and stave off the urge to overeat or binge later. In fact, dietitians often recommend that you have five smaller meals a day, instead of eating your calories all in one sitting.
One of the main reasons snacking has a bad rap is because of the choices we make from, say, vending machine that are packed with chips, cookies, candies, and other delectable -- and fattening -- treats. The good news is we're not all chomping on candy bars come 4 p.m. -- a whopping 70% of Americans use snacking as a way to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their diets, according to the Produce for Better Health Foundation.
If you tend to dive into a bag of chips when you're hungry, try having nutritious foods instead --think moderate amounts of fruits, vegetables, and nuts, for example -- and try to eat things you don't normally have during mealtime. Magee, who isn't a big milk drinker, uses snacks as a way to get her daily dose of calcium from low-fat cheese and yogurt.
Myth: No More Fast Food
Maybe the double cheeseburgers, fries, sodas, and apple pies are out, but Magee says you don't have to ditch fast food all together to stay on your diet. "It's part of our culture. I embrace it," she says. "I just lead people to make better choices in that arena."
Pivonka says she didn't recommend fast food in the past, but with better options now you usually can eat healthily and still get your grub to go. "The big problem with fast food is that the sodium content is much higher than ideal," Pivonka tells WebMD. It's a problem that might be hard to avoid, unless you stick to salads. At least try to skip the little salt packets. Here are some other healthy ideas from Magee:
- Get a salad as a starter.
- Choose the grilled chicken over fried, breaded chicken.
- Get soft tacos instead of hard, crispy ones.
- Keep the sauce and dressings on the side or scrape off as much as possible.
Myth: Carbs Are All Bad
Both Pivonka and Magee agree that it's a myth that all carbohydrates are bad. But that doesn't mean there's nothing to learn from low-carb diets. Carbs are not all created equal, and you want to avoid processed carbs that are often high in sugar and white flour. Instead, enjoy beans, whole grains -- think brown rice and whole grain breads -- and don't forget fruits and vegetables, which provide a host of nutrients and fiber, are low in calories, and can help reduce the risks of several diseases, says Pivonka.
The body also uses carbs as fuel during exercise to burn body fat, another great reason to keep the bread basket on the menu.
Myth: Certain Foods Make You Burn Calories
There is conflicting information about whether or not certain foods can increase your metabolic rate, making you burn more calories. While different foods offer different health benefits, people are often left wondering if calories vary from one food to the next.
"A calorie is a calorie, regardless of where it comes from," says Pivonka. There are no foods that increase your metabolic rate, or help you burn calories, she says. Even if certain foods do increase your metabolism, the amount is too insignificant to make it a magic bullet, says Magee.
Instead, Pivonka recommends weight lifting. Why? Because by building muscle you increase the number of calories your body burns when at rest. Magee also recommends that you eat foods with a high water and fiber content because they stay in your system longer, a plus for taking off the pounds.
Myth: If You Eat and Exercise Consistently, You Will Never Gain Weight
You need to be willing to make lifestyle changes and dietary adjustments as you age, change, and grow. The fact is, your metabolism slows down as you age, says Pivonka. As a result, you often have to either eat less or exercise more to avoid gaining weight. Pivonka says the biggest change usually occurs around the age of 40. Your metabolism will continue to slow down more gradually over the years, so always keep your food and exercise plan flexible.
When it comes to diet and exercise, the only thing that you can really be certain of is that there will be new weight loss schemes with every new day. By keeping informed -- and raising your eyebrow when in doubt -- you will be better prepared to navigate the never-ending supply of conflicting weight loss advice.