Weight Loss, Dieting & Obesity
© Copyright 2004 - 2011 , Trevor Johnson.
Common Diet Myths and Dietary Myths.
There is no shortage of 'old wive's tales' regarding diets. What may have come to seem like common sense through repetition over the generations, or through product marketing, are commonly nothing but diet myths. Some of these well intentioned diet myths can, in fact be very harmful not only to your weight loss goals, but more importantly to your overall health. Some of these diet myths are addressed below:
Low Fat = Low Calorie
False. "Low Fat" is a popular marketing phrase, but most prepared food products that are low fat maintain their taste by using higher sugar or similar refined carbohydrate content. This issue is probably the largest and most pervasive of all the diet myths.
Fat Free = Healthy
Generally false. The human body requires some fats in the diet. Thyroid hormones, for example, require certain dietary fats. If your thyroid malfunctions due to lack of appropriate fats, you are guaranteed to gain weight. Furthermore, in most processed & packaged foods, "fat free" usually means high in sugars.
Low Calorie Sodas (Soft Drinks) are good for dieters
False. This issue is in fact probably the most dangerous of all the diet myths. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame may, of themselves, be low calorie, but also act as appetite stimulants. Furthermore, they are known to be toxic to the human body and ongoing ingestion can lead to central nervous system poisoning, and potentially increased risk of Parkinsons Disease and other conditions.
Fruit Juice is better for dieters than Soda
Largely false. Fruit juice (pure) certainly has a higher nutritional value with vitamins and mineral content than soda drinks. However, fruit juices, even pure, are high in a sugar called fructose. They are very similar calorie-wise to sodas. A glass of orange juice is equivalent to about four to five oranges - and that's alot of sugar. You are better to eat a single orange (or other piece of fruit) for the vitamin, mineral, fiber and other nutrient content, and drink more water instead.
If I skip one meal a day, it'll reduce my calorie intake and I'll lose weight
False. Although this may work in a minor way only in the very short term, it fails altogether when followed for more than just a few days. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, your body's metabolism is self-regulating and if you are not ingesting "fuel" when the body wants it your metabolism automatically slows down to protect it's energy reserves. Secondly, most people who skip meals tend to sub-consciously compensate by eating more when they do eat their fewer meals. The real answer is to eat less food, more often.
I need to lose alot of weight quick. I'll go on a 'fast weight loss' crash diet for a couple of weeks.
Bad idea. In over 95% of cases, people who lose weight quickly regain all of it and more soon afterwards. These quick-fix 'rapid weight loss' diet fads miss the whole point of weight loss - the rapid weight loss is mostly from muscle wastage and water loss. It is not weight that you want to lose - it is body fat that you want to lose, and that cannot happen quickly. Remember that muscle tissue burns calories, so if your fad quick-fix rapid weight loss diet dehydrates you and wastes away muscle tissue, your metabolism will slow down and you will gain weight rapidly after you return to your normal eating pattern.
Exercise makes me hungrier and I gain weight when on an exercise program.
False. Exercise is actually an effective appetite suppressant. It will, however, make you thirsty because you will perspire, urinate and respirate fluid from your body. That is why you need to drink water before, during and after exercise. If you make the mistake of eating instead of drinking in order to rehydrate, or if you drink so-called "sports drinks" or "energy drinks", then of course you will negate the effect of your exercise. Exercise also oxygenates your blood supply and body cells, which helps to boost metabolism and burn body fat for several hours after you have finished exercising.
Dieting doesn't work, so why bother?
Partly false. Many diets don't work and most people who find a diet that does work do regain the lost weight and then more. Except in the case of short term diet programs and certain fad diets (such as high carbohydrate "bread diets" or "fruit diets") which stimulate your pancreas to produce more insulin and store as much energy in the form of body fat as possible, most diets will work in the long term. It is also fair to say, though, that even many of these "successful" diets are not necessarily "healthy" diets. The main reason why even sensible, healthy diets do not work in the longer term is that most dieters, after losing their desired weight (or even before) return to their former poor eating, exercise and lifestyle habits. Weight loss needs to be viewed as a life-long commitment to your overall health. In fact, it is wise not to even think of weight loss as the ultimate goal of dieting. You should diet for health and adjust your overall lifestyle to match. Weight loss will become a benefit of a commitment to health, rather than the central focus of attention.
If you stick to the "Food Pyramid", you'll lose weight in a healthy way.
False. The "food pyramid" is based on outdated knowledge that has largely been found wanting. For example, the "pyramid" shows that the largest part of our diet should be breads, pasta, rice and other starchy foods, followed by fruits (heavy in sugars), then vegetables, meats & protein foods, and least of all oils and fats. Modern nutrition science, although not universally accepted, is increasing coming to the view that this is a most unhealthy misbalance of the food groups. Some say it is almost upside down. Tellingly, the promotion of the "food pyramid" by nutritionists and government health agencies over the past 30 or so years has co-incided with the escalation of obesity in the developed world. Current scientific thinking is coming to the view that low-chain carbohydrates (sugars and starches) are in fact responsible for obesity and Type-2 Diabetes, as they stimulate the production of insulin by the pancreas. Elevated insulin levels cause the body to store fat rather than burn it, and leads to insulin resistance, meaning that fat cells cannot release fat back into the bloodstream efficiently when needed. It is for this reason that most modern diets place a greater emphasis on proteins, recognise that fats have vital biological functions in hormone creation, and urge the reduction or elimination of starches and sugars from the diet. (Some day, that 30 year old "food pyramid" is sure to be revised in the light of more recent scientific understanding. Until then, avoid the counterproductive food pyramid myths.)
Being overweight is dangerously unhealthy
Not always true. Certainly, it is better to be of normal body weight and in good health, but there are plenty of people with normal body weight and poor health. If obesity or being overweight afflicts you, practicing healthy dietary, exercise and lifestyle patterns will leave you far better equipped health-wise even though remaining overweight than a low or normal body weight person who has poor dietary and lifestyle habits. Always remember that health is more important than weight. If you concentrate on your health, eventually your weight should fall into line too.
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