10 diet myths

scaleAs diet interest gears up, it’s time to finally give up on those Diet Myths that have ruined all your past efforts:

Myth #1: You must cook all your food from scratch or you can’t possibly be on a diet.

This is one of the most defeatist ideas in weight control.  You get the latest fad diet book, plumped up with dozens (or hundreds!) of recipes.  The book has convinced you that you must cook these complicated fussy dishes in order to stick to the diet.  If you don’t, you’re a failure.  And it’s your fault, not the fault of the silly diet.  Never mind that you don’t have time or energy to cook all this stuff and clean up the kitchen all day long, not to mention you may not have the necessary cooking skills or equipment.

If you aren’t going to cook, what do you do?  Use plenty of healthy and easy prepared and convenience foods.  Even restaurants can help.  In addition to convenience, healthy or lower calorie menu items have built in portion control.  No leftovers to pick at.

Myth #2: You must follow a “diet”.

Fad diets sure look tempting, with their loud promises of quick success.  If they’re so effective and miraculous, why are so many people obese?  The best plan is to reduce your portions, emphasizing filling, high water content foods like vegetables, fresh fruit and cooked grains, with modest portions of high protein foods.

Myth #3: You don’t need to exercise to lose weight.

Exercise helps maintain muscle mass, improves mood, makes you feel better and improves numerous health risk factors even without losing weight.  Plus exercise burns off more calories.  So why would you not exercise?

Myth #4: You need to gorge on high protein foods.

High protein foods at meals — meats, eggs, dairy foods, tofu and fish — can help curb your appetite so you eat less food overall, cutting calories.  Certainly you should include moderate portions of foods like this, but there is nothing magical about gorging on giant portions of meat.  In fact, quite the opposite.  If your plate is covered with meat, there’s no room for filling and nutritious vegetables or fresh fruit or whole grains.  There’s another problem with this idea: meat is an environmentally expensive food.  Very expensive.  Gorging on huge portions of meat is irresponsible.

Myth #5: You should eat low fat.

This myth persists, and is a great marketing tool for food companies in the business of selling low fat versions of food products.  Unfortunately, history is not on the side of low fat.  In the decades since fat was demonized, we’ve gotten more and more obese.  Healthy fats in foods help with satisfaction, making it easier to stick to smaller portions.  The actual diet evidence shows that people put on low fat diets end up cheating or abandoning the diet altogether.

Myth #6: Diet supplements help you lose weight.

If that were true why is there an obesity epidemic?   There is no miracle over-the-counter diet supplement component known to have any significant effect on appetite, calorie burning, fat burning or anything else related to weight control.   Prescription diet drugs can help some people with appetite control and weight loss, but not everyone benefits, and the weight loss benefits are very modest.

Myth #7:  Weight loss diets have to include artificially sweetened or low fat processed food products.

These types of foods may seem like a dieters dream: eat as much as you want.  But they aren’t satisfying and many have no nutritional benefits.  Much better to eat small portions of real, whole foods.

Myth #8: Calorie counting is necessary.

This is a partial myth.  If you like calorie counting and feel it helps you stay on track, that’s great.  But if you resent the whole idea, don’t bother.  It will just stress you out.  Portion control isn’t rocket science — just cut back on how much food you take.

Myth #9: Daily weighing is necessary.

Again, this is a partial myth.  Some people find that daily, or weekly, weighing is motivational.  It helps them stay on task about weight control and hopefully gives them a feeling of success.  But other people anguish about every minor fluctuation in weight and feel defeated if the number goes up without explanation.  And for some people, constant weighing reinforces an eating disorder.  If you feel that the number on the scale makes or breaks your day, it may be time to back off on weighing.

Myth #10: Once you lose weight, you are “cured” of obesity.

Not. A. Chance.  There is no cure.  There is lifelong management with a moderate diet, based on portion control and an active lifestyle.  Losing weight quickly on a fad diet and then returning to your old poor food habits is guaranteed to put the weight back on.  Fad diets teach you nothing whatsoever about lifelong healthy eating.  They just train you to expect unrealistic miracles.  When you regain all the weight after a fad diet, you blame yourself.  In fact, you should blame the fad diet, which led you on with false promises and taught you nothing about healthy eating.

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