Wednesday, October 24, 2012
WEIGHT LOSS MYTHS & FALLACIESI am a big fan of the American TV show Fashion Police, so my ears pricked up when I heard that Kelly Osborne, who is a co-host on the show, was appearing on the morning programme Daybreak.
I presumed she was going to be talking about fashion, but quickly realized she was actually promoting a competition for Daybreak viewers to win the opportunity to follow her new diet -The Hollywood Diet - under the guidance of her team of weight loss professionals. Initially I sighed, muttering under my breath “great, another faddy diet”, but I am yet to find out what The Hollywood Diet actually entails, so I will reserve judgement until I know.
Anyway, I’m very much looking forward to hearing more about the principles behind this Hollywood Diet, and I’m hoping it is not based on any faddy dieting myths and fallacies. Given Kelly has done so well on her weight loss journey, I have every confidence she will deliver a sound weight loss programme.
In the meantime, following on from this, I thought I would take the opportunity to discuss with you some common weight loss/dieting myths. During my time as a nutritionist, I have come across a number of myths and fallacies that people believe to be true. The implication of this is that you then focus too much on believing and practicing behaviours that are simply not scientifically/medically correct, and you end up sabotaging your weight loss efforts.
Below are 8 of the most common weight loss/dieting myths that I have come across over the years. Beware of them!
I’m overweight/obese because I have a slow metabolism
A lot of people take comfort and indeed get complacent with their weight on the belief that they are overweight because they have a slow metabolism, and therefore there is nothing they can do to lose weight. Well the facts are quite the contrary. Your metabolism or your metabolic rate is essentially the amount of calories you expend or ‘burn’ each day. I often use the analogy of a car to explain this. The same way that a larger car would burn more fuel whether stationary with the engine ticking over or during movement is the same way that a heavier person would burn more calories whether sitting down and resting or during movement or exercise. A heavier person just like a larger car needs more energy to fuel the heavier mass. Therefore overweight or obese people actually have a higher metabolism than ‘normal’ weight people not lower.
Carbohydrates are fattening, so I don’t eat things like bread, pasta or rice
High protein, low carbohydrate diets have been the rage for a while now. Many people who are trying to lose weight stay clear of carbohydrates in fear that they are going to put weight on. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie! So regardless of the food source or food group, if you take in more calories than your body requires, you will put on weight.
Some people do lose weight when they eliminate carbohydrates from the diet, but given that typically 50% of our intake is made up of carbohydrates, it stands to reason that you will lose weight, but this is not because of the carbohydrate itself, but more because of the reduction in your daily calorie intake. It is worth pointing out to all the high protein/low carbohydrate diet fans that gram for gram carbohydrates contain the same amount of calories as protein. Given that carbohydrates provide us with a good and essential source of nutrients (that we cannot always get from protein!) it would be better to moderate the portions of carbohydrates rather than cut them out altogether.
Eating late at night causes me to put on weight
In terms of weight loss it does not matter what time of day you eat your meals, what matters is the amount of calories you consume over the course of the day; if you consume more calories than your body requires you will put on weight. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie regardless of what the food is and when it is eaten. Of course if you eat a lot of extra calories at night (or during the day) you will be at an increased risk of putting on weight. Do our bodies really recognise what time of day it is to say ‘ it’s late I am going to store more fat’? Eating late at night will probably just make you have more of an uncomfortable nights sleep.
The recommended 1.5 -2 litres per day should be made up of water only
In temperate climates like here in the UK, it is suggested that most of us need 1.5 – 2 litres of fluid (six to eight glasses) to prevent us getting dehydrated. However, this fluid does not just have to be water, it can include milk, squashes, fruit juice, teas and coffee, and even alcoholic drinks can contribute to your recommended fluid intake! In terms of preventing dehydration it is the volume of fluid that is important, not the type of fluid. You just need to be careful how much you drink when it comes to high sugar/calorie beverages like soft drinks (coke), fruit juice, smoothies and of course alcohol.
Healthy fats like sunflower oil and olive oil contain less calories than butter or lard
Whether a fat is a ‘good’ fat or a ‘bad’ fat, gram for gram they still have roughly the same amount of calories, so sunflower oil and olive oil are just as fattening as butter. The general recommendation therefore is that for heart health you should aim to go for the healthier fats like sunflower spreads/oils and olive oil, and reduce the intake of saturated fats, but overall for weight management, you should use ALL fats sparingly and consume them in moderation.
Drinking ice cold water speeds up your metabolism
This concept is related to the idea that if you drink extremely cold water, your body has to burn calories warming it up. This may be technically correct, but the amount is so tiny and insignificant that you cannot put any reliance on drinking icy cold water to help you lose weight. So the advice would be if you like ice-cold water then drink it, if you don’t, then don’t!
Low fat/reduced fat foods are virtually calorie free
We should first distinguish here between low fat and reduced fat. Low fat indicates that the food contains less than 3g fat per 100g/100ml. If a food is labelled as reduced fat, it means that the food must contain 30% less fat than that of a similar standard product, but this does not mean the product is low fat! For instance if a product is already very high in fat, a 30% reduction will still leave a high fat content. In addition, foods labelled low fat/reduced fat are not necessarily low in calories as the fat can often be replaced with other ingredients like sugar to improve the taste and texture.
There are some foods like grapefruit and cabbage that can help to burn fat and boost your metabolism
I believe this myth has been born from typical fad diets like the Grapefruit Diet and the Cabbage Soup diet, which has undoubtedly helped lots of people to lose weight. To put simply, no food significantly increases your metabolism to burn fat. The weight loss effect experienced by these dieters would have been down to the overall reduced calorie intake not the effects of the grapefruit or cabbage itself. A low calorie diet of any kind would have had the same effect as the Grapefruit and Cabbage Soup diet.
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