Bridget Kelly and the Nutrition Team
If your nutrition and weight-loss education comes mostly by way of fad diet books and magazine articles, theres probably at least a smidgeon of misinformation guiding your choices. Since dieting and weight loss are surrounded with old wives tales and even outright falsehoods, weve decided to clear up some of the confusion. Unlearn these 10 lessons and youll be on your way to making wiser dietary decisions:
1. Hot and spicy speeds up fat burning.
The rumour going around about hot foods, like chillies, is that they raise your metabolism, helping you burn fat faster. But most researchers think the difference is too miniscule to matter, so if you dont enjoy the spice, dont bother. One idea behind chilli that may ring true: When food is more tasty, it tends to be more satisfying, which means youll feel satiated and stop eating sooner. If thats true for you, go ahead and pile on those peppers.
2. Your metabolism is slower at night
Contrary to popular belief, your metabolism doesnt slow down after a certain time. This legend probably stems from the fact that many of us eat a larger proportion of calories in the evening, for example, snacking in front of the TV. If thats you, making a general rule about not eating after a certain time may be effective. Just be clear about one thing: the bag of crisps you eat at 3 pm will do the same amount of damage as the one you have at 9 pm. Its the calories, not the time of day, that matters.
3. Grapefruit has negative calories
If youve tried many of the fad diets that have been around for decades, youre likely to have run across phrases like "fat-burning foods" or "negative-calorie foods", the idea being that you burn more calories to digest them than they actually provide. But the fact is, there is no such thing as a negative calorie food. While some fruits and vegetables are extremely low in calories, none actually burn fat. Eat them to fill up on fewer calories, but make no mistake: they will not "reverse" the calories from the chocolate cake you eat in the same day.
4. Carbohydrates cause weight gain
This is perhaps the most common diet misconception out there, thanks to several high-protein fad diets on the market. But talk to just about any nutritionist, and he or she will tell you carbohydrates are your bodys first source of fuel. The key is the type of carbs you eat. In other words, replace sugary foods (simple carbs) like biscuits and sweets with complex carbs, such as fruits, vegetables and whole-grain breads and cereals. Theres no reason to ban this very important food group from your healthy diet.
5. Cold water burns calories.
A popular diet myth of recent years is that drinking iced water speeds weight loss because the body has to raise its own temperature to warm the water up, thereby promoting burning. There is no evidence to show that this actually works. However, drinking plenty of water, no matter how cold it is, will keep your metabolism on track.
6. You have to suffer to lose weight
If you think its not a diet unless youre hungry or eating bland, boring food, think again. It is possible to enjoy your food and lose weight. Its just a matter of picking a plan that focuses on balance and portion sizes, rather than the elimination of everything you enjoy.
7. Fat free = calorie free
That "low fat" label is by no means a license to eat all you want. Many low fat products are loaded with extra sugar to make up for the missing fat, which means they can be just as high in calories as their full fat counterparts. The bottom line is that keeping portion sizes in perspective is essential, even when there is no fat involved.
8. Its best not to eat between meals
The no-snacking approach may seem like a good idea, but while it may keep you from eating a lot of extra calories early in the day, it can leave you feeling so hungry that you end up overeating later. On the other hand, eating smaller, more frequent meals and snacks can actually be a good strategy for keeping your appetite in check, your blood sugar stable and your portion sizes down.
9. If you stick to a diet, you dont have to exercise
Its a popular way to justify the couch potato lifestyle, but while dieting alone may help you lose the weight, if you want to keep it off, exercise is essential. In fact, its the one thing successful weight losers have in common. Aim for at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise five to six times per week, with weight training for each major muscle group at least twice a week and youll be well on your way to reaching and maintaining your goal.
10. Cabbage soup is a diet miracle
There are no special fat-burning powers in this concoction. It works because its low in calories and doesnt taste good enough to tempt you to eat extra servings. The problem with a fad diet like this is that you end up getting so sick of that one food, you have to go off the diet, then you go back to your old eating habits and regain the weight. The simple truth is that if an eating plan isnt satisfying enough to stay with long-term, its ultimately going to fail.
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