Five Damaging Diet Myths (And What To Do Instead)

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Guest Blog Post By Sylvia Best
Five damaging diet myths are commonly believed, but they are just that: myths. Believing them will hurt your nutrition progress and leave you more frustrated than ever.

The myth-busting advice that follows is what you need to know so that you make your health and fitness journey the success you deserve.

 
Your next step should be downloading my free eBook 8 Secrets to Finding Time For Fitness. It will help you lose weight and add muscle, once and for all.



It all begins with Shari’s story.  She had started reading food labels and flat out refused to buy anything with sugar. No more snacks, no more desserts.

But here’s the thing. Shari still wasn’t losing weight!

It turns out Shari was still eating tons of natural sugar in fruit. So her calories or sugar consumption didn’t go down. Neither did her weight.

Myth #1: There Are Different Kinds of Sugar

The sugar in fruit is NOT different from the sugar in store-bought sweets and cakes. The chemical/ molecular structure is just the same.

What you do get with fruit is the addition of fibre, vitamin C and some antioxidants too. So fruit is healthier than cake.

But don’t waste time painstakingly avoiding added cane sugar in every form, only to gulp an orange juice with a few rice cakes and banana. Your body will process it in the exact same way. A large insulin spike will be  followed by an equally large drop. The fructose will go to the (usually) overburdened liver to be broken down and then stored. The glucose will be used as energy or turned to glycogen and then eventually fat, if it is not needed.

Not good. And not what you want.

A Better Option:  Instead if cutting out sugar in every form, try asking yourself these two questions:

– “Am I getting more than just empty calories from this food?”
– “ Am I enjoying this as part of a sensible and balanced diet?”  

Swap chocolate mousse for berries and yoghurt, normal pancakes for banana and egg, and M and Ms for raisins and nuts. Just remember, it all adds up in your daily sugar allowance. Lowering sugar intake makes fat loss easier.

Myth #2: Eating More Often Will Speed up Your Metabolism

In this myth, your metabolism is likened to a fire and eating little and often is said to be akin to stoking the fire. This is simply not true. Basal metabolic rate (the rate at which your body burns calories at rest) is most affected by body composition and size. Not meal frequency.

What matters for fat loss is creating a calorie deficit, not how often you eat.

A 1997 review of several studies in the British Journal of Nutrition found that “with the exception of a single study, there is no evidence that weight loss on hypoenergetic regimens is altered by meal frequency.”(1) Similarly, studies on meal frequency and energy balance have found “that amount of food eaten, but not the pattern with which it is ingested, has a major influence on energy balance during mild food restriction” (2) In other words, whether you eat once a day or graze all day – fat loss is still about total calories eaten for the day, even with different insulin responses. So it doesn’t matter how often you eat as long as your calories are in line with your goals.

 

However, if you can’t make it from breakfast till lunch without a tummy grumble making you reach for a calorific snack, eating a little often can have its benefits. Eating more often can help some with hunger, most people’s toughest challenge when it comes to dieting. So for those of us liable to overeat if we get too hungry, or snack on sweet things between lunch and dinner, it might be an idea to give fewer and smaller meals a go.  

A Better Option: Eat according to your own hunger cues and schedule. If you prefer six small meals a day – great. If you find that leads to grazing or increased hunger,  tick to two or three meals. People have lost weight eating once a day and sixteen times a day. Choose what feels right for you.

Myth #3: Eating Carbs Will Make You Fat

 

Carbs have gotten a bad rep lately. The past two decades popularity of low carb, Atkins and Ppaleo diets, plus the demonisation of sugar means low carbs diets are seen by some as superior for fat loss.

However, an analysis of 23 different studies on low carb vs low-fat diets found “Reductions in body weight, waist circumference and other metabolic risk factors were not significantly different between the two diets.” (3)

Modern diets have tended to be one or the other- low fat or low carb. We now know that fat could have wrongly been blamed for high cholesterol and heart disease and that following a low fat diet seems to have done little for public health and obesity levels.

So our diets rich in sugar and carbs are blamed for the current rising obesity crisis. However, it is more the type and amount of carbs we eat that may have a poor effect on our health, not the carbs themselves.

There is nothing about carbs themselves that will make you fat. Enjoy carbs. They’re part of a healthy diet. Make sure your calories overall are in line and you’ll still lose weight

A Better Option: Instead of cutting out carbs, make some smart switches. Cut down on the more unhealthy carbs, like highly refined flour products and low- fat products with added sugar. Go for the plant based slow release carbs that contain fiber, vitamins and minerals,  like oats, whole grains, legumes and veggies. If you can’t live without your morning porridge and pasta in the evening, this really doesn’t mean you are screwed when it comes to a fat loss diet.

Myth #4: You Have To Eat Clean to Lose Weight

Actually, you can eat whatever the hell you want. Really.


If you are in a calorie deficit you will lose weight. However, if you do choose to eat snack pizza and burgers on your fat loss diet you will end up feeling hungry and cranky (not to mention feeling like shit). 1500 calories of junk doesn’t look like much food. But 1500 calories of whole foods will be satiating due to the protein and fats. It will also be psychologically satisfying, as you actually get to eat more stuff.

A Better Option:  Adopt a flexible diet approach. Aim to eat 80 to 90% of your calories from whole foods. Allow yourself treats as and when you desire. Just make sure they fit into your daily calorie allowance, and you are still getting the bulk of your energy from whole foods.


Myth #5: Breakfast is the Most Important Meal

As we discovered before, metabolic rate is dependant on body composition and size and not how or when we eat. There is nothing special about eating a meal first thing in the morning compared to later in the day. Your body will process the calories and nutrients in the exact same way.

Some people are just not breakfast eaters and it makes no sense to force a meal on them. In fact, a non breakfast eater  on a calorie restricted diet will possibly just end up consuming more calories over the day if they start having this extra meal. Some people prefer to save their calories for later in the day, when they have more time to cook decent food, and more pertinently, when their will power is lower and they are guaranteed to eat anyway.

Many people have had successful fat loss efforts simply by skipping breakfast. A study conducted at Cornell University found “skipping breakfast may be an effective means to reduce daily energy intake in some adults” and it did not lead to calorie compensation at later meals. (4)

A Better Option:  There are some for whom breakfast IS a very important. These are the people who consciously skip it to save calories, but end up grabbing a danish pastry from the office cafeteria  at 11am, or overeating at lunch because they are so hungry. If this is you, then please do have breakfast! Plan ahead, don’t get caught out, and have a small meal that will curb any cravings until lunch.

The Takeaway

Nutritional science is a dynamic field. Some of our long held beliefs are being debunked one by one.

Popular diet “facts” and trends circulate often in the media. Many so-called “experts” peddle false claims (and their own miracle solutions.)

Where does that leave us? Back to the basics. One more time, with feeling:

When it comes to fat loss, we know for sure the most important factor is simply to create a calorie deficit.

And when it comes to choosing a diet strategy to create that deficit, the best strategy is the one you can stick with over time.

It’s as simple as that.

P.S. To make sure you succeed on your health and fitness journey, download my free eBook 8 Secrets of Finding Time For Fitness.   It explains how to lose weight once and for all…and keep it off.

References

  1. “Meal frequency and energy balance.” Br J Nutr. 1997 Apr;77 Suppl 1:S57-70. Bellisle F1, McDevitt R, Prentice AM.
  2. “Effects of meal frequency on energy utilization in rats” J. O. Hill, J. C. Anderson, D. Lin, F. Yakubu American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology Published 1 October 1988 Vol. 255 no. 4, R616-R621
  3. “Effects of Low-Carbohydrate Diets Versus Low-Fat Diets on Metabolic Risk Factors: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials” Tian Hu, Katherine T. Mills, Lu Yao, Kathryn Demanelis, Mohamed Eloustaz, William S. Yancy, Jr, Tanika N. Kelly, Jiang He, and Lydia A. Bazzano Am J Epidemiol. 2012 Oct 1; 176(Suppl 7): S44–S54.
  4. “Effect of skipping breakfast on subsequent energy intake”.Levitsky DA1, Pacanowski CR. Physiol Behav. 2013 Jul 2;119:9-16. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2013.05.006. Epub 2013 May 11.

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