Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, Gluten-free, Macrobiotic. There is no shortage of fad diets in our society. Bookstores have sections dedicated to weight loss or weight management, and every week a slimmed down celebrity seems to be touting their weight loss success on a magazine cover. With so many messages about what’s right and wrong when you’re trying to lose weight, it’s easy to get confused.
Below, Judy Matusky, RD, LDN, a dietitian at Bryn Mawr and Paoli Hospital, debunks some of the most common diet myths.
Eating after 8 PM causes weight gain.
Not so, says Matusky. “It doesn’t matter when you eat, it matters how many calories you eat throughout the day, whether that’s at eight in the morning or eight at night.”
However, she cautions that eating at night might make some people more likely to indulge. Whether you’re catching up with friends or settling in after a long and stressful day, most people are usually more likely to snack or take in extra calories than they might have earlier in the day. If you’re hungry and you find yourself looking for a snack, portion out some fruit and yogurt, a piece of dark chocolate, or veggies with hummus rather than chips or ice cream.
If you’re not hungry, break the night-time snack habit by doing something else; take a walk or start a new hobby like knitting.
Carbohydrates are bad.
After a surge of low-carb and no-carb diets, many dieters are left thinking that carbohydrates are always bad, but that’s not the case.
Carbohydrates are not evil. Selecting foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains and beans that are high-fiber, nutrient-packed carbohydrate sources will provide you with that sustained energy boost you might be looking for.
Eating smaller meals throughout the day can increase your metabolism and burn more calories.
Technically, it’s true. The speed of our metabolism increases slightly each time we eat, which has led some dieters to believe that fewer, smaller meals can burn extra calories. While that may be so, it doesn’t result in a huge calorie burn and likely won’t make a significant difference, says Matusky.
Although smaller meals and healthy snacks throughout the day won’t spike your metabolism to calorie-torching levels, it can help dieters from getting overly hungry and eating too many calories when they finally sit down for a meal. Try healthy snacks like fruits and veggies, nuts, or low-fat Greek yogurt as a snack to hold you over.
You should expect to feel hungry while dieting.
Dieters often look at hunger as a badge of honor. After all, it means you’re eating less than usual, right? Maybe so, says Matusky, but that’s not the way to go.
If you cut calories too drastically, you’re probably going to feel hungry which can sabotage your weight loss efforts. Sometimes dropping your calorie intake by only 100-200 calories a day is easier to manage and over a year, that could add up to a 10-20 pounds weight loss.
If you plan on trying any type of diet or weight loss plan, make sure to talk to your doctor before you begin. You can find a doctor by visiting the Main Line Health website. For more information on dieting, nutrition, and healthy food choices, view our archive of nutrition articles.