Weight Loss: Fact or Fiction


I used to work in a bookstore. The two kinds of books that always sold were self-help and diet. I wondered why they kept selling. Self-help may be never-ending, but why are diets always in demand? Don’t they work? Could it be the popular wisdom doesn’t work­ – that we’ve bought into dieting myths? From a wide range of reputable sources, here’s a list of the top 10 diet head-fakes.

Fasting or skipping meals is a good way to kick-start a weight-loss program
Truth: If your caloric intake is very low, your body kicks into survival mode, slowing your metabolism and breaking down muscle instead of fat tissue. You simply burn calories at a slower pace to conserve your energy stores.

Tip: Don’t go more than three hours without eating something. Food and beverages rev up your metabolism, help you more efficiently burn the calories you consume and keep you from feeling hungry and deprived. Keep your metabolism going all day with the 3-2-1 plan: three meals, two snacks, and a minimum of one liter of water per day to keep you hydrated.

Fad diets work for permanent weight loss
Truth: Fad diets rarely work in the long run — they often promise quick weight loss or tell you to cut certain foods out of your diet. Diets that strictly limit calories or food choices are hard to follow and we quickly tire of them. Weight may be
lost at first on one of these diets, but the pounds are regained — and often more.

Fad diets may be unhealthy because they may not provide all the nutrients a body needs. Also, after losing weight at a very rapid rate (more than three pounds a week after the first couple of weeks) may increase your risk for developing gallstones. Diets providing fewer than 800 calories per day can result in heart rhythm abnormalities, which can
be fatal.

Tip: Try to lose up to two pounds a week by making healthy food choices, eating moderate portions, and building physical activity into your daily life. This is the best way to lose weight and keep it off. By adopting healthy eating and physical activity habits, you may also lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

High-protein/low carbohydrate diets are a healthy way to lose weight
Truth: This diet presents an unbalanced eating plan: you may be eating too much saturated fat and cholesterol, which can raise heart-disease risk. You may be eating too few fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which can lead to constipation due to lack of dietary fiber. Eating fewer than 130 grams of carbohydrates a day can lead to a dangerous buildup of ketones in the blood.

Tip: A reduced-calorie eating plan that includes recommended amounts of carbohydrates, protein and fat will allow you to lose weight in a healthy way and keep it off.

Carbohydrates are evil
Truth: It’s not the bread, pasta, potatoes, and other carbohydrate-rich foods that are fattening—it’s the company they keep: butter, margarine, mayonnaise, sour cream, gravies, and cream sauces! Many foods high in starch are low in fat and calories and many of them are an important source of energy.

Tip: Try eating 6 to 11 servings a day, depending on your calorie needs, from the bread, cereal, rice and pasta group—even when trying to lose weight. Pay attention to your serving sizes, and eat whole grains over processed grains. Choose other starchy foods that are high in dietary fiber—such as beans, peas, and other vegetables.

Certain foods, like grapefruit, celery, or cabbage soup, can burn fat
Truth: No foods can burn fat. Some foods with caffeine may speed up your metabolism for a short time, but they do not cause weight loss.

Tip: The best way to lose weight is to cut back on the number of calories you eat and be more physically active.

Natural or herbal weight-loss products are safe and effective
Truth: A weight-loss product that claims to be “natural” or “herbal” is not necessarily safe. These products are seldom scientifically-tested to prove that they are safe or that they work.

Tip: Talk with your healthcare provider before using any weight-loss product.

Eating foods with fat in them will make me fat
Truth: There are fats that our bodies need in order to function well. Healthy fats nourish the brain, heart, immune system, cells, and more. The trick is knowing and choosing which fats to consume.

Tip: Focus more on polyunsaturated fats, which include omega-3 fatty acids, and monounsaturated fats. These healthy fats can be found in foods like salmon, soybeans, avocados, and walnuts.

Most overweight people could slim down if they just used a little self-control
Truth: Losing weight is hard. Your genes have determined the range of possible weights you could reasonably expect to sustain; even if you forced yourself below that range, your body would almost inevitably swing back. In addition, weight loss, particularly rapid loss from diet alone, slows the body’s basic rate of burning calories.

Tip: Losing just a little weight can substantially reduce your risk of disease. And improving your diet and exercise habits will improve your health even if you don’t lose any weight at all.

Strength training won’t help you lose weight since it adds pounds of muscle and burns few calories
Truth: A typical strength-training session—with machines, free weights, or flexible bands—uses up calories at least as fast as moderately-paced walking does. Also, muscle tissue burns calories faster than fat tissue, even when you’re resting.

Tip: Building muscle can increase the number of calories you burn throughout the day; that can help you not only lose weight but keep it off. And muscle is denser than fat, so even if you lost only fat and added muscle, without losing any weight overall, you’d still become trimmer and healthier.

Vigorous exercise promotes weight loss better than moderate exercise
Truth: A vigorous workout does burn more calories than a milder workout of the same time. But a longer, moderately-intense workout burns more calories than a brief, strenuous one.

Tip: Most people can exercise at a moderate pace for much longer than they can exercise strenuously. Building up to sessions lasting at least 45 to 60 minutes, four to five times a week, is generally the most effective exercise regimen for weight loss. Two or preferably three times a week, you should devote some of those minutes to
strength training.

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