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Dieting Myths

Recent trends show we are becoming a nation of dieters. We pile on the pounds only to lurch into yet another diet. Yo-yo diets, food fads, supplements and pills seem the answer. We may be obsessed with weight and image but the healthy eating message is being ignored.

Weight Loss Resources works on the premise that when it comes to losing weight, or putting it on, it's the number of calories consumed that really counts.

I always seem to be dieting; it doesn't work

I'll have to starve myself to lose weight

No more crisps, chocolate or beer!

Skipping meals will help me to lose weight

It helps not to eat after 6pm

Drinking water will help weight loss

Cutting out all dietary fat is a sure way to lose weight

Carbohydrates are fattening

Food combining loses weight

Eating eggs will make me fat

Exercise alone will ensure weight loss

Diet drugs alone are the best way to lose weight

I always seem to be dieting; it doesn't work

Ignore the hype. Losing weight is a scientific matter. Making sure that calories consumed are less than calories expended is the best - if not the only - way to lose weight.

Calories consumed - calories expended = weight loss! 

"The successful weight losers will all tell you that there is only one way to ensure steady weight loss - to understand the energy, the calories, you are eating. A 500 calorie gooey cake may be enticing and satisfy your taste buds for a short while but it is never going to help to satisfy your hunger pangs in the same ways that 500 calories of low calorie foods will do - purely because of the relevant amounts of food consumed. It is a case of using calorie knowledge and doing the maths."*

I'll have to starve myself to lose weight

It's not how much you eat but what you are eating. Some foods contain a lot more calories than others. One small cake can contain more calories than a piece of chicken and a plateful of vegetables (and leave you feeling a lot less full).

No more crisps, chocolate or beer!

There are no "good" and "bad" foods. Your diet should be healthy and balanced with some treats. Make adjustments to your eating habits to allow treats in moderation. Depriving yourself will not help.

"Cutting out totally all those foods you enjoy will leave you feeling deprived, and consequently may lead to cravings for the foods you are depriving yourself of. A sure-fire way of losing motivation in your weight management plans. A little of what you like will not do you any harm and, in the overall picture, will have little or no effect on your weight loss success."*

Skipping meals will help me to lose weight

If you stop eating regularly your body will only hold on to its reserves. The body goes into "starvation" mode in the fear of not getting food soon. There is also danger that by not eating all day you will overeat or binge in the evening. After a night of not eating, breakfast is the fuel that kick starts your metabolism. A car needs petrol to move, your body needs food.

"The successful weight losers ensure they have three carefully planned meals per day, including a breakfast. Their total daily calorie limit is divided amongst these meals and small snacks."*

It helps not to eat after 6pm 

Eating in the evenings can mean you eat more. You're at home, relaxed, near the fridge and pantry and can pick unconsciously. However, calories are the same at any hour of the day, therefore the body processes calories in the same way at any time of the day.

"The latest obesity research evidence suggests that restricting food after a particular time in the evening has no effect on overall weight loss. What is important is that you have food throughout the day (including a breakfast) and stick to a daily calorie limit."*

Drinking water will help weight loss

Water has no calories, it fills you up and helps to keep you hydrated. Water does not increase the rate at which the body burns calories.

Cutting out all dietary fat is a sure way to lose weight*

Bad. Dietary fat is certainly a major contributor to being overweight, purely because it contains more calories per gram than carbohydrate and protein. But it is important to distinguish between "bad" fat - saturated fats - and "good" fats - those fats which are essential to ensure our bodies function efficiently. It is important to have some fat in our diet.

Although fats are a major contributor to obesity, many of the fats we eat are essential for the smooth running of our metabolism. Upset this fine-tuning and you may find losing weight very difficult. Try to ensure that you eat sufficient polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, whilst cutting down on saturated fat. Oily fish, such as mackerel, is an excellent source of essential fat.

Carbohydrates are fattening

There is no scientific based evidence to support the claims that carbohydrates are fattening. Too many calories (whether from carbs, protein or fat) results in weight gain. Carbohydrates are an important source of energy and vital nutrients for the body. These foods become fattening when when fat is added to them. For example, potatoes and bread are healthy carbs which are low in fat. Adding butter, cream or mayonnaise makes them fattening.

Remember 1 gram:

Fat = 9 kcal | Carbs = 4 kcal | Protein = 4 kcal

"Carbohydrates are an important part of an overall healthy weight loss diet. Cutting out carbohydrates, the main currency of daily energy supplies, will leave you feeling completely drained and unable to effectively - not a good state to be in as you try to maintain motivation whilst losing weight."*

Food combining loses weight

There is no scientific evidence that separating carbs from protein will reduce the rate at which you lay down fat and aid weight loss. The human body has developed to deal with different food groups and needs all the combined nutrients to ensure a healthy, balanced diet.

"For healthy weight loss it is important to ensure your meals contain all the major food groups. Separating carbohydrates and proteins, for instance, has no basis in logic (or scientific evidence)."*

Eating eggs will make me fat*

Wrong. Eggs are an excellent and compact source of nutrients. The latest research findings have highlighted that the major dietary risk in obesity is saturated fat - eggs contain very little of this type of fat. Eggs are also relatively low in calories (1 egg, hardboiled = 75 kcal) and dietary recommendations allow for one egg per day.

If you are dieting, the key is to cook eggs without fat. If you do fry use olive oil, sunflower oil or corn oil, rather than butter, margarine and lard.

Exercise alone will ensure weight loss*

A complete plan for losing weight, includes a well-balanced diet and a carefully planned exercise or activity programme. Only by combining both components can you expect to succeed in losing weight, and keep the weight off. Concentrating on exercise alone will not achieve this. Yes, it is true that exercise is greatly beneficial and it does burn off calories but not in sufficient quantities to have resounding effects on weight loss.

Take a look at the figures for certain types of physical exercise and you will quickly realise that you need to be engaged in extreme levels of daily physical activity in order to lose substantial amounts of weight. Certainly levels of exercise which would be very difficult to build into our already very busy daily lives.

It is very important to ensure you engage in regular daily exercise, whether it be jogging, swimming, taking the dog for a walk or building up a sweat vacuuming the family home - but never isolate it from new dietary habits and other beneficial lifestyle changes.

Diet drugs alone are the best way to lose weight*

Wrong. Certain diet medications have been officially approved and therefore hold a license in Britain for those who are medically obese. (People who are 30% or more over a healthy weight, or those who have obesity-related disease such as diabetes or high blood pressure). However, they cannot and should not be used alone. They must be used as part of the overall diet plan.

Successful weight loss requires a long-term strategy. It should never be reliant on short-term therapies alone.

It's possible with certain diets to lose weight from a specific part of the body

Your body burns fat from all available stores, not just certain areas. You can use exercise to target specific areas. 

"A myth that frequently raises it head. There is no evidence that diets proclaiming to reduce fat in particular body areas actually work. It may be felt that losing fat on, for instance, the hips will change the overall body shape but this is never the case in reality. Weight loss will reduce your overall body fat but your body shape is determined by your genes."* 

*Contributed by Dr Jeremy Sims MB BS FRIPH FRSH DipN&H

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