There are many popular beliefs about the best way to lose weight, but some diet advice may not help you – and should probably be ignored.
Where do you get your diet advice? As much as I’d like to believe that most people seek out diet advice from a dietitian or other health professional, I know that’s probably not the case. There is an endless amount of diet advice in the media (some of it reliable, some not so much) and, if you know someone who has successfully lost weight, I think it’s natural that you’d want to know how they did it.
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t seek out diet advice – far from it. Being inquisitive is a good thing – as you seek out information from a variety of sources, it may help you find the best route to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
What can happen, though, is that you hear the same advice so often, you come to believe that it’s true. But just because you hear a certain diet tip over and over again, doesn’t necessarily mean you should follow it.
FIVE POPULAR DIET TIPS YOU SHOULD PROBABLY IGNORE
- Stop eating after 7 PM (or 8, or 9….). I have had endless discussions with clients who insist that their weight problem is due to the fact that they “eat late and then I just sit around, so I don’t burn off those calories”. And, of course, when they do stop eating after their designated cutoff time, they do lose weight. But the reason has nothing to do with the fact that they are taking in their calories earlier in the day. If you eat more calories than you need – no matter what time it is – you’re going to store them as body fat. The reason people lose weight when they stop eating after 7 PM (or 8 or 9…) is because they have kicked the evening snacking habit – which might have accounted for hundreds of extra calories.
- Don’t snack. Another piece of advice that should probably be ignored is the idea that snacking is a bad thing. Nutritious, well-balanced snacks can help you meet your daily nutritional needs, and can also help you manage your hunger and control your portions at mealtimes. Note that I said, “Nutritious, well-balanced snacks”. One reason snacking has such a bad reputation is because people associate “snacking” with “snack foods” – greasy snack chips, candy, cakes, sodas. But a balanced snack of protein and carbohydrate – some yogurt and fruit, a few slices of turkey on some whole grain crackers, a few tablespoons of hummus and raw veggies – is, in my view, a healthy habit.
- Calories are calories. This bit of advice suggests that as long as you don’t exceed your calorie limit for the day, it doesn’t matter all that much what you eat. Of course it does. The quality of your diet is vitally important, which is one reason why I’ve suggested that you think of your calories as money – and aim to spend those calories as wisely as you can. Yes, you could probably lose weight eating a diet heavy on junk food, as long as you eat fewer calories than you need. But, your nutritional needs would likely go unmet and your health could suffer as a result.
- Fat makes you fat. While it’s true that fat has more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrate, too many calories, from any source, will put weight on you. Some people make the mistake of cutting high fat foods like cookies or ice cream from their diet and replacing them with fat-free versions of the same foods. But many of these fat-free treats have more sugar, so they save you few – if any – calories. So, yes, too much fat can make you fat – but so can too much sugar.
- Just go low carb/vegetarian/vegan/raw/gluten free. A highly restrictive diet – especially one that is a dramatic shift from the way you usually eat – may lead to temporary weight loss. But if the plan is unbalanced, or if it’s a plan you can’t sustain, then what’s the point? Very low carbohydrate diets may not provide enough carbohydrate to fuel your active lifestyle, and vegetarian and vegan diets – while they might soundhealthy, can still be very high in fat, sugar and calories. And don’t assume that going gluten-free is a sure path to weight loss. With so many gluten-free breads, crackers, cereals and pastas (not to mention gluten-free cakes, cookies and other treats), staying away from gluten may be easy, but staying away from excess calories might be a lot harder to do.
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