An estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet each year, and Americans spend $33 billion each year on weight loss products. Yet, nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. With all of this money expended, why are so many people unable to lose weight? Dr. Christopher Calapai, a New York City Osteopathic Physician board certified in family and anti-aging medicine, says that, “People are dealing with dieting information overload. It is hard to know what is sound weight loss advice and what is a myth.” He sets the record straight on some of our most commonly held diet and weight loss myths.
1. You can eat whatever you want if you work out
Unfortunately, a half hour on the treadmill isn’t going to help you lose weight if you reward yourself by downing a few slices of cake and an order of French fries. The treadmill told you that you burned off 500 calories, but those estimated machine readouts are not always accurate. It’s nearly impossible to out-exercise a bad diet unless you plan to spend half your day in the gym. You must work out and eat smart to see results. (I’m guilty as charged! Stopping off for a fat-free frozen yogurt after my workout is not gaining me any point, just unwanted calories. Instead of reaching for a sweet reward, realize the workout is its own reward and satisfy hunger with crunchy veg and lean proteins. Try to change your mindset and not undo the good you’ve done during your workout. – ML)
2. Organic food is diet food.
The word organic is enticing, but it’s also misleading. Organic means a food is grown without pesticides or other chemicals and is not genetically modified. But it says absolutely nothing about the nutrient value of the food itself, or whether it’s a good dietary choice, or whether it has excessive fat, sugar or starch. Organic sugar is still sugar. Organic white flour is still white flour. Organic butter is still butter and organic lard is still lard.
3. You Can Lose 10 Pounds in 2 Weeks.
You probably can lose 10 pounds in two weeks if you crash-diet, but that pace is rarely sustainable. Most of the weight will return once you start eating normally. To truly lose 1 pound, you need to “eliminate” 3,500 calories—the amount stored in a pound of fat—by eating less and moving more. If you cut 500 calories (or cut 300 and burn 200 through exercise) every single day of the week, you’ll lose about a pound a week. And that’s real weight loss. (Ugh! This myth is one I have believed my entire life – and one I still try to make come true. I am a serial crash dieter. It never works yet I do it again and again. I read about every “quick fix” diet I can find, try it, lose a few pounds, become famished and bored and then binge and put the weight back on, along with a few extra pounds. It’s a horrible cycle and one I have to work very hard to break. Learn from my mistakes and, you know, that children’s story about the tortoise and the hare. Ah, you may laugh but, trust me, slow and steady is the healthiest – and really, the only – way to lose weight. – ML)
4. Cleanses and detoxes are a good way to jump-start a diet.
Nobody needs to detox.
Unless you’ve been poisoned, you have a built-in, super-efficient system for filtering out most of the harmful substances you eat. It’s made up of two toxin-bashing organs: the liver and the kidneys. Our kidneys filter our blood and remove any waste from our diet, and our livers process medications and detoxify any chemicals we ingest. Paired together, these organs make our bodies natural cleansing powerhouses. (OMG! I’m guilty again! I often do a detox, juice or a fast, prior to beginning a diet. I always feel that it helps me ease into eating less. It’s a rather awful day and, after reading this advice from Dr. Calapai, it won’t happen again. Whew! – ML)
5. You can’t eat after 8 p.m.
It doesn’t matter what time of day you eat. It is what and how much you eat and how much physical activity you do during the whole day that determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight. No matter when you eat, your body will store extra calories as fat. If you want a snack before bedtime, think first about how many calories you’ve eaten that day. (I’ve never been guilty of this, not being able to resist munching while watching TV in the evenings. I will endeavor to make my snacks healthy and low-cal, however. Bye bye pretzels; hello baby carrots and hummus! – ML)
6. You must keep your blood sugar topped up, and eat little and often to achieve it.
This is one of the least accurate bits of advice. Every time you eat a carbohydrate, and your blood glucose levels rise, the body needs to release a substance called insulin (from the pancreas) to return your blood glucose levels to normal. Any “topping up” simply places a demand on the body to get the blood glucose levels back down again. This might be the reason for the explosion in type 2 diabetes – the body is asked to release insulin too much, too often and has no way of recognizing some of the foreign substances we consume in modern man-made food. (Do you do this? I’ve heard of this, but don’t consciously do it. Again, however, eating smart, what my own doctor calls “eating from the earth,” is a healthy way to go. She advises that 50 to 75% of your plate consist of vegetables and grains – and not those doctored with sauces, salt and extra fattening ingredients like croutons – while the rest of your plate, a mere 25 to 30% should consist of lean protein. Admission: I don’t always listen to her and now am fighting to lose extra weight. Ugh. – ML)
7. Wait Until You’re Hungry to Eat.
Myth! By waiting to eat until you’re very hungry, your hunger simply builds and builds until it’s all consuming, causing your appetite to spiral out of control. In fact, new research reveals that by skipping breakfast, you’ll end up eating more calories in total and making less healthy food choices throughout the day than you would have otherwise. Research also shows that forgoing breakfast activates your body’s insulin response, triggering fat storage and weight gain. (YUP! – ML)
Seriously, I have gotten out of control. My daughter says I’m “eating my feelings” and, hell yeah, it’s been a stressful summer. Don’t I deserve a rich, gooey, chocolate sundae with extra whipped cream and nuts? Short answer: No, I do not. That is not a reward, as evidenced by the larger clothing size I have had to buy this summer.
The above is good advice. Putting it into practice, while I understand it cerebrally, is difficult. But, today is the first day of the rest of my life. (Who remembers that little pearl of wisdom from the 70s? Am I showing my age? But it’s true. I say it every time I start a new diet! But NO MORE! I am determined to lose weight, to get healthy, to be a size smaller (the new Fall clothing is an incentive, to be sure.) If you are seeking to do the same, do it with me. Today is the first day of the rest of your life too! Let’s do it, if not for the latest crop of Fall clothing, then for our health. We are worth it!
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