In today's world of information overload, fad diets and health gurus are a dime a dozen. With all the conflicting information everywhere, it can be difficult to tell the difference between fact and fiction when it comes to dieting. All it does is add more confusion to something that's already plenty complicated! Below are four of the most remarkably persistent dieting myths you've probably come into contact with, and may have even tried.
Myth # 1: Late-night eating causes you to gain weight.
This myth is based on the notion that calories consumed early in the day are burned off via your daily activities, but calories consumed right before bed just sit there and eventually turn into fat. The truth of the matter is that calories are not time-sensitive; your body will metabolize an apple at midnight the same way it would as if you were eating it first thing in the morning.
That being said, what often goes unaccounted for is the tendency for people to reach for unhealthy snacks late at night instead of opting for healthier food choices, often due to nothing more than just plain old tiredness. In addition, eating right before bedtime means that your digestive system will be working throughout the night to process your meal, which leads to a less peaceful sleep. So if for no other reason than to get better sleep, try to eat your final meals earlier in the evening.
Myth # 2: All fat is bad fat.
Did you know your body actually needs a certain amount of fat to survive and function properly? Many dieters have sworn off all fatty foods, but some fats are actually good for the body. The fats to stay away from (or at least eat in small quantities) are primarily found in fried or sugar-laden foods, while the high-quality good fats can be found in foods such as avocados, nuts, olive oil and eggs.
In addition, keep in mind that a fat-free diet doesn't always equal a healthy diet. Many fat-free foods and convenience meals are loaded with highly processed artificial ingredients and refined sugars, all of which are terrible for your body. A much healthier alternative would be to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, unrefined whole grains and quality hormone-free lean meats.
Myth # 3: Eating salads will help you lose weight.
This is a tricky one, because it depends on what type of ingredients are in the salad. For example, if you were to eat a salad containing mixed greens (e.g., spinach leaves, radicchio, romaine lettuce, etc.) topped with shredded carrots, sliced cucumber, shredded cheese and a light balsamic vinaigrette, you'd be doing great.
On the other hand, if you load up your salad with ingredients such as fried chicken strips, greasy tortilla chips, candied nuts or heavy oily or creamy dressings, you're essentially turning your meal into a calorie-fest. While salads are generally considered to be healthier than hitting the drive-thru, be sure not to cancel out your good intentions by piling high-calorie ingredients onto your salad.
Myth # 4: Drastic calorie cuts will help you lose weight.
Dieters looking for a quick fix, or a way to shock the body into rapid weight loss usually adopt this strategy. But unfortunately, drastic calorie cuts don't do too much besides make you feel deprived (and cranky as well). A recent report published by American Psychologist revealed that the majority of dieters who attempt to sharply decrease their calorie intake end up regaining some or all of the weight they had lost within 4 to 5 years.
The body is actually very proficient when it comes to adapting to a drastically lower calorie intake; it will go into "starvation mode," which means that it will actually store more fat than usual (since it's not sure when the next meal is coming), and it will also fine-tune the use of the calories it does receive in order to optimize energy consumption.
What this boils down to is that by sharply reducing your calorie intake, you may end up producing the opposite effect of what you intended. Don't starve yourself in order to lose weight; just make small adjustments to your portion sizes, and aim for a 10-15 percent reduction in your regular caloric intake. Combine this with a regular exercise regimen, and you can lose weight without feeling like you're starving or depriving yourself.
As you can see, diet myths are everywhere, but it's up to you to get the facts and use them to your advantage. Keeping the above points in mind will help you make wise, sound and truly effective dieting choices.