“Lose 30 pounds in 30 days!”, “Eat as much as you want and still lose weight!”, “Lose 10 pounds without exercise!”
Have you heard these claims? It’s almost certain you have. Maybe you’ve even tried these products only to find out they don’t work or the results do not last. Here are some common myths and the facts from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and one or two of my own:
MYTH: Fad diets will help me to lose weight and keep it off.
FACT: Research suggests that safe weight loss involves combining a reduced-calorie diet with physical activity to lose 1/2 TO 2 POUNDS PER WEEK (after the first few weeks of weight loss). Make healthy food choices. Eat small portions. Build exercise into your daily life. Combined, these habits are a healthy way to lose weight and keep it off. These habits may also lower your chances of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
MYTH: Carbs are fattening. I should limit them when trying to lose weight.
FACT: Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel for energy. You don’t have to limit all carbs to lose weight. There are two main types of carbs: simple carbs (sugars) and complex carbs (starches and fiber). Foods that are high in complex carbs, such as fruit, veggies, & whole grains provide a healthy supply of fiber, minerals and vitamins. However, simple carbs from cake, candy, cookies, and sugar-sweetened desserts and drinks (including alcohol) have many calories and few nutrients. Government dietary guidelines advise eating plenty of unrefined grains such as brown rice, whole grain bread, whole grain cereal and whole grain pasta. They also suggest that fruit and veggies should make up half of what is on your plate. To lose weight, reduce the number of calories you take in and increase the amount of physical activity that you do each day. Create a healthy eating plan that mixes complex carbs, healthy fats, and low-fat protein. Limit added sugars, cholesterol, salt, and saturated fats.
MYTH: Low-fat or Fat-Free means no calories and I can eat more!
FACT: A serving of low-fat or fat-free food may be lower in calories than the full-fat product. However, many processed low-fat or fat-free foods have just as many calories as the full-fat versions or even more! These foods may contain added flour, salt, starch, or sugar or even high fructose corn syrup to improve flavor and texture after the fat is removed. These items add calories.
MYTH: If I skip meals, I’ll lose weight.
FACT: Skipping meals may make you feel hungrier and lead you to eat more than you normally would at your next meal. Studies show a link between skipping breakfast and obesity. Choose meals and snacks that include a variety of healthy foods. For a quick breakfast, make oatmeal with low-fat milk and berries or eat a slice of whole-wheat toast with natural peanut or almond butter. Pack a healthy lunch each night so you don’t skip lunch or get fast food or snacks from the vending machine for lunch. Pack low-fat yogurt, a few whole-wheat crackers with peanut butter, or veggies with hummus. Failing to plan is a sure plan to fail!
MYTH: Lifting weights will make me “bulk up”
FACT: Not unless that’s your goal! Only intense strength training combined with certain genetics will result in large, “bulky” muscles. Lifting weights for functional strength will provide you with lean muscle which increases your metabolism, provides you the strength you need for daily activities, improves brain function, and prevent or even reduce osteoporosis.
MYTH: Physical activity only counts if I do it for long periods of time and I don’t have time!
FACT: Even exercising for 10 minutes has been proven to reduce blood pressure and manage weight. You can even spread out 30 minutes a day by doing 10 or 15 minute increments. 30 minutes of physical activity 5 times per week combined with a healthy eating plan will provide results! Be physically active by walking at lunch, taking the stairs, get off the bus one stop early, or listening to music as you dance through your house. If you don’t have time for exercise, you will have to find time for poor health.
MYTH: As long as I exercise, I can eat whatever I want.
FACT: Unless you are doing very intense exercise for an extended period of time, you probably aren’t burning off those high fat foods! To burn off just one slice of cheese pizza, you would need to bike for 22 minutes at 12-14 mph. To burn off that 560 calorie Big Mac, you would have to run for 50 minutes at a 10 minute mile. A can of Coke Classic would take 12 minutes of running to burn off. Get busy running now to burn off a package of Cheez-It Crackers. It would take 2 hours and 8 minutes to burn off those 1400 calories! Finally, one of those blueberry muffins from the local bakery or the vending machine will take at least 41 minutes of running that 10 minute mile
Weight loss requires patience, discipline, sacrifice, and commitment. You’re not always going to be perfect. However, believing any of these myths may not lead you down the path you want to take to reach your goals. Besides the physical benefits, exercise improves brain function, reduces stress, and promotes well-being. You do have time for that!