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Dieting Myths Debunked

The diet industry is a multi-billion dollar business worldwide, as the population struggles with obesity and weight-related illness. With so many of us trying to shed the kilos, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of advice out there. Many of us have grown up believing a number of dieting myths, which do nothing to help us in our quest to reach a healthy weight. Here, we debunk some of the most popular diet myths.

Studies have actually shown that those who eat regularly, and avoid getting too hungry are able to maintain a healthier weight. Of course, that does not mean that it is a good idea to be eating more than you need. The theory is not that scientifically speaking, your body will burn calories any more effectively if you eat more often – but simply that you are less likely to binge eat if you avoid becoming too hungry. Skipping meals altogether (which is so easy to do when we are busy, and is even tempting when dieting) is not a healthy approach to weight loss, as you are more likely to binge eat when you lose energy. So, eating regularly but being aware of how many calories you consume is the healthiest approach.

This persistent dieting myths suggests that cutting carbs can result in rapid weight loss – but only in the short-term. Reducing carbs restricts your diet so severely that it often results in reduced calories overall, as well as fat and sugars. However, cutting carbs from your diet is not only extremely difficult, but very unrealistic in the long run. Pasta and bread are not your enemies – but keep an eye on the quantities that you are consuming. Carbs have a bad reputation because it is easy to overindulge, and therefore can result in a huge calorie intake in one sitting. As always, enjoy your carbs, but in moderation.

This age-old dieting myth asserts that the body is not great at burning calories late at night, and therefore you should avoid eating a late dinner. The truth is, your body doesn’t care what time of day it is. Eating later will simply mean that those energy stores will be used once you’re up and about again. There is a problem however, when our late night snacks tend to be of the unhealthy variety. If you’re in the habit of following your dinner up with a bowl of ice cream – that is a behaviour that you might want to reconsider. Replace your ice cream with a healthier option such as fruit.

There is some basis to this myth, as ‘diet’ and ‘low fat’ food producers have been known to boost flavour in low fat foods by adding ingredients such as sugar in order to make them more palatable. Luckily however, food industry standards in Australia mean that it is often easy to determine just how much fat, sugar, salt and other ingredients are present in your pre-packaged food. By simply reading the label, you can decide for yourself just how these foods stack up.

Unfortunately, metabolism has very little to do with the foods that you consume (and when), and more to do with the composition of your body. Eating smaller meals more often is likely to keep you feeling satiated, and therefore less likely to binge, but it is not a magic cure to increase your metabolic rate; despite the perpetuation of this particular dieting myth. You can achieve this, however, by increasing your muscle tone. Including some weights and strength training in your workout will help to build your muscle mass, raise your resting heart rate and increase your metabolism. It is still important to watch what you eat, and keep an eye on your calorie intake.

An unfortunate side effect of quitting smoking can be – boredom. A habit such as smoking can be so hard to kick because it leaves you with nothing to do with your hands. Perhaps you smoke socially, and find it an easy way to break the ice, or you occupy yourself with a cigarette when you need a break from the office? Removing cigarettes from your day can lead to a desire to replace them with something else. Some people turn to food as a way to fill the gap left by smoking, but there are many healthier ways to deal with the ‘loss’ of this habit. Drinking a glass of water every time you feel like a cigarette, instead of an unhealthy snack, is a good approach.

Contrary to popular belief, dieting can be a very ineffective way to lose weight. Not because healthy eating does not work, but because it is often hard to maintain on an ongoing basis.  The most effective way to lose weight is to incorporate a range of strategies such as diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes. And remember – you do not need to do it all alone. A counsellor can help you to develop a healthy and effective weight-loss plan, and also help to keep you on track. Weight loss programs such as those offered by Integrated Health Specialists can help you to reach your weight-loss goals by managing the highs and lows of the process.

To find out more about our weight-loss programs and how they can help you, get in touch today. Our Gold Coast psychologists can help you to manage your journey, and support you until you reach your goals.

Michelle van Namen
Author: Michelle van Namen