Dieting is a fad that has had a hold on American society for decades. It seems like every week there is new emerging information about what we should and shouldn't eat, and it doesn't always match up. Some weeks we're demonizing carbohydrates, and the next we're bathing in a pool full of pasta.
We're told to avoid things like high fructose corn syrup, but we aren't told why, which starts trendy marketing and smear campaigns. With all of the information and misinformation floating around, and a general lack of nutrition education amongst individuals, it's almost impossible to decipher the diet code and not fall victim to faulty claims.
Sick of being duped by diets? Here are the top five diet myths you have probably fallen for (I know I have):
1. It's all about exercise.
This is an example of one of the earliest pop trends in dieting, and the misconception in the human struggle vs. obesity. It all started when research by Dr. Jean Mayer showed that obese rodents ate the same amount as normal sized rodents, they just exercised less.
This lead to the exercise revolution, and all of those wonderful aerobics tapes with the leg warmers and leotards. Before this study was released, exercise was actually thought of as unhealthy by physicians, and they cautioned people to avoid it. This is just one of many demonstrations of how quick the public is to jump on any trend they think to be a miracle cure for weight loss.
Don't get me wrong, exercise is important for overall health, but exercise alone is not going to shape your waistline. You are what you eat, and to have a healthy waistline, you need to understand how to eat healthy. If you can't give your body the right fuel, no amount of jazzercise is going to fix those hunka-hunka burnin' love handles.
2. Count calories, not sheep.
Oh, man. I fell for this myth harder than I did for McDreamy from "Grey's Anatomy."
This myth is so convincing because it makes absolute sense. There are 3,500 calories in 1 pound of fat. Therefore, if you eat less than 1 pound of fat a day, you should at least maintain a constant weight. Moreover, if you can balance your calories in with your calories out, you should lose weight. Right?
There are several reasons why this is absolutely wrong. The first is that nobody on this planet can accurately determine his or her calories in vs. calories out. You can try, your Fitbit can try, but neither of you are going to be able to get this one right.
Everybody's metabolism works differently, handles foods differently, stores fat differently and burns fat differently. So, you can add and subtract all the live-long day, but you will never get it right. But that is not all.
The biggest reason that calories in vs. calories out does not work is because not all calories are created equal. For example, if you eat 100 calories of almonds, you'll be ingesting a lot of fiber. For this reason, they are broken down slowly, giving you sustainable energy and a slow rise in blood sugar.
Now, if you have 100 calories of soda, this has no fiber, so it is absorbed directly into the portal system for processing by the liver. The liver cannot handle the amount of sugar it's receiving, so it tells your pancreas to make insulin, which turns the sugar directly into fat. Moreover, these calories are processed quickly, leaving you unsatisfied and hungry.
3. No fat, no calorie, sugar-free foods reign supreme.
You might want to put the Diet Coke down for this one.
The crusade against obesity started many years ago, and one of the earlier food modification trends was to remove fat and calories from processed foods because we thought avoiding calories and fat was crucial to weight loss.
The problem is, when you remove fat from food, it tastes like garbage. So, in order to make food palatable, food companies started to dump a ton of sugar into foods. Sugar is what is dangerous about processed foods, not fat and not calories.
When your body takes on more sugar than it can handle, it turns up the production of insulin and immediately converts it into fat. When this happens, it blocks the signal to the brain that says you're full, so you just want to keep eating.
It isn't just high fructose corn syrup you have to worry about, either. It's every form of sugar that is hidden in your food, and there are a whole lot of them, and they all work exactly the same metabolically. The scariest part of all is since sugar can hide under so many names in food, even sugar-free foods contain some form of sugar. This is why reading a label is absolutely crucial in the quest for nutrition.
Lastly, for all of you artificial sweetener lovers out there, they are actually just as harmful. Aside from being disease-causing agents, they also trick your brain into thinking it's getting sugar, but they don't trigger the signal that you are full, increasing both your appetite and your food intake.
4. The juice won't help you lose.
Sorry to inform you, but the Jamba Juice you're substituting for lunch every day is actually not doing you any favors. When you juice fruit, you are removing the fiber and leaving behind the juice, which is mostly fructose.
When you drink a glass of juice, the sugar concentration is so high that it activates insulin production, which converts the sugar right into fat. Metabolically, your body cannot tell the difference between a cup of juice and cup of soda, save for a handful of vitamins.
So, am I saying fruit is unhealthy? No. Fruit is perfectly fine because you are retaining the fiber, which helps your body slowly process the sugar in the fruit. It's when that fiber is gone and people replace meals with juice that juicing becomes a problem.
5. Trendy diet fads.
Each of them pitches a different approach to eating, whether it be avoiding carbs, avoiding gluten (raise your hand if you know what gluten is), not eating cooked food or not eating more meat than vegetables. Since all of them are pointing fingers at a different culprit behind obesity, how do we know which one is right?
None of them are right. Do you know why a lot of these diets are successful? It's not because they won the game of “Guess Who,” it's because they all encourage the same healthy habit: avoiding processed foods and taking personal accountability.
Processed foods are home to a ton of added sugar, which, as you know by now, just gets turned into fat once you ingest it. All of these trendy diets promote actively reading labels of foods you buy and cooking for yourself. By cooking for yourself with natural ingredients, you avoid added sugars found in processed foods, and by reading labels you actively become aware of what you are putting into your body.
With a decision as important as what fuel you are giving your body, why would you want to leave that choice for somebody else to make?