7 Dieting Myths BUSTED

Don't make losing weight harder than it needs to be. This expert advice clears up some longstanding diet myths that could be messing with your slim-down strategy.

January 27, 2017
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When you decide you want to lose weight and overhaul your eating habits for good, the natural next step is to take to Google for some diet research. The problem is, there are so many (often conflicting) facts and opinions out there concerning a healthy lifestyle, that you'll likely leave your search session with more questions than answers. 

More: 7 Foods Missing From Your Healthy Diet

But don't let misinformation stand between you and your goals. Losing weight doesn't have to be complicated, and just because a dieting belief is widespread, doesn't make it true. To help you sift through the disorder, we're bringing you these 7 prevalent diet myths, adapted from The One One One Diet by nutrition pro Rania Batayneh. (Spoiler alert: There will be cheese.)

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Dieting Myth #1: Meat is bad, and dairy is really bad.

Being vegan or vegetarian alone is not a weight loss strategy. Sure, eating huge hunks of cheese or heaping bowls of ice cream isn’t healthy and it’s out of balance, not to mention very high in fat and calories, but you don’t have to give up dairy altogether unless you have ethical or medical reasons to do so. You don’t need dairy products to get protein and calcium, but they are an excellent source if you choose the right ones.

For example, low-fat Greek yogurt is very high in protein compared to conventional yogurt, with a rich, creamy texture. You can even enjoy real cheese, real ice cream, and cream in your coffee, as long as you keep them in balance. The same goes for eggs. Eggs are an excellent protein source. They aren’t required for a healthy diet, but don’t ban them just because you think they will make you fat. If you object to the dairy industry, fine. Just don’t assume you’re going to be able to order that vegan T-shirt in extra-small because you cut meat and dairy from your diet.

More: 20 Easy Egg Recipes You Can Make in Minutes

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Dieting Myth #2: Pay diet plans work best.

Paid diet plans are extremely popular, and part of the reason is that people believe if they pay for the diet, it will work. The theory goes that you won’t want to waste your money, so you will do what the diet plan says, or that a diet plan that costs money must have more value and be more effective than a free diet plan (or no diet plan). But in many cases, this is simply not true.

Every single diet out there has success stories, but those fine-print disclaimers really are true: Losing weight and keeping it off through a pay diet program is not a typical result. Most people don’t have that kind of success. They might lose weight, but most of the time, they gain it back. A complicated system that tells you what to eat or has you counting points or eating packaged meals isn’t sustainable over the long term, like a simple dietary strategy is. A study from UCLA that analyzed 31 long-term studies found that although people can often lose 5 to 10 percent of their body weight on any diet, most people regain the weight and then some within 4 to 5 years, and that dieting itself is actually a consistent predictor of future weight gain! How’s that for a reason not to waste your hard-earned cash on tasteless frozen meals and counting points and going to meetings and obsessively posting on forums to talk about your successes and slipups? 

More: The Best Fitness Motivation Quotes

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Dieting Myth #3: Some people will never be able to eat normally.

Most diet plans teach you that you can’t eat normally if you want to lose weight. You have to restrict yourself, follow the plan, and go to meetings so you can all keep reminding each other that you can’t eat like other people. There is this mentality that overweight and especially obese people have a special problem that requires a way of eating that’s about as much fun as a medical prescription. I say, nonsense! A balanced diet is the ticket to good health, regardless of your pant size.

More: 6 Ways to Be More Assertive in Your Diet

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Dieting Myth #4: The U.S. government knows what you should eat.

The U.S. government has always been in the business of deciding what Americans should eat, beginning decades ago with the infamous Four Food Groups, then with the Food Pyramid, and now with its new ChooseMyPlate campaign (MyPlate.gov). The problem with the federal government dictating the food you put into your body is that it is advised by a bunch of people who make a lot of money selling you their particular kind of food -- meat producers, dairy producers, and wheat producers. This doesn’t necessarily mean the government has bad information, but it does mean profit is involved.

According to the new MyPlate campaign, every meal should consist of fruit, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. That’s a lot for one meal. You can benefit from eating all those food groups, but not at every meal. It’s excessive. A meat, a grain, and a vegetable with butter or oil is a good meal. Why also add fruit and milk? Plus the MyPlate plan doesn’t even mention fat, which is incredibly important for a healthy diet. Maybe the protein or dairy you choose will contain fat, or maybe you will put a fat such as olive oil on your vegetables, but the plan doesn’t tell you to do so. Its message isn’t clear, and it lends itself to abuse. 

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Dieting Myth #5: Organic food is diet food.

The word organic is seductive, 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. A quarter of an organic pie for breakfast? That’s not a healthy breakfast, even if it is a chemical-free breakfast. It isn’t balanced and it contains way too many calories, and too much sugar and fat for a single meal. (And very little protein.) Organic sugar is still sugar. Organic white flour is still white flour. Organic butter is still butter and organic lard is still lard. 

More: Where Eating Organic Matters Most

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Dieting Myth #6: Diet food helps you lose weight.

Diet foods are fake foods -- or more precisely, fake “foods.” Manufacturers use all kinds of food-processing tricks and chemicals to trick you into thinking you just ate a blueberry pie or a chocolate eclair or a regular cola, when all you really ate was artificial sweetener, filler, even wood pulp. 

More: 5 Food Fails That Can Stall Weight Loss

Fake foods cause all kinds of trouble in your body. Artificial sweetener, whether in yogurt or diet soda or something else, can actually disrupt your body’s natural insulin cycle. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis tested 17 severely obese people to see how their blood sugar and insulin would respond to artificial sweeteners. When study subjects drank sucralose, they had higher blood sugar peaks and a 20 percent higher insulin level than when they drank water. As you may know, high blood sugar and excessive insulin production are conditions that may lead to diabetes. That diet soda you drink with your meal might be doing you more harm than good!

Then there are all those "fat-free" foods. Studies show that where a person might eat one real cookie, he or she is more likely to eat 10 fat-free cookies. That results in a calorie overload, not a calorie deficit. Three studies out of Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab specifically showed that low-fat labeling influenced overconsumption in two ways: by inflating people's perception of an appropriate serving size, and by reducing the guilt associated with consuming the product. Why confuse your body with fake foods? Why deny yourself the pleasure of real taste?

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Myth #7: You have to start on a Monday.

Monday holds such promise. It’s a new beginning. A do-over for all the dietary mistakes you made last week. However, Monday’s promise is a false promise. It implies you are starting something you will eventually stop, so why start at all? Monday is just another day -- and another excuse. People like to mark a day to begin something, but what are you beginning? Giving up your favorite foods or starting a restrictive diet? That’s nothing to celebrate. Most diets don’t involve sustainable behaviors. They involve drastic, temporary measures to help you lose weight, but starting them on Monday (or any other day) just means that on some future date -- probably Thursday or Friday -- you’re going to go back to your old ways.

More: 4 Ways to Jump-Start Your New Diet

You don’t ever have to start a diet, let alone go off one, and you certainly don’t need to wait until Monday to start eating right. Once you change your permanent eating habits, Monday will be just another day. It won’t lie to you, and it won’t abandon you on Friday. And you won’t need it. Because you will have moved on.

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Tags: dieting