Weight Loss Myths

By Katie Schaeffer

Everyone has a tip for weight loss. The first thing out of a person's mouth when they find out I study nutrition is often along the lines of "Last summer I lost a lot of weight by drinking vinegar", or "Can you believe people are still eating carbs?" Not surprisingly, these are usually people who have struggled with weight loss and are confused by all the conflicting information out there. And why shouldn't they be? There is a lot of information out there, and most of it isn't accurate. So to help you start weeding out the true from the false, I have compiled a list of the 5 weight loss myths I hear most often, and the truth behind them.

1) Don't eat before bed.

Not eating before bed is good advice for anyone suffering from acid reflux, but if you just want to lose a few pounds for bikini weather, not so much. The truth is, our bodies need a certain number of calories each day and our bodies don't care if we eat them throughout the day in small meals, or in one giant feast at 11 o'clock at night. However, if you find yourself constantly snacking as you watch late night TV, or always having ice cream after the kids go to bed, setting up a "No Snacking After 8" rule may help you cut calories.

2) Eating small meals throughout the day will speed up your metabolism.

Actually, the only way to rev up that metabolism is to build some muscle. Muscle is an active tissue, so the more you have, the more calories you burn during the day. Eating small meals throughout the day is a good tip to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels and prevent binge eating, but it won't help you speed up your metabolism.

3) Eating protein instead of carbs will make you lose weight.

This one is a little complicated, but here's the truth in a nut shell. Protein and carbohydrates are two of the three macronutrients our body needs to survive (fat is the third). Believe it or not, both protein and carbohydrates have the same number of calories per gram. That means if you eat too much protein, you will gain weight just like a person who eats too much carbohydrate. Eliminating carbs from your diet can lead to constipation, fatigue, and unpleasant body odors (it's true). Instead, find a nice balance of protein and carbs. Just remember, carbohydrate doesn't have to mean bread. Fruits, vegetables, and dairy products all contain carbs and add variety, flavor, and nutrients to your diet. Pair an apple with some almonds for a healthy snack, or add some fruit to plain, low-fat Greek yogurt. Eating protein with carbs will give you energy and maintain your blood sugar levels, making weight loss that much easier.

4) Fasting for a day or two before a special event will make you look great.

I have good news and bad news. The bad news is, fasting doesn't help you lose weight quickly. The good news is, fasting doesn't help you lose weight quickly, so you don't have to do it! Go ahead and eat lunch! The truth is, fasting can be counterproductive if you want to lose inches quickly. First, it makes you cranky and (as we mentioned before) might produce some unpleasant body odors. Second, it may lead to dehydration which simultaneously makes your body look puffy and your skin look wrinkled (gross). Third, all those tricks that are supposed to help suppress your appetite, like chewing gum or drinking diet soda might actually make you swallow air and, you guessed it, puff up. Losing more than 2 pounds in a week is dangerous and difficult. Give yourself time (at least a month or two) to make small changes, eat more vegetables, get more exercise, and gradually lose weight. If you're short on time and want to look your finest this weekend, your best bet is to drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, and avoid foods that might cause bloating or gas like foods high in salt, dairy, or fiber. This brings me to my next myth.

5) Eating extra fiber helps speed up weight loss.

This myth is kind of true, but it can also backfire, literally. Increasing fiber in your diet too quickly can lead to incredible gas, abdominal cramping, and constipation. That being said, it's true that fiber is a very important part of a healthy diet. It keeps you feeling full longer, helps maintain your blood glucose levels, helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and it helps lower your risk of heart disease. If you are one of the many Americans who aren't getting enough fiber in their daily diet, start increasing your fiber gradually, making sure you drink plenty of fluids. I recommend adding one high fiber food to your diet each week, like oatmeal, lentils, quinoa, or cooked beans. Don't forget to drink lots of fluids!

There you have it. Maybe you've heard these, maybe you will hear them in the future. Either way, hopefully you will think twice before fasting or subsiding on nothing but turkey for a week. So as you journey through weight loss, stay safe! Don't fall for bad advice. And don't forget to drink enough fluids!

Katie Schaeffer is a graduate student at D'Youville College, completing her master's thesis is dietetics, focusing on improving urban food environments. She has a background in environmental science, agriculture and nutrition. A 15 year vegetarian, Katie advocates eating a mostly local, plant based diet to improve health and the environment. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Western New York Dietetics Association, and the Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine practice group. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking meals for friends and family, singing with the Buffalo Choral Arts Society, and making her own clothes. She loves a good road trip and experiencing new places and new foods. Katie lives in Buffalo with her husband Hill and their dog Brody. Her favorite food is tofu. Not really. It's actually coconut cake.
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