Top 5 Diet Myths: have we been fooled?
1. Carbs are bad
You have probably heard it until the cows come home, “carbs are bad. You need to ditch them”. However, this is not strictly true. Carbohydrates are not bad, only some of them. To simplify things, there are simple carbohydrates and complex ones. Simple carbohydrates are found in refined and processed foods such as juices, soft drinks, white bread (with white flour, instead of wholemeal wheat floor) flavoured milk, cakes, biscuits and sweets. These are the “bad carbs” and should be eliminated from your diet. Complex carbs are found in non-starchy vegetables, 100% whole wheat & pasta, oats and brown rice. These foods are low GI, will slow the digestion process, keep you fuller for longer and will reduce your calorie input overall. These are “good carbs” and should not be eliminated from your diet. It is one of the most discussed diet myths.
2. Skipping breakfast slows down your metabolism
The concept that your metabolism needs a “kickstart” as soon as you wake up is a diet myth. Studies have failed to prove that there is a metabolism boost from eating breakfast. However, breakfast should be eaten for other reasons. These reasons include:
- helping you to burn more calories passively after eating,
- increased energy to get you moving as you start the day but more importantly to
- avoid making that bad mid-morning choices or a “sweet treat” pickup because our hunger has kicked in
We should eat breakfast so that we do not let our hunger build and end up eating too much at the end of the day. Usually our breakfast choices can be smarter and be more nutritious, where we can pre-plan to get that extra fibre in or ensuring we have fruits with anti-oxidants. It is true that when we eat, our metabolism speeds up, as our body needs the energy to breakdown foods and process them. But more importantly, is making the right food choices, having the right energy levels and managing our hunger so we do not over eat later in the day.
3. Eating fat makes you fat
Another common diet myth is that when you eat fat you just get fatter. More importantly, it is how you combine them. Frying refined and starchy carbohydrates in fat is a recipe to gain weight. The low fat revolution brought the emergence of “Diet foods” and “low fat foods – 97% fat free”. Some examples of these foods that grace our shelves are low-fat foods, and processed gluten free foods. We are no longer afraid of fats, just saturated fats and trans fats which may clog our arteries or cause cardiovascular disease. Good fats found in foods such as salmon, nuts, avocado and eggs should be embraced as they improve satiety. Butter and full fat milk is fine as well in moderation.
4. All calories are equal so counting calories should work.
Do you remember the 1980’s. It was all about calorie counting and where did that leave us in the obesity battle? We are fatter now in the 2000’ss than we were in the 1980’s. Although the calorie is a measure of energy, it does not mean that all calorie sources have the same effect on your weight. Different foods go through different metabolic pathways and can have vastly different effects on hunger and the hormones that regulate weight. For example, replacing simple carbohydrates with protein can boost metabolism, depress appetite and cravings and reduce weight-regain hormones. So look to reach for a boiled egg or some strips of chicken breast instead of a chocolate bar. It sounds strange but your body will soon turn off the “sweet switch” and will not crave for it anymore. It takes time.
5. It’s all in the mind: Losing weight is all about willpower
This is probably one of the hardest diet myths to tackle especially among health professionals or judgemental family members or friends. It is inaccurate to believe that losing weight is all about willpower and that you can “choose” to lose weight with the right mindset. There is no doubt that tackling unhelpful beliefs and dysfunctional thinking through CBT is important for long term weight maintenance, but losing weight is a complex disorder with dozens of contributing factors which are genetic, biological and environmental. The body has numerous hormones and biological pathways that regulate weight such as leptin, ghrelin, GLP-2, insulin and Peptide YY. Eating is driven by both behaviour and physiology. For some of us, itis harder than others. Some are born overweight like this picture of the world’s biggest baby born in the world.
Diet myths will always fill our social media, magazines and TV. Just remember, exercsie regularly, eat processed, unrefined, nutrient dense foods and your body will reward you.
Director of Medical & Mind Weight Loss