This can be the year you finally drop those excess pounds, achieve a strong, streamlined body, and give your health a huge boost with a commitment to sensible eating.
But in order to reach your healthy weight and keep it there, you’ll have to sidestep a lot of diet minefields. So many nutritional myths and faddish ideas are out there, you could easily wind up sabotaging your weight loss efforts and compromising your health, without even knowing it.
58% of consumers are actively trying to lose weight to improve either their appearance, health, or both, according to the Natural Marketing Institute’s Health & Wellness Trends Database.
MYTH #1: YOU HAVE TO GO ON A DIET TO LOSE WEIGHT.
REALITY: Most diets don’t work. Instead of following the latest fashionable weight loss program, you should develop healthy, fat-burning habits and make them part of your daily life.
Atkins, Zone, Ornish… How do they stack up? A recent study tracked the weight loss results of obese people who followed popular diet plans for one year. In order to achieve a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI), most subjects needed to lose 41.8 lbs. At the end of 12 months, those on the Atkins low-carb plan lost 10.4 lbs; Zone moderate-carb dieters lost 3.5 lbs; and Ornish low-fat dieters lost 4.9 lbs.
With all three diets, most of the participants started out as clinically obese… and ended up as clinically obese, with only a very modest weight loss to show for their year-long dieting efforts. On all three diets, the subjects experienced most of their weight loss in the first two to six months and then began regaining most of their lost pounds.
GOOD HEALTH TIP:
It’s easy to get discouraged about dieting when you keep trying the latest trends… and failing. The best way to achieve permanent weight loss is to incorporate reasonable, nutritious, and enjoyable changes into your life that you can stick with over time.
Consumers employed several lifestyle changes to help manage their weight in the past year.
• Smaller portions at mealtime
• Making slight lifestyle changes
• Regular and consistent exercise
• Eating smaller more frequent meals
• Making drastic lifestyle changes
• Working with a dietitian/nutritionist
MYTH #2: DIET FOODS ARE A GREAT HELP FOR LOSING WEIGHT
REALITY: Many “low-fat” foods are surprisingly high in sugar content – and calories. That’s because manufacturers often add sugar to compensate for the diminished flavor and texture that results from removing fat.
GOOD HEALTH TIP:
Secrets of Sneaky Sugar: A sugar by any other name is still sugar. Your “diet” food can contain added sugars in different guises you may not recognize. Here are some names to look for on the ingredient list: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, lactose, and maltose, malt syrup, molasses, sucrose, and syrup.
So what’s a conscientious dieter to do? As always, the battle of the bulge is ultimately won in the arena of calories. Carefully check food labels for total calorie content… even when they’re branded “diet” or “low-fat.”
The Great Cookie Caper: Let’s compare the calories of a regular chocolate chip cookie and a reduced-fat chocolate chip cookie. The regular cookie has 3 fat grams and 49 calories; the reduced-fat cookie has 2 fat grams and 45 calories. A 4-calorie difference is not going to get you into that bikini by summer!
On the other hand, some low-fat choices can significantly slash your calorie intake. Don’t want to give up cheddar cheese? One ounce of regular cheddar cheese has 6 fat grams and 114 calories; the same-sized low-fat portion has 1.2 grams of fat and an impressively reduced 49 calories!
When the weight loss aim is to improve their health, consumers seem to eat a more balanced diet (e.g., less sugar, fewer carbs, etc.). In the past year, consumers limited their sugar, carbohydrate, and fat intake more often than they used diet food/products to help manage their weight.
MYTH #3: YOU HAVE TO STARVE YOURSELF TO LOSE WEIGHT.
REALITY: Yes, you do have to limit your calories to shed pounds, but there’s no need to starve. You can cleverly choose foods that fill you up, not out – and keep you satisfied and stoked with energy all day long. What’s your best bet for filling foods? Fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Most Americans get only half of the recommended daily intake of 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber, putting them at risk for obesity and a host of serious health problems.
• 46% of consumers are choosing to eat fiber-rich foods as part of their weight management plan.10
• Consumers who eat fewer carbohydrates to lose weight also eat fiber-rich foods (66%) and participate in regular and consistent exercise (61%) to achieve their optimum weight.
Fiber comes in two types, each with its own starring role to play in protecting our health and promoting weight management. Soluble fibers dissolve in water and are associated with regulating blood sugar levels and lowering cholesterol. Insoluble fibers or roughage can’t dissolve in water but can absorb water. This causes them to swell, making them good bulking agents that improve gastrointestinal functions and speed up elimination.
By eating sufficient amounts of both fiber types, you’ll enjoy their full range of health benefits. Soluble fibers: apples, citrus fruits, pears, carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, squash, legumes, lentils, barley, oats, oat bran, oatmeal. Insoluble fibers: Cabbage, beets, Brussels sprouts, turnips, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, whole wheat bread, wheat cereal, wheat bran, rye.
GOOD HEALTH TIP:
Here are a few ideas to help you incorporate more whole grains into your daily diet:
• Create a whole grain pilaf with a mixture of barley, wild rice, brown rice, broth, and spices. For a special touch, stir in toasted nuts or chopped dried fruit.
• Try rolled oats or a crushed, unsweetened whole grain cereal as breading for baked chicken, fish, veal cutlets, or eggplant parmesan.
• Freeze leftover cooked brown rice, bulgur, or barley. Heat and serve it later as a quick side dish.
Decode the Food Label to Find Whole Grains
• Choose foods that name one of the following whole-grain ingredients first on the label’s ingredient list: brown rice, bulgur, graham flour, oatmeal, whole-grain corn, whole oats, whole rye, whole wheat, wild rice.
• Food labeled with the words “multi-grain,” “stone-ground,” “100% wheat,” “cracked wheat,” “seven-grain,” or “bran” are usually not whole-grain products.
• Color is not an indication of whole grain. Bread can be brown because of molasses or other added ingredients. Read the ingredient list to see if it is a whole grain.
MYTH #4: FAT MAKES YOU FAT
REALITY: Your body needs fat to function. Fat provides you with energy, allows you to absorb key vitamins, and helps build cell walls and membranes throughout the body. Don’t deprive yourself of health-giving, energy-producing fat.
41% of consumers employed a low-fat diet in the past year to manage their weight. And consumers were heavily invested in the use of reduced-fat food/beverages.
The trick is to consume the right kind of fat – and in the right amounts. If you’re like most Americans, you may be getting far too many omega-6 fatty acids… and not nearly enough omega-3 fatty acids.
It’s easy to take in excess quantities of omega-6 fatty acids because the common vegetable oils in the American diet – such as corn, safflower, and sunflowers oils – are packed with omega-6. So are meat, milk, and eggs. Unfortunately, when you consume large quantities of omega-6, you not only gain weight, thanks to its high caloric content, but you may also grow more susceptible to inflammation and thickening of the blood.
Omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, are hard to come by. The reason you’re probably not getting enough of these health-giving powerhouses is that many manufacturers remove them to keep products fresh. You can ramp up your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids by nibbling on soybeans, walnuts, flaxseed, and alfalfa, and by adding cold water fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines to your menu.
Here’s a handy guide for getting a healthy balance of fat in your daily diet: Keep total fat intake between 20 to 35 percent of calories, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.
GOOD HEALTH TIP:
Sip green tea, and lose weight? The Chinese have long appreciated green tea for its remarkable ability to promote digestion, improve mental faculties, and regulate body temperature. Now an intriguing new study in Japan suggests that green tea may also have a helpful role to play in losing weight. Over a 12-week period, one group of men drank a bottle of tea containing 690 mg of catechins (from green tea) every day, while the other group consumed tea containing only 22 mg of catechins.
The results showed that the men drinking the tea with higher catechins had lower Body Mass Index (BMI), body weight, and waist circumference compared to the other group. So the next time you pour a soothing cup of green tea, consider that each sip may be helping your body break down fat, along with all its other benefits.
MYTH #5: SKIP BREAKFAST TO SLASH YOUR DAILY CALORIE INTAKE.
REALITY: While you may be tempted to miss your morning meal to save on calories, studies show that skipping breakfast can sabotage your diet efforts. A recent study examined the role that breakfast intake plays on body mass index and studied the effect of different types of breakfasts. After adjustments for sex, age and race, the results showed that people who ate different types of cereal had a lower body mass index than those who ate meat and eggs or those who skipped breakfast.
And, for girls, here’s a fascinating look at the strong link between a healthy weight and breakfast: a recent analysis of government data on breakfast eating in teenagers (ages 12 to 16) showed that the thinnest girls are the most likely to eat breakfast. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the most overweight girls are the most likely to skip breakfast.
Of course, not all cereals are created equal. You won’t lose weight by heaping your bowl with sugary cereal, then drowning it in whole milk. Choose a low-calorie, high-fiber cereal and limit your portion size to about 150 calories. Oatmeal is an excellent option for a satisfying, high-fiber jumpstart to your day. And try skipping the fruit juice, and eating the fruit instead.
By eating a healthy, filling breakfast, you’ll stay more in control of your appetite and be less prone to overeating later in the day.
GOOD HEALTH TIP:
Breakfast bonus: Eating small meals more frequently may help lower your cholesterol. British researchers recently found that people who ate more than six times a day had lower cholesterol (by about 5%) than those who ate once or twice daily. The key is to eat small, healthy meals every three or four hours.
Who Skips Breakfast? People who are losing weight to improve their appearance tend to skip meals more than those who are losing weight to improve their health.
Frequent Weight Loss May Affect Immune Function
You already know that going on fad diets can be frustrating, unhealthy, and ineffective, because the weight you lose comes right back on, every time. Now there’s another reason to end the “yo-yo diet” syndrome – it may compromise your immune system. Investigators studied a group of healthy, overweight, post-menopausal women and discovered that the more often the women had lost 10 pounds or more, the greater the suppression of their immune systems.
TO SUM IT UP: 5 DIET MYTHS EXPOSED
1. Avoid fad diets and concentrate on making healthy lifestyle changes.
2. Check the labels of low-fat “diet” foods for sneakily added sugars and high-calorie content.
3. Stave off diet-destroying hunger pangs with filling high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
4. Add salmon, mackerel, sardines, and other cold-water fish to your menu to
increase your intake of health-giving omega-3 fatty acids.
5. Every morning, eat a delicious, low-calorie, high-fiber breakfast such as
oatmeal with fresh fruit