Diets: The big fat lies
Kate Hilpern on why skipping breakfast or eating 'low-fat' snacks won't make you slim
MOST dieters struggle to lose weight and even if they succeed, many pile the pounds back on.
It's little wonder when you consider the myths associated with dieting. Here, we demystify the greatest whoppers to help you slim down while remaining healthy.
Skipping meals helps you lose weight
The opposite is true — we gain weight when we skip meals because our metabolism slows down as a result of storing fat. Your body assumes you're starving and goes into survival mode. Skipping breakfast is particularly futile.
“One study found that people skipping breakfast were nearly five times more likely to be obese,” says nutritionist Sara Stanner of the Breakfast Panel, which promotes its benefits.
“One reason for this is that it prevents you from having high-fat and high-calorie snacks during the morning.”
When you break your over-night fast, you give your brain the food it needs to perform, explains dietitian Azmina Govindji.
If your brain fails to get this kickstart, you crave foods that will raise your blood glucose and brain glucose quickly. “It's usually unhealthy, high-sugar foods that have the fastest effect,” she says.
Fats are bad
“Not eating fats can make us fat,” says Fiona Kirk, nutritionist and author of
So What the F *** Should I Eat? “Omega 3 fatty acids — found in oily fish, some nuts, seeds and beans — not only accelerate fat burning, but the feeling of fullness they create stems hunger and reduces cravings.”
Failure to incorporate fat into your diet leads to symptoms of deficiency, adds Marilyn Glenville, a nutritionist specialising in women's health.
“I regularly see women who refuse to touch avocados, oily fish and nuts. As a result, they suffer from things like dry, lifeless hair, soft, easily frayed nails, painful joints, arthritis, cracked skin or dry skin, as well as poor wound healing, depression, mood swings, fatigue and lack of motivation.”
Not so actress Megan Fox who followed a balanced diet with a good amount of fat to get her body into shape for her role in Transformers.
You can 'work off'a burger
“It's common for people to try to offset unhealthy eating with exercise, for example equating 30 minutes running on a treadmill to a chocolate bar,” says David Fletcher, personal trainer at Odyssey fat-loss specialists. “The trouble is, our bodies respond differently to exercise and, for some, cardiovascular activity, such as a one-hour jog, can be of little benefit when it comes to dropping body fat.”
“To lose a pound of fat through exercise, most people need to run 35 miles,” says nutrition and weightloss expert Laura Williams. “Far better to restrict calorie intake.”
‘Lite’ foods and drinks are helpful
“Foods described as ‘low-fat' or ‘fatfree' are often higher in calories than standard products, thanks to the extra sugars and thickeners used to boost the flavour and texture,” says Juliette Kellow, dietitian and adviser to Weight Loss Resources.
Some low-fat products contain up to 60g of sugar per serving — almost as much as a 600ml bottle of Coca- Cola (70g). Cereal bars are among the worst culprits. While many are lower in fat than chocolate bars, they often contain just as much sugar. Fletcher says that even ‘diet’ foods that contain fewer calories and less fat can be sinister. They are often laced with sweeteners, which contain xenoestrogens, he explains.
“These disrupt your hormonal profile and can cause fat storage.”
Avoiding carbs helps you lose weight
Carbohydrates have had a rough time in the past few years, thanks to the popularity of the Atkins diet, but there's no evidence that carb-rich foods are more likely to make us gain weight than any other food. In fact, carbohydrates are the food group most likely to keep you feeling fuller longer and are the most important source of energy in the diet, according to Jane Griffin, UK sports dietitian and consultant to Zotrim. “Anyone who follows the low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet will soon begin to feel lethargic and irritable,” she says.
Diets are the best way to shift pounds
There are zillions of diets, and research shows one-in-four of us are on one at any given time, but none of them is proven to work.
Scientists studying ingestive behaviour at the University of Liverpool found that calorie-restricted diets create powerful cravings for the very foods you are trying to avoid.
Detoxing is good
“Detox regimes are based on the assumption that our bodies are not able to deal with waste products,” says Griffin. “If you have a healthy liver and kidneys, you should have no problem dealing with toxins. Of course, it makes sense not to have too much caffeine, alcohol or highfat foods, but a healthy, balanced diet will help the body withstand any toxins.” Short-term detox diets probably do no harm, she says, but long-term detox diets should never be considered.