Diet Myths and Dangerous Diet Traps
Sometimes dieters fall prey to bad information. Diet myths still circulate, and falling for them can lead to stalled weight loss or, in the worst cases, downright dangerous approaches to weight loss.
Some dieters fall into diet traps that keep them in a cycle of yo-yo weight loss and gain. This is not only demoralizing, it can be hazardous to your health and metabolism as well.
Here are some of the most common diet myths and traps for you to avoid on your weight loss journey:
Myth 1: Low-Fat (or Low-Carb) is the Way to Go
Eating plans that drastically reduce or completely cut out a food group are not healthy in the long run. We need carbs to fuel our bodies and keep our energy levels high, and we need fat for sustained energy and satiation.
The trick is to learn to tell good fats and tell good carbs from bad, and choose good ones most of the time.
Choose unsaturated fats from plant sources, like olive oil, avocados, and nuts. Fatty fish like salmon are also rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
As for carbs, you want to choose foods that are high in fiber so that your body takes longer to process the carbohydrates. Whole grains, nuts, beans, fruit and vegetables are good sources of healthy carbs.
Myth 2: Strength Training Makes Women Bulky
Some women avoid strength training for fear that they will become too muscular. This is unfortunate, because strength training can actually cut inches from your body by raising your base metabolic rate.
In fact, the fear of bulking up is an unfounded one. Women do not have enough naturally occurring testosterone to develop large, manly muscles. While men can easily put on a lot of bulky muscle, women simply develop lean, toned muscles.
To benefit from strength training without fear, use a lighter weight and do a higher number of reps. Few reps of heavier weights build size; many reps of lighter weights gives muscles a lean, toned appearance.
Myth 3: The Skinnier, the Better
Many people assume that an overweight body is an unhealthy body, and a skinny body is a healthy one. They couldn't be more wrong.
In our culture of "thinner is better", many women and men turn to unhealthy weight loss methods. Deprived of calories, the body will begin feeding on itself for survival. This leads to a dangerous loss of lean muscle mass.
The end result is known as the "skinny fat person syndrome" - a person who is slim, but who has a high body fat percentage. This condition is frequently unhealthier than carrying a bit of extra weight.
To avoid this, give your body adequate nutrition and build your muscles through strength training. Don't use the scale as your only measure of success; muscle is denser than fat, so it's possible to gain a few pounds even as you lose a few inches.
Trap 1: Very Low Calorie Diets
Very low calorie diets are dangerous for other reasons, too. They lead to one of the toughest diet traps out there: slow metabolism.
As your body grows accustomed to surviving on a low number of calories, your metabolism slows down. This is why habitual dieters sometimes gain weight by eating a normal number of calories.
To avoid this diet pitfall, never eat fewer than 1,200 calories each day. Men should eat at least 1,500. Note that this level of intake is on the low side of healthy; most people require several hundred more calories to get them through the day.
If you've already damaged your metabolism, it will take a while to repair a damaged metabolism. First, you will have to increase your calories to a healthy level. This might result in initial weight gain, but stick with it; in a few weeks or months, the scale will go down.
To speed your recovery, get plenty of exercise and eat several small, frequent meals throughout the day.
Trap 2: Commercial Diet Programs
Commercial diets can be terribly convenient - and terribly expensive. Still, their celebrity spokesmen and fancy foods have many people convinced that commercial diets are the only way to lose weight.
In reality, no one program is better than another. The best diet plan is a well-balanced plan you can comfortably stick with for life. Few commercial plans are affordable or nutritious enough for lifelong use.
Trap 3: Cleanses and Fasts
There are countless cleanses and fasts: juice fasts, water fasts, salt water flushes, herbal colon cleansers, etc. Unfortunately, few of them have scientifically-proven benefits, and some can even be dangerous.
Diets that force you to drink only liquids are seldom satisfying for very long. Colon cleansers are little more than diuretics and laxatives, which can cause dehydration and even physical dependence.
Save your money (and possibly your health) by staying well hydrated, avoiding the overuse of medications, and eating whole, natural foods. When given the nutrients it needs, the human body is its own best cleanser and you can easily do a full body detox by yourself.