To eat carbs or not to eat carbs, that is the question. Or, wait, is the question to cleanse or not to cleanse? Is it a cheat day or a cheat meal? Is fat friend or foe? Are diet foods dealmakers or deal breakers? What’s fact? What’s fiction? Who to trust? What do believe? Where to turn? There are so many question marks when it comes to diet and nutrition and it’s easy to get lost in all the conflicting reports. And the frustration is real, my friends — it turns out following the wrong advice could actually be setting us back. Here are the most common nutritional myths that could be sabotaging your progress.
1. Diet foods
You’ve resolved to eat healthy, shave of a few pounds and get in shape for the summer — good for you! So, you’re at the grocery store (because, of course, you’re going to cook now) loading up on all the health-wise goods – veggies, fruit, lean meats, and anything with a “low fat,” “sugar free” or “diet” label on it. Sound familiar? If so, STOP. Sorry to say that the truth is, those seemingly “healthy” labels are not going to help the cause. These products are usually over-processed and loaded with chemicals and preservatives that could be messing with hormones and digestion, in turn making it harder to lose weight. Not only that, but, studies have been done to indicate that diet products can actually increase our sweet cravings. Kinda counterintuitive, no? Research also shows that those “low fat” disclaimers actually cause us to consume more calories because we feel like we can have larger portions, guilt-free. #DietFail, indeed!
2. Cheat meals
Whenever you hear of a new fad diet, it almost always includes a “cheat meal.” While there is some indication that taking a break from a strict diet every now and then is good for weight loss, it is the wording and the connotations associated with it that could be setting us back. The word “cheat” assumes you are doing something bad, something wrong, something forbidden. It is associated with negative feelings like guilt and shame. Negative feelings like these can often lead us toward the pantry instead of away: “Well, I’ve already cheated on the diet…might as well just keep eating.”
Instead, take the word “cheat” out of your vocabulary and take a more balanced approach to every meal. The 80/20 rule is touted as one of the most successful nutritional solutions. Following this guideline means that 80 per cent of the time you make the best, smartest and healthiest choices, and 20 per cent of the time you’re free to do what you want — that means you can have that glass of wine, that piece of cake, the oil on your bread without feeling like you’ve ruined the whole thing. Make the best choices where and when you can and don’t sweat the sweet stuff. This will lead to a more balanced, understanding and sustainable plan.
3. Counting calories
For decades we’ve been inundated with the idea that weight management is all about calories in, calories out. Often this mentality makes for calorie-crazed dieters, obsessively checking and counting the values on everything they consume. There are a number of downfalls to this approach. Firstly, it causes people to search for the lowest calorie foods, which in turn brings us back to the first pitfall in this article. Often the “low cal” options are the worst for us. They lack nutrients and are instead packed with chemicals that our bodies simply don’t recognize. Furthermore, it pushes people away from the good stuff. Some of the best foods for us, and our nutrition plans, are calorie dense, and that’s OK, because new research shows that not all calories are created equal. In fact, the research claims that the body actually burns calories from whole foods better than it does its processed counterparts (avocado lovers rejoice!)
Instead of counting calories, count nutrients. Or, count how many colourful whole foods you can eat in one meal. These are the numbers that really matter.