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Eating and Dieting: Myth vs. Fact 


Myth: "Some people note that eating late at night is sure to pack on the pounds." 

Fact: Your body doesn't process calories differently after dark - it's the foods that people decide to eat after dinner while they watch television chips, ice cream, chocolate, and the like - which are high in fat and calories. It's the food, not the clock.

 Myth: "My friend told me I can break this weight-loss plateau by eating less."

Fact: If you're eating 800 to 1,000 calories a day, your body will turn down its thermostat to conserve every last calorie it can get. It doesn't matter if you're a prisoner of war or a prisoner in your head. The only way to keep your metabolism at its peak is to exercise. When weight loss slows, work out more frequently or intensely - don't forget to eat.

Myth: "My mother always told me to never have seconds." 

Fact: Eating according to your appetite is much healthier than following an outdated rule of thumb. Keep in mind there's a strong difference between appetite and hunger. Appetite focuses on cravings and flavor, whereas hunger is a biological manifestation of the body's real need for food. If you pace yourself, or take a break of 15-30 minutes, you may find yourself full and contented, as it takes about just as long for your stomach to "talk" to your brain to realize that you are not hungry anymore. Also, recognize you'll be hungrier on some days than others. One meal doesn't define healthy eating habits.


Myth: "I've always been told cravings are just in my head and to forget them." 

Fact: Cravings exist for a reason. Your feeling of thirst is your body telling you that it needs more water to continue to function at its peak. Sodium levels may peak, your blood sugar may drop, and other imbalances in your system are creating these cravings. If the food you are craving is unhealthy, regardless of the reason, have a small serving to treat yourself. We all deserve to treat ourselves (in moderation) once in awhile.


Myth: "What's with 'never eating between meals'?" 

Fact: Most people need to eat every 3 to 4 hours to avoid a feast-or-famine mentality. Eating healthy food between meals can actually raise your metabolism, as your body is getting used to processing food all day. Feel free to have that apple, orange, yogurt, banana or what-have-you: it will prevent overeating during your next meal. You'll lessen your hunger pangs, raise your metabolism, and will remain mindful of size portions.


Myth: "My co-workers tell me eating my breakfast will just make me hungry all day." 

Fact: Unfortunately, food that most Americans deem as "breakfast food" are high in sugar or are simple carbohydrates (toast with jelly, pastries, bagels). While initially satisfying, these foods are out of your system before you even get to work. The foods that should be eaten during breakfast are those that have some protein and a little fat, in addition to complex carbohydrates and sugars. These will stay with you longer and help you make it to lunchtime. Such examples include whole-grain cereal with low-fat or fat-free milk, an egg on toast, or even a fruity breakfast shake made with low-fat or fat-free milk.


Myth: "Should I just become a vegetarian to lose weight?" 

Fact: People become vegetarians or vegans for specific, personal reasons and this should not be one of them. Like any way of eating, a vegetarian diet can be high in fat and cholesterol, low in fiber, or both. Many vegetarian foods, including cheese and nuts, are actually high in fat and calories. Cutting out your normal diet and replacing it with equally (or more) fatty foods is not only a bad diet move, but may also increase the chance of nutritional deficiencies. A well-planned vegetarian diet can be a healthy way to live - if done right, and for the right reasons.


Myth: "Can't I just fast for a few days and shrink my stomach?" 

Fact: You might drop the pounds, sure. A lot of it is just going to be water that is going to come back in a few days, and you risk dehydrating yourself, especially if you're involved in extraneous activities such as sports or intense exercise (or regardless, nonetheless). You will also lose muscle, so unless you're eating lean meat, eggs, low-fat or fat-free milk, or legumes (beans and peas), you'll be thin and flabby, not thin and shapely. The misconception of fasting "cleaning out your system" actually produces ketones, which are chemicals released when fat burns too quickly. They not only cause terribly bad breath, but are harmful to your health (read: liver and kidneys).


Myth: "I can eat anything I want as long as it's fat-free, right?"

Fact: Fat-free foods are not calorie-free foods. Many have just as many calories as the original versions - and a few have even more - because a lot of sugar is needed to replace the way fat tastes and feels in your mouth. It's the calories that are important, not the catchy "fat-free" phrase. A little fat mixed with important amino acids are not bad things, as they give you meal-staying power and prevent you from feeling hungry too quickly. A sandwich with fat-free mayonnaise and fat-free meat will not last nearly as long as one with one teaspoon of regular mayonnaise and some low-fat meat.


"Myths and Facts" from "Dieting For Dummies®" by Jane Kirby For The American Dietetic Association. Copyright ©1998 IDG Books Worldwide, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduced here by permission of the publisher. For Dummies is a registered trademark of IDG Books Worldwide, Inc.