A doctor and nutritionist explains all
By Naomi Mead
We’ve all been there. You’ve cut out junk food, stopped the snacking and spend every spare minute in the gym, but you still aren’t seeing any results on the scales. Sound familiar? We’ve spoken to Dr. Michelle Braude, Doctor & Nutritionist and founder of The Food Effect about some of the common dieting myths she encounters regularly in her clinic and on social media, and how these could be preventing individuals from reaching their desired, healthy weight.
- Myth: Skipping meals will help with weight loss
You might think you’re being virtuous by skipping meals or even going from lunch to dinner without snacking at all, but allowing yourself to get too hungry is not conducive to weight loss explains Michelle. Why? Because when you’re ravenous two things happen. Firstly, anything and everything looks and tastes delicious. Secondly, it takes much more food to feel satisfied. As a result, you end up eventually eating a lot more, and not necessarily making particularly healthy choices.
Having small, nutritious snacks between meals can help to avoid this, by keeping your blood sugar stable and your metabolism going strong.
Michelle recommends always carrying healthy snacks with you if you know you’re going to be out and about for a long time, or working long hours. Snacks should be around 200 calories or less, and a combination of fibre, healthy fats and protein. Good examples are a portion of nuts, seeds and dried fruit – an apple and a tablespoon of peanut butter, or wholegrain crackers with hummus.
- Myth: Everyone should go gluten-free
Unless you have coeliac disease or an intolerance to gluten, there is no advantage to going gluten-free, explains Michelle. Any weight loss that occurs from going on a gluten-free diet is likely to be because you’ve cut the cake, bread and biscuits from your diet, and that you’re eating fewer calories than usual – not because you’ve cut out gluten.
Eliminating food groups unnecessarily can lead to nutritional deficiencies, and subsequent health problems. If weight loss is your goal, it’s much better to focus on your portion sizes instead.
- Myth: Healthy food won’t make you gain weight
It is essential to understand that just because a particular food is deemed ‘healthy’, does not mean that it can be eaten in unlimited quantities. Even if you stick to consuming only healthy foods such as nuts, hummus, avocado, olive oil and dark chocolate, it is still important to watch your portion sizes if weight loss is your goal, explains Michelle.
For example, whilst there are many benefits in consuming a little olive oil, if you pour it liberally over your pasta and dip your bread in it, it will lead to excessive calories and eventual weight gain. The same goes for nuts – learn what a normal serving size looks like (it’s very easy to eat the whole big bag!) and portion out accordingly.
- Myth: Carbs make you fat
Cutting out carbs completely from your diet may lead to weight loss at first, but it is not sustainable, nor healthy, and you’ll end up very quickly feeling tired, lethargic, cranky and irritable, warns Michelle.
Don’t get weighed down by the number on the scales!
You will also gain back the weight (and sometimes more) the minute you start eating ‘normally’ again. Rather than vilifying all carbs, eat the right ones. These include wholegrain unrefined carbohydrates such as wholegrain or rye bread, quinoa, wholewheat pasta, brown rice, sweet potatoes and oats. These are all great sources of fibre (a very low carb diet is almost always accompanied by the nasty side effect of constipation), and packed full of a variety of other vitamins and minerals.
- Myth: Going ‘fat-free’ will help with weight loss
Your body needs good sources of fat in the diet to burn fat, stresses Michelle. This means ensuring that you eat plenty of healthy, unsaturated fats found in nuts, seeds, peanut butter, avocado and olive oil. These fats have multiple health benefits, and add satiety to food (they fill you up!). They are proven to lower the risk of heart disease, and aid the body in the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Incorporate them daily into your diet in moderate amounts to feel fuller and more satisfied, helping you lose weight and keep it off for good.
- Myth: Exercise is the key to weight loss
Whilst exercise is fantastic and essential for health, it needs to be accompanied by a good, healthy diet for weight loss to be achieved, explains Michelle. As any personal trainer will tell you; “you can’t out-train a bad diet” and “abs are made in the kitchen!” Exercise can also serve to increase your appetite, and so it’s important that you’re mindful of this, and re-fuel properly after a workout.
Exercise doesn’t, unfortunately, give you a free pass to eat whatever you like, and the calories you burn only play a small part in your weight loss effortscompared to the food you eat. It does, however, have a myriad of other health benefits, so regular exercise alongside eating a balanced diet is a great lifestyle choice.
- Myth: The number on the scales is everything
Don’t get weighed down by the number on the scales, says Michelle. Getting despondent and impatient, with a need to see fast, drastic results, will sabotage all your weight loss efforts. Besides, there are other, more important, ways to track your progress, such as how your clothes fit, how you look and feel, and your energy levels, mood and stamina.
Making sustainable changes to your diet and lifestyle and noticing results can be a slow process and can take several weeks to achieve. Try to be patient and stick with your new healthy habits as your body is benefitting every day from all the changes you make. Stick with these, and you are guaranteed to see results and most importantly, ones that will last.