Diet Mythbusters!

At the beginning of every New Year, we all rush out and begin our resolutions with a gusto!!  How many times have you done it in the past? I know I have quite often – usually it’s surrounding dieting, and according to just about every post, website, news item that you read/view at this time of year, there are generally only 3 resolutions – give up smoking/drinking, lose weight, make more money/have better work-life balance!

Are your resolutions much different??

So, in line with this type of thinking, I decided to look at some myths surrounding dieting.  I’ve been learning through some of my clients that dieting is not a natural way of life for a lot of people. They’ve never had to do it before. Now, as some of you may know, or have worked out from previous posts, I’m the type of girl who has been dieting ever since I was about 12 years old!!  I seem to have a naturally square shape (in homeopathy and some other natural therapies, we’d call it part of a carbonic temperament, or, square!)

Carbonic body type

Carbonic body type

I understand what it means to restrict your dietary intake to 1200 calories a day and  how to effectively do this. I also understand that low-fat, or fat-free does not necessarily mean low calories.  I understand that my body needs good fats, so I shouldn’t be excluding all fats. I understand that if the calorie intake goes below 900 calories a day, I won’t lose weight, in fact, if anything, I’ll put weight on!!

I am beginning to realise that many people have not had to diet before, it’s the first time in their lives that they have had to even contemplate dieting, and they don’t know the first place to start.

So, I decided to become a MYTH BUSTER!!!

1. Low-fat is good for you and means low calories


Low-fat products are quite often full of sugar. This is because of taste. In food production (yes, I used to be a food scientist in a former life!) taste is the all important factor when you’re developing a food.  We get ‘taste’ from a couple of sources (apart from flavourings) and they are FAT, SUGAR & SALT.  So, consequently, low-fat does not mean low-calories.  Remember to read your food label to see what has substituted the fat.  In the past I have bought a low-fat gravy mix, only to discover on reading the label, that it is higher in calories and sugar than the ‘full fat’ version!! So, take care and check out the label.

A danger of low-fat products is that we see them as ‘free’ foods that we can snack on. This is definitely not true!! Remember, every calorie counts when you are restricting your intake of calories to less than your output.

2. You can super-size salads


Quite often the salads you buy in restaurants and take-away stores are not that healthy.  Compare a Chicken Basil Penne Salad at 1262 calories to a McDonalds Big Mac, 1166 calories.  There are the dressings to consider too, these are usually bulked up in ‘taste’ as the perception is that lettuce is rabbit food!!!

Also, quite often, salads include heavy  calorie ingredients.  Examples of this might be croutons (these are often fried, and not necessarily baked), cheese, bacon bits, deli meats (e.g., salami) or pasta.  Oh, yes, and don’t forget the high calorie creamy dressing!!

If you do want to super-size a salad, make sure the ingredients are raw vegetables!

Some ‘good’ ingredients to consider in your salad are:

beans, e.g., chickpeas, kidney beans (gives you fibre and protein)



avocado (about 1/4 cup per person)

tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber (the ‘usual’ ingredients)

An oil and vinegar based dressing, though quite often I use balsamic vinegar as a dressing – pure yum!

3. Skipping meals works


Skipping meals makes us more hungry when we come to eat, and that can change our perception of how much we want and what is a good choice in food.

There are plenty of studies that show that breakfast is a very important meal to have every day – it literally means to break the overnight fast. If you don’t do this until lunchtime, you are potentially going to be using a lot of energy before you get to your next intake of energy thus making your choices potentially poor.  If  you really can’t face the thought of eating actual food before you set out for the day, do consider good quality shakes or an alkalising juice to begin your day.

There have also been studies that show doing exercise before you replenish your body with good quality nourishment is beneficial in your weight reduction.

However, intermittent fasting is showing a potential benefit in enhancing weight reduction. Message me if you want to know more about this.

4. Cardio exercise is the best way to burn calories


TRUE, cardio exercise does burn up those calories, e.g., a constant running or jogging or walking pace.  However, high intensity intermittent (or HIIT as you may find it written), is also beneficial, this is where you work at a high intensity for a minute, then lower that intensity for 2 minutes, and ‘rinse and repeat’ for a total of 15 minutes.  Best you discuss this with your medical practitioner and /or personal trainer before trying it though.

Remember that muscle burns more calories, so this is why it becomes FALSE.  Building muscle toning into your exercise routine is more beneficial to you than just doing cardio exercise.  You also have to consider weight bearing exercise to strengthen your bones – as above, do discuss these with your medical practitioner and/or personal trainer before beginning any program.

5. All fat is bad fat


Our body needs fats to distribute certain fat soluble vitamins (e.g., Vitamin A and D) around your body. Hormones also require fats to be transported around your body. So your body does require an intake of fat when you are dieting. This is why we need it, now we need to know what is considered good fats!

Fats obtained from olive oil, flax seed oil, fatty fish (e.g., tuna) and avocadoes are easily obtainable ‘good’ quality fats.  Think about the Mediterranean diet, it’s high in olive oil and fish!!

6. Very low calorie diets are better


Very low calorie diets are diets where the daily intake of energy, or calories, are less than 900 calories a day. I regularly hear of people having 500 or 600 calories a day. The result? They are so exhausted!!! And so very hungry!!!  This is not how your body was meant to operate.

I have experienced the effects of falling below 1,000 calories a day – no, you don’t lose more weight, in fact, if anything, you plateau or even put on weight, so you try even harder, to no avail!! Why? Because your body is literally starving, it doesn’t know where the next lot of food is coming from, so it holds onto every last possible morsel it can. You will see constipation as well because of this.

Allow your body to have ‘enough’ calories to still function adequately while you are changing your lifestyle.

Well, I trust this has helped you to understand a little more about some of the myths surrounding dieting and what you can and can’t have.  Essentially with any diet, you are attempting to reduce your overall calorie intake in comparison to your calorie (or energy) output.  If the intake is less than the output, you will lose weight.

When you are beginning a diet, look at it as a change of lifestyle in your eating, and cooking, habits and your exercise patterns.  Always make sure what you are doing is achieveable in the long term, some of the fad diets are so extreme there is no possibility you could maintain them in the long term and remain healthy.  Remember that your body requires protein, fat, carbohydrates, fibre and vitamins and minerals to remain healthy – you just need to reduce the overall total to an acceptable level.

Contact me for more information.


One thought on “Diet Mythbusters!

  1. Pingback: Juggling Work, Fitness and Motherhood | Patina Fitness Magazine

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