Never have we had so much information relating to how we should eat, from silly shake diets, to ‘clean eating’, to paleo diets and the like. There’s so much calorie-dense food around and our lifestyles have become more sedentary, so managing our weight is definitely harder than it was years ago. So what’s the real story? Here are some the common myths and why they are actually just myths:
Carbs cause weight gain
Don’t cut out all carbs - you’ll just end up unsatisfied and lacking in energy so more likely to binge on something else (fats and sugars). Yes if you’re eating a massive plateful of cheesy white pasta then you need to take a step back, but you should be having a third of your plate as quality carbs (brown rice, wholegrain bread, sweet potatoes etc). Singling out a specific macronutrient is not the way forward.
Low fat is best
Taking out fat means taking out some of the flavour, which is then added back in with the likes of sugar. So check the sugar content on a packet. We also all need some fat in our diet, and the fat in things like nuts, seeds and oily varieties of fish provide essential fatty acids and fat also helps us absorb certain vitamins, which include A, D, E and K. Following a low-fat diet makes you more likely to be low in these vitamins and that can impact your immunity, limit the body's ability to heal itself and have an influence on bone health. It's better to focus your diet on the healthier fats by including more fish, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils including avocado and olive.
Severely cutting calorie intake can speed up weight loss
Reducing calories to a sensible level will help with weight loss, but don’t rush the process by slashing them to really low levels. After a prolonged period of calorie cutting, your muscle mass will be affected, so that will be the ‘weight’ lost and not the fat that you actually want rid of. It’s also not sustainable in the long term. You will need to eat normally again at some point and at that point your weight will be put back on again (in the form of fat and not that muscle you lost initially).
Swap sugar for things like honey and agave
A sugar is a sugar. Good or bad they are both processed the same by your body. Yes, there are some other nutritional benefits to some natural sugars (such as those found in fruit), but doing a swap isn’t going to make any difference to weight loss.
Cut the gluten
If you’re not actually allergic to gluten (coeliac) and don’t have gluten sensitivities (bloating, gas etc) then to be honest it’s fairly pointless cutting it out. You lose out on vital nutrients that foods containing gluten tend to offer. Gluten-free also doesn’t mean low-carb and it can sometimes have added sugar/ fats to make up for lost flavour. So save yourself some money and just eat good carbs! Read my blog on Gluten
Eating after 6pm will make me fat
Our body clock does affect appetite, but it’s actually about the calorie control, rather than the time of eating that’s the issue. So say no to that massive bowl of cheesy pasta followed by snacks in front of the TV. Just eat a rounded meal, bearing in mind your calorie consumption from earlier in the day
Eating ‘clean’ will make me thin
Swapping to this won’t automatically make you thin. It’s not just processed foods that are bad with calories - some of the food photos that you see from ‘clean’ gurus, do still show foods that are laden with calories (for example caramelised nuts, coconut porridge - high fat and sugar). So be sensible with what you choose. If you want to cut the sugar, then in my honest opinion, just cut them completely and don’t opt for an alternative (date brownies anyone?) as they’re not going to be much better for you, and they’ll likely cost you more to make!
If you want any advice on nutrition, I offer an EatFit food diary analysis service for £25.