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Alright, Christmas and New Year’s parties are OVER!! Time to get back to healthy eating and exercise…. Oh you were not so healthy in 2011, or 2010, or 2009…. (I get the picture). So, where to begin. I am sad to say there are no “magic bullets” or easy secrets to weight loss and good health. As Nike says, “You Just Do It”.

So here are a few myths dispelled about weight loss and health eating.

1) Fad Diets Work: If you see the following promises, then run the other way:

“Lose 30 pounds in 30 days!”

“Eat as much as you want and still lose weight!”

“Try the thigh buster and lose inches fast!”

And so on, and so on. With so many products and weight-loss theories out there, it is easy to get confused.

Fad diets may be unhealthy because they may not provide all of the nutrients your body needs. Also, losing weight at a very rapid rate (more than 3 pounds a week after the first couple of weeks) may increase your risk for developing gallstones (clusters of solid material in the gallbladder that can be painful). Diets that provide less than 800 calories per day also could result in heart rhythm abnormalities, which can be fatal.

2) High Protein/Low Carb Diets are a good way to lose weight: The long-term health effects of a high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet are unknown. But getting most of your daily calories from high-protein foods like meat, eggs, and cheese is not a balanced eating plan. You may be eating too much fat and cholesterol, which may raise heart disease risk. You may be eating too few fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which may lead to constipation due to lack of dietary fiber. Following a high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet may also make you feel nauseous, tired, and weak.

Eating fewer than 130 grams of carbohydrate a day can lead to the buildup of ketones in your blood. Ketones are partially broken-down fats. A buildup of these in your blood (called ketosis) can cause your body to produce high levels of uric acid, which is a risk factor for gout (a painful swelling of the joints) and kidney stones. Ketosis may be especially risky for pregnant women and people with diabetes or kidney disease. Be sure to discuss any changes in your diet with a health care professional, especially if you have health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, or type 2 diabetes.

3) Natural or Herbal Remedies for weight loss are safe: A weight-loss product that claims to be “natural” or “herbal” is not necessarily safe. These products are not usually scientifically tested to prove that they are safe or that they work. For example, herbal products containing ephedra (now banned by the U.S. Government) have caused serious health problems and even death. Newer products that claim to be ephedra-free are not necessarily danger-free, because they may contain ingredients similar to ephedra.

4) Low-fat or fat-free mean no calories: A low-fat or fat-free food is often lower in calories than the same size portion of the full-fat product. But many processed low-fat or fat-free foods have just as many calories as the full-fat versions of the same foods—or even more calories. They may contain added sugar, flour, or starch thickeners to improve flavor and texture after fat is removed. These ingredients add calories and can cause inflammation in your body.

5) Fast food is always unhealthy, and should be avoided – completely: It’s all about making good choices where ever you are. Avoid supersized combo meals, or split one with a friend. Sip on water or fat-free milk instead of soda. Choose salads and grilled foods, like a grilled chicken breast sandwich or small hamburger. Try a “fresco” taco (with salsa instead of cheese or sauce) at taco stands. Fried foods, like french fries and fried chicken, are high in fat and calories, so order them only once in a while, order a small portion, or split an order with a friend. Also, use only small amounts of high-fat, high-calorie toppings, like regular mayonnaise, salad dressings, bacon, and cheese.

6) Eating after a certain time of day causes weight gain: It does not matter what time of day you eat. It is what and how much you eat and how much physical activity you do during the whole day that determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight. No matter when you eat, your body will store extra calories it doesn’t need as fat.

7) Nuts are fattening and should be avoided: In small amounts, nuts can be part of a healthy weight-loss program. Nuts are high in calories and fat. However, most nuts contain healthy fats that do not clog arteries. Nuts are also good sources of protein, dietary fiber, and minerals including magnesium and copper.

8) Avoid dairy products for weight loss and good health: Low-fat and fat-free milk, yogurt, and cheese are just as nutritious as whole-milk dairy products, but they are lower in fat and calories. Dairy products have many nutrients your body needs. They offer protein to build muscles and help organs work properly, and calcium to strengthen bones. Most milk and some yogurt are fortified with vitamin D to help your body use calcium.

9) Your high Body Mass Index means you must lose weight: Body mass index, or BMI, is a good starting to point to determine if you’re in shape because it is a simple number that takes into account both height and weight. (You can easily check your BMI using a calculator). But it isn’t perfect—far from it.

BMI does not take into account physical fitness or bone structure, and it doesn’t differentiate between weight gained at a muscle-building camp or weight gained at McDonald’s.

So if you’re packing a lot of muscle—say, if you’re a bodybuilding male—you may end up with a BMI in the obese range. (For example, at the peak of his bodybuilding career, Arnold Schwarzenegger had a BMI of 33, which is considered obese.) But let’s, not kid ourselves, most of us are not him (nor do we want to be)!

10) Skinny Means Healthy: Do not be fooled – Sure they look good, but those skinny people may not be any healthier than heavier people—particularly if they have a cigarette hanging from their lips. Anyone, thin or not, could be at risk of heart disease or diabetes due to his or her genetic makeup. People often assume that type 2 diabetes is caused by eating too much and exercising too little, but, in reality, about 20% of people with diabetes are thin, and that’s generally due to genetics. It’s all about healthy living, everyone should exercise.

What’s more, smokers are particularly at risk for illness. Some people smoke to curb their appetite (thereby staying skinny), but cigarettes can cause lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease.

A 2008 study found that 1 in 4 normal-weight people had at least two metabolic factors (such as high triglycerides, high blood pressure, or high blood sugar) in the abnormal range.

SO, I have dispelled a few myths – now we have some work today. Coming up soon…. some simple tips and tricks for weight loss, getting healthy, and simply changing your life for the years to come!

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