3 Diet Myths Busted
Don’t let the rapidly approaching diet season fool you3 Diet Myths Busted: Don’t let the rapidly approaching diet season fool you
By Abby Wilson, RDN, LD, CDE
Myth #1: Fad diets work.
Truth: Fad diets are like bad fashion. Disco bell-bottoms and crushed velvet suits, anyone? Fad diets are re-packaged almost every year with new accessories and blingy-tech to keep them appealing. They also sell inadequacy: if diet companies can make you think you aren’t good enough without them, you will be more tempted to buy into the myth.
Be aware of advertising that promises rapid weight loss. Any diet (such as the grapefruit diet, bone broth diet, or the forever recycled HCG diet) tend to make claims like “Lose 10 pound in less than 7 days!” These diets are extremely low calorie—of course you would lose weight eating only 800 calories! However, the diets are not sustainable. Extremely restricted diets put you risk of becoming malnourished and hangry. Avoid diets that make wild health claims, like controlling the body’s pH or curing diabetes. Foods cannot change the body’s pH. Only a serious illness will—and when your body’s pH changes, you will require medical treatment and even hospitalization! If lemon juice and honey could cure diabetes, wouldn’t everyone with diabetes be cured by now? Just say no to health claims that seem too good to be true… because they probably are.
Myth #2: Low-carb diets are best for health and weight loss.
Truth: Carbohydrates, frequently referred to as “carbs,” provide the BEST source of fuel to the brain. Did you know your brain requires nearly 120 grams daily of glucose? Glucose is a primary source of carbohydrate in our foods. “Glucose is virtually the sole fuel for the human brain, except during prolonged starvation,” according to an article from the scientific journal Biochemistry (Berg JM, 2002). In one day, your brain burns through almost 420 calories—which is about 105 grams of carbs. Eating much less than 105 grams of carbs per day could put your brain on the struggle bus. When your brain doesn’t have enough glucose, communication between those neurons in the brain can break down (Edwards, 2017).
Glucose is also the primary source of fuel for every cell in the body. So if you’re on a low-carb diet, your whole body might be low on fuel! Instead of eating very low amounts of carbs, cut down on added sugars. Aim to get your carbs in moderation—large amounts of carbs may overwhelm the body. Try nutritious foods that are high in fiber such as whole fruits, beans, lentils, or whole grains like steel cut oats. If you have diabetes, speak with a registered dietitian or a certified diabetes educator to learn how to manage carbs for individual needs.
Myth #3: If I’m not on a diet, I’m not taking care of my health.
Truth: Dieting does not equal health. A study from Frontiers in Psychology (Lowe MR, 2013) has found that dieting or restrictive eating are predictors of weight gain. Dieting also has been identified as a risk factor for eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors (Keel PK, 2013). Not the outcome you were probably expecting, right? But all is not lost in the pursuit of better health. Instead of classic dieting, look at health through a new lens. Try this analogy: Health is like a three-legged stool. The three legs of health are: physical activity, balanced nutrition, and mental wellness. Take one of those legs away, and your stool will fall out from under you. Instead of going on a diet when the New Year arrives, try one of these simple goals to improve health:
- Finding joyful ways to move your body and move more often: Walk with friends instead going for drinks. Try an outdoor sport like hiking, skiing, or biking instead of being a slave to the treadmill. Have a dance party with your kids instead of watching Netflix.
- Try gentle nutrition: Honor your hunger. Honor your fullness. Eat more plants: whole fruits, vegetables of all colors, beans, and legumes. Find satisfaction in your meals (if you are satisfied, likely you will eat less overall).
- Take steps towards caring for your mental health—your brain is an organ too, just like your heart:Spend more time connecting with your loved ones (and I don’t mean on Facebook!). Practice self-care. Don’t shy away from therapy or counseling.
Berg JM, T. J. (2002). Each Organ Has a Unique Metabolic Profile. (W. H. Freeman, Ed.) Biochemistry(5th), Section 30.2. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK22436/.
Edwards, S. (2017). Sugar and the Brain. On the Brain: The Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute Letter. Massachusetts. Retrieved from http://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/sugar-and-brain
Lowe, M. R., Doshi, S. D., Katterman, S. N., & Feig, E. H. (2013). Dieting and restrained eating as prospective predictors of weight gain. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 577. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00577
Keel, P. K. and Forney, K. J. (2013), Psychosocial risk factors for eating disorders. Int. J. Eat. Disord., 46: 433–439. doi:10.1002/eat.22094