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Dr. Tim Says....

Weight Loss Myths (Part 1)

This article is the first in a series on Weight Loss Myths. Read Part 2 | 3 | 4

I hear a lot of patients say things about eating healthy and losing weight that are simply not true. For the next few weeks I am going to share some of these myths with you and the truth behind them.

Myth: Skipping a meal is a good way to diet and lose weight.

Truth: The research shows that if you skip meals you are more likely to be overweight. This appears to be especially true for those who skip breakfast.

With skipped meals there is a slowing of your body’s metabolism. The theory is that this is to preserve the stored calories through slowing the need for them. There is also good evidence that if you skip a meal you are likely to eat more at the next one, or worse, to snack (usually on whatever is handy).

Eat three regular meals a day, and if you are working at losing weight, eat smaller portions.

Myth: Carbohydrates are bad for you.

Truth: This is just plain silly. Your body uses carbs as its primary fuel source. Carbohydrates have about half the amount of calories per gram as fats do. The problem with people’s diets today is that contain a lot of simple carbohydrates like sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Simple sugars like these pack in the calories. When people eat a low-carb diets they eliminate these very high calorie carbohydrates and they lose weight. This type of weight loss doesn’t last for most people, however.

Research has shown that eating a diet low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates like whole grain and starches is good for you and is the best way to lose weight.

Myth: Low-fat and fat-free (non-fat) foods are low in calories.

Truth: Eating a low fat diet is good for you. That said, you must have fat in your diet. Beyond the fact that your body needs fats they taste good.

It is important to remember that low-fat doesn’t always mean low calorie and non-fat does not mean no calories. Apples don’t have any fat and are good for you but they still have calories.

The issue is that a lot of low-fat or non-fat foods on the market are actually very high in calories. Many times they are also much higher in sodium than the “regular” version. Food manufacturers will add sugars and other carbohydrates as well as salt to compensate for the fat that is left out.

Always check the calories of foods that you are eating. Many times the low-fat version will have almost the same amount of calories (or more) that the full-fat version.

There are some places where low-fat is generally better. Dairy products are one. On the other hand, any snack food that is labeled low-fat (or low-anything) should be suspect. Check the Nutrition Facts on the label.

Myth: Fats are bad for you.

Truth: Fats have a lot of calories per gram (about twice that of carbohydrates and protein). Because most of the processed and fast foods today have very high amounts of fat it’s easy for people to gain weight eating them.

There are a number of different types of fats that we consume. When you read a the Nutrition Facts on a food label the total fat is reported and it is made up of saturated fat, monounsaturated fat and trans-fats.

The fats to avoid in your diet are saturated fats and trans-fats. Fatty meats, high fat dairy products are high in saturated fat. Trans-fats are found in many processed foods like stick margarine, baked goods and snack foods. Both of these types of fats have to be reported on food labels.

There are good fats and choosing foods that have monounsaturated fats like those in seeds, nuts, grapeseed oil and olive oil have been shown to improve your cholesterol profile. Omega-3 fats are found in fish, some seeds and nuts and appear decrease the risk of cancer and strokes.

Even though there are good fats they still contain calories and watching the amount of total fat you eat is as important as the types of fats.