The 5 Biggest Dieting Myths
Fat-burning fruit? Evil sweets? Think again!
Most of us have dieted so much that we probably think we know everything about the subject (except, maybe, how to pass up that extra slice of pizza). But there are some myths that hang around despite every bit of research showing that they’re not true. Ahmed Kissebah, M.D., Ph.D., director of the General Clinical Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, singles out the top five:
Eating grapefruit burns fat. The story goes that if you just eat enough grapefruit, or drink enough grapefruit juice, or take a concentrated form of the fruit in a pill, you can burn fat more easily. Not so, says Dr. Kissebah, who’s also medical adviser for the weight-loss group TOPS (Taking Off Pounds Sensibly). Adding grapefruit to a reasonable weight-loss plan can help, Dr. Kissebah says, because grapefruit “has very few calories and creates a sensation of fullness. But there is no food that can cause fat to be burned.” He also cautions against diets that pair grapefruit with bacon, eggs or other high-fat, high-protein foods; they don’t work and they can increase your cholesterol levels.
Potatoes are fattening. Although we’ve been taught to avoid potatoes, this high-carb food can do you a lot of good. Potatoes are high in fiber, vitamin C and some forms of vitamin B, Dr. Kissebah says. A 5-ounce potato, baked in its skin, is about 130 calories – twenty percent fewer calories than the same amount of brown rice! But steer clear of frying or high-fat toppings: you’ll be right back where you started from (and maybe even a little worse off).
Eat less food, and your stomach will shrink. “The stomach cannot shrink, no matter how little food you eat,” says Dr. Kissebah. It can expand if you eat too much, he says, but once the stomach empties, it returns to its normal size. If you want to feel fuller on fewer calories, reduce your food intake gradually and consistently.
You’ve got to give up sweets totally and forever. Wrong. Don’t go to extremes, or you’ll never reach your long-term goals. Says Dr. Kissebah, “It’s unrealistic to expect that you will never eat a piece of chocolate or a slice of cake.” Wanting something sweet isn’t a sign of weakness; instead, Dr. Kissebah says, that craving has “a chemical basis in the brain.” If you respond to that signal by eating a reasonable amount of the treat, he explains, your brain will release “increased amounts of the hormone serotonin, which can suppress hunger.”
Eating before bedtime will make you gain weight. “There is no evidence,” Dr. Kissebah says, “that when food is consumed at night, more calories are stored in the body than when the same foods are eaten during the day.” If you keep your caloric intake consistent, it doesn’t matter whether you eat dinner at 6 p.m. or 10 p.m. Your body will burn the calories when it needs to.
Jane Farrell is an editor at BettyConfidential.