Dieting Myths Debunked


We all really want to know! what really works for weight-loss - and what really doesn't?
We have grown up in an increasingly body and weight conscious era, from the waspish waists of the 50’s, through the mini-skirted 60’s, the let-it-all-hang-out 70’s, and lets not forget the Jane Fonda workouts of the 80’s, generations of women have been looking for the best tips to keep and stay in shape. Despite this, from the 90’s onwards we have seen our weight increase, waistlines expand and our health deteriorate. At the same time the weight-loss tips, diet programmes and exercise classes have increased a hundred-fold to no avail.


Everyday we are constantly bombarded with yet another new piece of advice to get our bodies in shape, yet they are often contradictory. Dr Sally Norton, health & weight loss consultant surgeon and has a few tips which will help to clarify any areas of confusion.

Dieting is the best way to lose weight – FALSE
Research shows that when women, in particular, want to lose weight they diet. Unfortunately, research also shows that this is highly unlikely to lead to long-term weight-loss with over 85% of people regaining all of the weight they have lost, and more, by a year after the diet.
This can then lead to the misery of yo-yo dieting, which can be harmful to health and is no way to live your life. Instead, you are much better making a few changes to your lifestyle and eating habits that you can keep up for good.


You need a good breakfast – FALSE
A recent study confirmed that whether you have a good breakfast or not makes no difference to weight loss. Everyone is different – you may be an early riser or a night-owl when it comes to sleep, so it is not surprising that your breakfast desires may be different, too. Listen to your body when it comes to eating – if you are having proper nutritious food, your body will tell you when it needs fuelling. If you focus on a bit of protein (as confirmed by other recent research) and avoid sugar and processed carbs then whether you have a quick snack or a feast for breakfast is entirely up to you!

Eat regular snacks throughout the day – FALSE
It is often said in dieting folklore that eating little and often stops you from getting so hungry and encourages you to burn off more energy. However, I believe that our inner cavewoman would disagree. Our bodies weren’t built for constant snacking – particularly on the sort of food we eat nowadays. You are better off getting used to going without food for a few hours at a time – it helps you understand that you are often not eating from hunger, just from habit…and that “hunger” can be ignored for a while without us falling flat on the floor! Recent research backs up this view showing that women who ate 2 meals or 5 meals of the same calorie content, showed no difference in the amount of energy they burnt off. Interestingly, it also showed that eating more frequent meals produced more signs of inflammation in the body (and therefore may increase the risk of disease) than eating less frequently.


Exercise doesn’t really help weight loss – FALSE
Yes, in a very literal sense, exercise does not lead to weight loss – if you believe that all an hour of exercise does is burn off 200 calories worth of a 400 calorie doughnut. But it isn’t black and white like that. Losing weight isn’t just about making sure that energy out is more than energy in…we are much more complex as human beings than that overly simplistic model!

The research abounds with studies showing that exercise can help weight loss in other ways. Exercise builds up muscle – which burns more energy in the longer term. If we are more muscular, we are more toned, have better posture and thus look slimmer. Looking good makes us feel better about ourselves – and if we feel fit and healthy we are more likely to make healthier choices – which promotes weight loss. Rather than a vicious cycle (like dieting!), it is a win-win situation!

Also, exercise, particularly in the cold, seems to increase the ‘fat-burning’ brown fat, which is found more commonly in people who keep a healthy weight. There is also evidence that aerobic exercise reduces the risk of developing tummy fat and metabolic syndrome (diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease). What’s more, just getting out in the fresh air makes most of us feel so much happier – not to mention giving us a top up of Vitamin D!

We should be stocking up on low-fat foods to lose weight – FALSE
The myth that fat is bad has been particularly harmful to our health and waistline. Many fats are healthy in moderation – and yet we are bombarded with low-fat yoghurts, “slimming” ready-meals and processed spreads that are bulked up with sugar, salt or chemical nasties that provide little if any, nutrition. Butter, cheese, full-fat yoghurt and other dairy and animal fats are natural and seldom processed, unlike many low-fat alternatives. Coconut oil is another fat that has recently been enjoying popularity.

Of all of the diets that have been shown to help weight-loss, it is not the low-fat diet that wins out. In fact, the low-carb high-fat diet seems to be most successful – though long-term weight-loss is no better with this diet than with any others that can’t be made part of your day-to-day life. You are therefore best off focusing on real food – that means avoiding anything processed wherever possible. By doing so you will automatically be reducing your refined carbs, eating natural fats and proteins, bulking up with fruit and veg – and dramatically cutting down on your sugar intake.

Dr Sally Norton, health & weight loss consultant surgeon.  Writes regularly for national press and features in www.vavistalife.com.

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