6 myths about healthy eating and weight loss

Dear readers: After receiving many of your questions related to weight loss, diet and healthy eating, I have realized that there are several misconceptions about dieting, which are bound to affect your diet plans. I think now is the good time to talk about some of the most common advice, which you will hear the minute you announce that you’ve decided to lose some weight or to change your diet habits. I am not saying that all these are completely devoid of truth, but even with a grain of truth in it, a proper interpretation is in order.

One of the first things you’ll probably hear is that you shouldn’t eat after 6 pm or 7 pm or 8pm, or generally in the evening and at night.

Dieting is riddled with myths and fads

Of course, there is no magical cut off time after which you must not eat or else…
What matters in your weight loss plan are your total calories you eat and not really when you do it. What’s true here is that most of us tend to eat more calories in the evening times during dinner or snacking after dinner. In this regard, it makes sense to limit the calories at night if you are one of those who eat more later in the day.

The next word of advice you’re likely to hear is that “eat smaller but more often” myth.

Just because some people eat like this naturally, and stay thin, doesn’t make it a rule for everyone. People who naturally eat like this tend to answer their body’s call and not some strict timing and schedule. Do not eat on the clock but rather listen to the signals the body sends. Eat when you are hungry and don’t wait for a specific time because then you might be too hungry and overeat.
Normally, whichever way works for you, be mindful of the calories to avoid eating too many.

The other thing is the water myth.

While it is true that drinking plenty of water will help in your weight loss – this is not because water flushes any fat out of you.
What’s true here is that replacing other (often sweet and caloric) beverages with water will reduce the amount of calories you take and thus help you achieve a healthy weight.
Another thing that’s been shown in research is that drinking water before a meal will result in consuming up to 100 calories less. You may also eat an apple and it should have similar effect.
So, yes, water is helpful but do not think water alone will flush any fat out of you.

Next, an ‘eat-whatever-you-want day should be part of your 7-day diet schedule’ is also a common advice.

I have written about this process of ego-depletion and its effects. What happens is that if we are too strict and keep resisting temptations constantly trying to attain a perfect diet, our will power will eventually become depleted and at any moment of physical or mental (or both) weakness, we will give in and fail. After that, the string of failures will continue as a consequence of our self-signaling (I’ve written about this as well).
Instead of allowing for a binge-eating day in which you will probably overeat and consume thousands of calories (like a rebound effect) try not to be too harsh on yourself on any day and realize that no perfect diet exists (and no perfect dieter for that matter). Try to be mindful of your calories but also be flexible and allow for small deviations and be like that every single day.

I am also familiar with assumptions that honey is better than regular sugar for a weight loss plan.

It is true that honey is not just sugar as it contains some trace amounts of other nutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino acids etc.) but sugar in it is still sugar and it is being metabolized in the same way as table sugar. I’d say that this particular advice is one of the worse ones as honey actually has more calories than table sugar, spoon for spoon.

Finally, some will tell you to avoid carbohydrates as much as you can.

This is just plain wrong. No food group is bad for us and we need them all in a balanced healthy diet. Some diet plans will label carbs as bad or fats as bad etc. Do not trust these diets.
Carbs are the fuel for our body and carb deprivation may lead to paradoxical fat accumulation over time.
The truth is that we should include all food types into our diets.

Remember that every day is different and that we need different amounts of energy depending on our activity level and our health – be dynamic in your eating habits and respect your needs to avoid deprivation and consequential overeating.
Be suspicious of unrealistic diet fads and maintain a balanced diet, which is not too rigid to stick with. There are no quick fixes when it comes to a diet and moreover, rapid weight loss is not healthy and could be dangerous.

Yours in health,

Dr. Mo