Fad diets & weight-loss myths

When it comes to losing weight, there seems to be a focus on upheaving daily diet routine in exchange for instant results. The summer season seems like the perfect time to experiment, but before you clear your fridge of bread, beware that some major diet fads are based on fiction and can even inhibit proper nutrition.

I spoke to Queen’s Peer Health Outreach Coordinator Beth Doxsee to get the skinny on how five major diet trends affect the maintenance of a healthy diet.

Eating every three hours

This trend encourages people to eat every three hours to keep their metabolism constantly at work, thus effectively burning calories at all times. According to Doxsee, there is value to this trend because when ravenous, people don’t always make the wisest food choices.

“Grabbing a simple sugar, such as a granola bar or cookie, will cause your energy levels to peak and then crash,” she said.

Eating snacks throughout the day will prevent your hunger from overwhelming you.

“You have to be careful to watch your portion sizes and be careful of what you’re eating,” Doxsee said, adding that an ideal snack would include a complex carb, a fruit or vegetable and a source of protein. Each breaks down at a different rate, providing lasting energy and preventing hunger from setting in before mealtime.

Stop eating at 7 p.m.

Many people believe that after 7 p.m. your metabolism ceases to burn calories effectively. According to Doxsee, this is a total myth. Some people may be encouraged to stop eating at 7 p.m. because at night time, snacking happens for the wrong reasons like tiredness or boredom.

“Since students have such irregular schedules that see them up at all hours of the night, waking up late in the day or playing intramural games at 10 p.m., they need to fuel their bodies when they need to, even if it is late at night,” she said.

Fasting or cleansing to jumpstart weight-loss

There are many things wrong with these diets, Doxsee said.

“When you fast, you are putting your body into starvation mode,” she said, adding that your metabolism will slow down because your body doesn’t know when it will get food again.

“You may see initial weight loss, but your metabolic rate will stay low even once you start eating again.”

Also, denying yourself the calories you need prevents your whole body from carrying out its basic tasks.

“Your body and brain are constantly at work in some way. Your body needs calories to function properly,” Doxsee said.

Anyway, there are more effective ways to rid the body of toxins and speed up metabolisms, such as exercising.

Eating a low-fat diet

Many people follow a low-fat diet plan believing that if you consume fat, it will be stored as fat. Doxsee said this isn’t necessarily true and fats are essential to a healthy diet.

“We need fat to transport vitamins and nutrients,” she said, adding that it’s actually not about what you eat, but how much. “No matter what you consume, be it fat or something else, you will store fat and put on weight if you take in more calories daily than you need.”

She said low-fat versions of foods are often more processed and artificial, which isn’t good for our bodies. One key factor is distinguishing between saturated and unsaturated fats. The intake of saturated fats, found in red meat and products such as butter and cheese needs to be limited while unsaturated fats, found in nuts, seafood and avocado are generally healthy.

Eating a low-carb diet

The Atkins diet made low-carb diets a popular, advising that carbohydrates be avoided so that bodies burn fat instead of carbohydrates. About 55 to 60 per cent of your daily caloric intake should come from carbs, Doxsee said.

“Carbohydrates are our brain food. You may see initial weight loss by cutting carbs, but there are negative side effects that may include headaches or loss of concentration."

Carbohydrates store more water than other macronutrients, which is why you may feel more bloated after eating them. However, our bodies need water and carbs actually help with hydration.

Some low-carb diets even go so far as discouraging certain fruits and vegetables, which are important sources of vitamins, minerals and fibres that shouldn’t be left out of any diet.

Doxsee said it’s important to warn students against stressing or obsessing over their diets as it can be time consuming and distracting.

“School is stressful enough. Don’t put additional pressure on yourself to follow a perfect diet.”

Although it may sound like a cliché by now, everything in moderation really does seem to be the key.

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