Now that there’s nothing left of the holiday cookies but crumbs, and the requisite holiday parties are no longer usurping your time at the gym, you might be getting fired up about the latest and greatest way you’re going to shed pounds in 2011. Awesome. Personally, my favorite way to lose weight is to plan delicious low-calorie meals that result in my eating fewer calories without even realizing it. (Take EatingWell’s 500-Calorie Dinner Challenge—and cut calories painlessly.) Of course, you need to pick the method that will work best for you—just don’t get tripped up by any of these silly diet myths.
Myth #1:You can lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks. (See what EatingWell nutrition advisor Dr. Rachel Johnson has to say about this myth, fasting and other fad diets.)
Truth: You probably can lose 10 pounds in two weeks if you crash-diet, but you’ll feel terrible—and most of the weight will return once you start eating normally. To truly lose 1 pound, you need to “eliminate” 3,500 calories—the amount stored in a pound of fat—by eating less and moving more. If you cut 500 calories (or cut 300 and burn 200 through exercise) every single day of the week, you’ll lose about a pound a week. And that’s real weight loss. (Jump-start your diet and get support from others with EatingWell’s free Diet Challenge program.)
Myth #2: Eating many mini meals helps you control your weight better than eating fewer, larger meals.
Truth: There’s a kernel of truth in this myth, as EatingWell contributing editor Joyce Hendley first reported in The 13 Biggest Nutrition and Food Myths Busted. Our metabolisms rev up slightly each time we eat, as our bodies process what we’ve consumed. So by having many mini meals instead of fewer, larger ones, we shift our metabolism into a higher gear more often—and burn a few more calories. But “the calorie difference is so small it doesn’t add up to a hill of beans,” says Dr. John Foreyt, director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. That said, snacking between meals may help some dieters by keeping them from getting overly hungry and eating too many calories when they finally sit down to dinner.
Myth #3:If you exercise, you can eat as much as you want.
Truth: Unless you’re working out like an Olympic athlete, to lose weight you’ll still need to keep an eye on how many calories you’re eating. “Calories in” add up much more quickly than “calories out.” Consider this: two medium cookies cost you about 400 calories. To burn 400 calories, the average person needs to run or walk 4 miles. (Find 6 easy ways to sneak in your exercise.)
Myth #4: “Calories eaten at night are more fattening than those eaten early in the day.”
Truth: “Calories are calories are calories, and it doesn’t matter what time you eat them,” Dr. Foreyt told Hendley. “What matters are the total calories you take in.” (What does a 1,500-calorie day look like?)
Myth #5: You should expect to be hungry while dieting.
Truth: If you cut calories randomly, you’re probably going to feel hungry. On the other hand, if you plan out your day so that you’re replenishing yourself with nutritious foods every three or four hours, you’ll likely feel quite satisfied on significantly fewer calories. Aim to include a source of lean protein (e.g., skim milk, turkey) and fiber (e.g., hummus, carrots) in every meal and snack. (Be slimmer by next month when you follow one of our delicious 28-day weight-loss menu plans.)
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