When it comes to diet, nutrition and healthy lifestyle, everyone has an opinion. Whether it is based on facts, pure experience or community beliefs, everyone has something to weigh in on the topic. The fact that we all are exposed to a world of information through the internet and forwarded messages makes it even more difficult to separate evidence based facts from false information. Many a times, following and applying these myths to your daily lifestyle can be harmful. Therefore, it is extremely important to be able to identify myths from facts. Here are some common myths that you should make yourself aware about right away.
- Skipping meals will help lose weight faster: One of the most popular advises that you will get about weight loss is cutting down food intake by skipping meals. Now some people might say this because they have experienced weight loss after skipping meals on a regular basis. But what is important here is knowing the consequences of frequent fasting. Firstly, when you skip a meal, your metabolism is slowed down as the body compensates for the lack of food supply by lowering the rate at which it needs to breakdown food. This in turn will make you lethargic and low on energy. Most importantly, your body does not get the nutrition that it requires to function optimally. This can cause deficiencies and lead to other health issues. So, although skipping meals will lead to weight loss, it is not a healthy way to lose weight. It will instead make you weak and unhealthy.
- Protein supplements are the only way to bulk up: Go to any gym, you will see at least a few bulked up people with a protein shake filled bottle alongside them as they workout. Now, this is a common misconception that if you want to gain muscle, you must only rely on supplements. Of course, supplements are helpful, but they should never replace your diet. To gain muscles, you will have to supply the body with the required quantity to protein, irrespective of where it comes from. It doesn’t mean that you should only have protein supplements. A well-balanced diet with protein-rich sources like meat, fish and soy is also essential for muscle gain.
- Avoid eating rice if you want to lose weight: Rice is one of the staple foods in India. It is cooked in almost every Indian household on a daily basis. So elimination of rice from diet could be a major change in eating habit if you want to lose weight. And avoiding rice is one of the most common suggestions you will get from your friends or relatives. Now this belief is partly correct and partly incorrect. There are no studies that have linked consumption of white rice with weight gain or weight loss. In fact, evidence suggests that avoiding white rice may not cause any significant difference in your weight. So you can definitely consume it in moderate amounts. The reason why nutrition experts suggest avoiding white rice is because it is processed and processed foods are unhealthy in many other ways. Instead you can switch to brown rice which serves as a healthier alternative.
- Diet foods are healthy: There are many diet food products available in the market that can be misleading. Not everything that is labelled as ‘diet food’ is healthy in nature. You need to be aware about the content of the product to determine its quotient of healthiness. Make sure you look at the sugar and salt content. Look at the use of preservatives and the nutritional breakdown on the label before you buy anything labelled as ‘diet food’.
- You cannot lose weight without heavy exercising: It is true that exercising is an extremely important part of weight loss process. A well balanced diet with a well-rounded exercise regimen remains the cornerstone of weight loss, however it is a myth that without heavy exercise it impossible to lose weight. There are studies which have shown that weight loss is possible without heavy exercising, given that all the other factors are taken care of. This is especially helpful in people who have knee injuries, who have undergone surgeries or who are suffering from conditions like arthritis which make exercising difficult. Some of the factors to focus on include controlling portion size, moderate physical activity, mindful eating and reducing stress levels.
- You can consume junk food everyday as long as you exercise: There are many people who work out a lot by going to the gym or involving themselves into extremely strenuous physical activities but later consume junk food on a regular basis. They do believe that as long they exercise, eating junk food cannot be harmful. That is a myth. If you continue to exercise while ignoring your diet it will someday reveal its effect on your health. Junk foods are rich in unhealthy fats, refined carbs and sugar which are linked to increased risk of several lifestyle diseases. Plus, you might end up consuming more calories than what you have burnt in one session of your workout, which goes against the weight loss process. So, you may have outside food once in a while but making it a habit is not going to be helpful in any way.
- All fats are unhealthy: Firstly, fats are essential for your body in so many ways. There are many functions that require fats to operate optimally. So, get rid of the belief that fats are unhealthy. Yes, there are a certain group of fats that are considered unhealthy. They are called trans fats and saturated fats. Processed foods like burgers, chips, fried foods, cakes and cookies contain these unhealthy fats and it totally makes sense to avoid them. But fats like the unsaturated fats are actually useful and essential for mental health and heart health. You can find these healthy fats in several sources including fatty fish, nuts and seeds, olive oil and avacados.
- Drinking alcohol in moderation can be healthy: We have always heard “moderation is the key”. It’s true in many cases when it comes to nutrition and health. Consuming moderate quantities of anything unhealthy can lower its harmful effects on the body. But labelling something unhealthy as healthy upon moderate consumption is incorrect. This especially holds true when it comes to alcohol. People often cite studies that have linked intake of alcohol with lowered risk of heart diseases. What is important to note here is that Indian statistics is missing from most of the data. In addition to this, more and more studies claim that no amount of alcohol intake can be called healthy or good. When you drink in moderation, you are just reducing its harmful effect not eliminating it or becoming healthier.
- Eating post sunset causes weight gain: This one is another myth that you need to be aware about. As long you eat within your daily recommended calorie intake, eating post sunset should have no significant effect on your weight. It is true that eating late at night may not be the healthiest habit, especially if you are consuming junk food or foods high in calories. This is because, it affects the sleep cycle and digestive process and in turn causes more problems.
- Sugar-free foods are good for you: Just like ‘diet foods’, foods labelled as ‘sugar-free’ can also be misleading. There are many sugar-free foods that are packed with substitutes that do more harm than good to the body. So, even if you opt these foods for its no sugar value, you are in turn packing your body with preservatives and sometimes artificial sweeteners that affect will your health in the long run. The key is to go natural as much as possible. Natural sugar from fruits and other produce is way healthier than any other man-made labelled products.
Dietician Arti Jain
MSc (Dietetics), PG Dip(Nutrition), Diabetic Educator (USA), International Certified Obesity Management (Australia), International Sports Nutrition ( California), Dip in Skin Aesthetics & Trichology