Busting College Dieting Myths

By Megan O'Connell, Student at University of Wisconsin – Platteville

A little over a month and a half for most of us to go until it’s that beautiful and glorious time of the year again. Most of us are seeing visions of lying out in the sun, the beach and holding a cold drink in our hands. A lot of us are also visioning ourselves with a perfect beach bod. This could lead to extreme dieting habits in the couple of weeks before summer begins.

Be forewarned, though, there’s so much varying information on dieting you never know which will work for you until you try different diets. Want to know the best way to get in shape for summer and beyond? A good old healthy intake of your daily nutritional needs and exercise. I’ll further explain dieting myths and foods to avoid.

So many diets have different perspectives on what to eat and what not to eat. How are you supposed to know whether you should be eating more or less of this and that when each different diet is telling you the exact opposite of another?

Real Simple offers some insight on the top 10 dieting myths. I chose five that I found to be most beneficial from their article here:

Myth No. 1: Don't Eat After 8 p.m.

The theory: You burn up the food you eat earlier in the day, while late-night calories sit in your system and turn into fat.

The reality: Calories can't tell time. "Your body digests and uses calories the same way morning, noon, and night," says Mary Flynn, Ph.D., a research dietitian at the Miriam Hospital in Providence. They may sit around a little longer if you eat, then lie on the couch and watch Letterman, but when you move around the next day, your body will dip into its stores. That said, there are other solid reasons to avoid late-night snacking, not least of which is that snacks you grab when you're tired tend to be unhealthy ones.

Myth No. 2: Eating Small, Frequent Meals Boosts Your Metabolism
The theory: If you keep adding small amounts of food to your fire (the fire being your metabolism), you will keep it going strong and burn more calories overall.

The reality: Food intake has a negligible effect on metabolism. Some foods, including those with caffeine, may slightly and temporarily increase metabolism, but the effect is too small to help you lose weight. What most affects your basal metabolic rate (BMR), the rate at which your body burns calories at rest, is body composition and size. More muscles and bigger bodies generally burn more calories overall.

Myth No. 3: Pasta Makes You Fat
The theory: When you eat carbohydrates, your body turns them into sugars, which are then stored as fat.

The reality: Carbohydrates per se don't make you fat; extra calories do, whether you eat them in the form of carbs, fats, or protein. Besides, carbohydrates include vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, which are important parts of a healthy diet. In short, the problem isn't pasta but the sheer volume consumed. "Americans tend to eat too much carbohydrates, fat, and protein. But they overeat carbs most of all," says Barbara Moore, Ph.D., a nutritionist in Clyde Park, Montana, and a spokesperson for the American Society for Nutrition. "You go to a restaurant and you're served three cups of pasta with lots of sauce." Those three cups of pasta can pack up to 600 calories without the sauce.
Myth No. 6: Going on a Diet Is the Best Way to Lose Weight
The theory: Switching to a prescriptive plan temporarily is the smartest way to drop pounds.

The reality: Short-term, you do lose weight on any plan that results in your eating fewer calories. But temporary changes don't lead to permanent losses. "A diet won't work if you think of it as doing a different thing for a while and then you're going to stop doing it," says Christopher Gardner, an assistant professor of nutritional science at Stanford University School of Medicine. "If you have a new way of eating and think, I'm going to eat like this forever, that's the way to lose weight." And keep it off.

Myth No. 8: To Lose Weight, You Need to Cut Calories Drastically
The theory: Eat much less; weigh much less.

The reality: Sure, if you subsist on 1,200 calories a day, you'll take-off weight, but it won't be for long. Consider an analysis of 31 studies of long-term diets, where the diets averaged 1,200 calories a day. The report, published last April in American Psychologist, found that within four to five years, the majority of dieters in these studies regained the weight they had lost. "Psychologically, it's difficult for people to adhere to strict diets over a long period because they feel deprived and hungry," says Traci Mann, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis, and the lead author of the report. "Also, our bodies are brilliant at keeping us alive when we try to starve them." Your body becomes more efficient at using the calories you consume, so you need fewer to survive. In addition, people who are put on a very-low-calorie diet (800 calories a day) have an increased risk of developing gallstones and digestive issues.

Now that we’ve explored some dieting myths, you may be wondering, “Well, what should I be eating?” As simple as it sounds, the best thing you can do for yourself is to just eat well. Visit Choose My Plate to find out how much you should be eating of each food group daily.

Choose My Plate also suggests cutting back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars and salt. Extra sugars and fats add unnecessary calories. Too much sodium may increase your blood pressure. Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

I’m personally trying really hard to give up soda, even though it’s so hard! I’ve been drinking fitness waters and 100 percent juice instead, thanks to the advice of a friend.

More tips from Choose My Plate include adding spices or herbs to season food without adding salt. Make major sources of saturated fats — such as cakes, cookies, ice cream, pizza, cheese, sausages and hot dogs — occasional choices and not everyday foods. Select lean cuts of meats or poultry and fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese. Switch from solid fats to oils when preparing food.

To wrap things up, you don’t need to stress yourself out even more by worrying about dieting before summer. Take it step by step and incorporate new things into your diet day by day. Cut something out of your daily diet and replace it with something better for you. Also, if you don’t have a work-out plan, establish one. You don’t need to be spending hours a day at the gym. Take a half an hour out of your day several times a week and get some exercise. A long-term health plan is much better for you and your body than a diet.


Image: zirconicusso / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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