Five Diet Myths Shared by Dr. Oz and Health Officials on Weight Loss and Nutrition
In a recent episode of The Dr. Oz Show, Dr. Oz shares with viewers his survey findings of the top 5 diet myths that often derail weight loss attempts by dieters. These findings of weight loss and nutrition myths are backed by science and are aligned with warnings by government health organizations that the way you are dieting may be making you fatter rather than thinner.
Summarized below are the top 5 diet myths, the reasons why they are myths, and what you can do to prevent falling for these hidden weight gain traps.
Diet Myth #1: Diet Soda Helps You Lose Weight
It appears to make good sense—if you drink no-calorie soft drinks rather than regular sugar-laden sodas, then you will avoid adding on calories and thereby lose more weight than if you had been drinking regular soda. However, as it turns out, it’s not that simple and diet soda may be tricking your brain into eating more.
According to multiple studies looking at diet sodas and weight loss, researchers have found that over time individuals drinking sodas daily were gaining more weight than individuals who did not drink diet soda. In one study performed by epidemiologists from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, the researchers reported that individuals who drank two or more diet sodas a day developed waist circumference increases that were 500 percent greater than those who avoided sodas.
According to Dr. Oz, the problem with diet sodas is that artificial sweeteners trick both the body and the brain. The diet soda induces the pancreas to release insulin, which helps the body store fat. In addition, the brain becomes chemically confused as to whether or not it the body is really receiving calories, which in turn interferes with feelings of satiety and results in stronger cravings to eat more than a person normally would.
Dr. Oz also says that sweeteners can desensitize your palate making your sugar cravings even stronger and more difficult to curb.
One healthier alternative to diet soda he recommends is trying carbonated water for the fizz sensation of a soda and giving it added flavor with a little lemon or lime juice. It will be refreshing, provide a similar soda experience and help you avoid both sugar and sweetener laden beverages.
Diet Myth #2: The More Calories You Cut, the More Weight You Lose
Cutting calories is a good way to lose weight, but not when it is taken too far. We all hear time and again how that 3500 calories is approximately equal to one pound of fat. And therefore, that if you are maintaining a consistent weight, that you can lose weight by cutting X number of calories per day from your normal diet. So, if you cut 500 calories a day then you can expect to lose 1 pound a week, 4 pounds a month, 48 pounds of fat a year. Simple—right?
Not so, says Dr. Oz as he explains that while initially you will begin to see weight loss, that soon after, your body will be tricked into entering a starvation mode where your body will find ways to keep what it has by slowing down your metabolism and taking away lean muscle rather than fat.
Once a person enters “starvation” mode and fails to see any further loss of fat, they get discouraged and wind up eating excessively to make up for lost nutrients. After which, they will have gained weight overall rather than lost weight.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in a publication titled “Weight Loss and Nutrition Myths—how much do you know?” initial weight loss does occur with some fad diets, but that they are especially hard to continue to follow because your body becomes nutritionally starved. Furthermore, when that initial weight loss is forced to be as much as 3 pounds or more per week, the dieter is at risk of developing gall stones and/or heart arrhythmias.
Experts agree that the real trick to losing fat is to burn more calories in conjunction with cutting fewer calories. This is achieved by decreasing your daily calorie count only slightly, while at the same time adding on physical activity. This way the body does not become nutritionally starved and go into a starvation mode. At the same time, the added exercise burns off calories and preserves your lean muscle mass.
Diet Myth #3: Pasta and Other High Starch Foods Make You Fat
Dr. Oz and government health agencies are in agreement that pasta and other starchy foods have gotten a bad rap with dieting advice. The truth according to the Weight-control Information Network (WIN) is that many foods high in starch such as bread, rice, pasta, cereals, beans, fruits, and some vegetables (like potatoes and yams) are low in fat and calories. The problem, however, is that when eaten they are usually supplemented with high-fat, high-calorie toppings like butter, sour cream, mayonnaise, cheese, bacon bits, heavy sauces, etc. Furthermore, the added toppings make us eat even more carbohydrate than we really need.
Dr. Oz tells viewers that it is not about the carbohydrates, but the volume of carbohydrates eaten with the toppings. The correct pasta serving size according to Dr. Oz is to make the “A-OK” sign with your thumb and index finger with one hand and slip just enough uncooked noodle into the opening with your other hand. Then, cook the pasta and add just a little olive oil and some salt for flavor to avoid piling on the fat and calorie-heavy toppings.
Diet Myth #4: Eating After 8 Will Make You Put on Weight
The truth is that it does not matter what time of day you eat. Calories can’t tell time—no matter when you eat, your body will store extra calories as fat.
According to experts, the problem is with what and how much you eat, and how much physical activity you have during the entire day that determines whether you gain weight, lose weight, or maintain your weight. Dr. Oz explains that end-of-the-day fatigue may be playing a role in eating too much after 8 p.m., as well as habit-formed snacking during watching TV at night.
Recommendations for fighting couch-time calories is to be vigilant about how many calories you have consumed earlier in the day and adjusting your eating during the evening—preferably with fruit or other healthy snack alternatives.
Diet Myth #5: Reduced Fat Foods Are Calorie Light
Fat tastes great, but are fat-reduced foods any less fat-filling to your body? In many cases they contribute the same— if not more—to your body fat. Experts and Dr. Oz both point out that to make up for removed fat, food manufacturers have to fill foods with other things to get people to eat their products. Examples of food additives include sugars, chemicals and thickeners that not only enhance flavor and texture, but often add as many calories as the fat version of the food you are substituting with their “lighter and healthier” version.
Another trick behind reduced fat food is the serving size. You have to read the label and understand what the serving size is for a particular food product rather than compare it to what you are normally satisfied with in a regular portion of your favorite indulgence.
Recommendations are that it is better to go ahead and eat the full-fat food, but in a smaller serving size and supplemented with fresh fruit.
For information about the risks of dangerous dieting, follow this link to an article about a Dr. Oz episode this week about the Pro-Ana Thinspiration Movement: Signs, Symptoms and One Test of Women Dying to be Thin.
Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases “Weight Loss and Nutrition Myths—how much do you know?”
“Fueling the Obesity Epidemic? Artificially Sweetened Beverage Use and Long-term Weight Gain” Obesity (2008) 16: 8, 1894–1900; Sharon P. Fowler et al.