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Ten Myths about Dieting
From Dieting For Dummies; by Jane Kirby For The American Dietetic Association.

* Eating Late at Night Is Sure to Pack on the Pounds

Your body doesn't process calories differently after dark. However, the foods that people tend to go for in front of the TV after dinner--chips, ice cream, chocolate treats, and the like--are usually high in fat and calories. The kinds of foods you're eating are the concern, not the clock.

* You Can Break Through a Weight-Loss Plateau by Eating Fewer Calories

Eat fewer than 800 to 1,000 calories a day, and your body will turn down its thermostat to conserve every calorie it can get. It doesn't know whether you're a prisoner of war suffering from starvation or a prisoner in your head. The only way to keep your metabolism purring is to exercise. When weight loss slows, walk a little longer or work out more frequently or intensely--and don't forget to eat.

* Never Have Seconds

Instead of using a plate of food or a predetermined serving size as a yardstick for how much you should eat, try taking hunger and fullness clues from your body. Eating according to your appetite is much healthier. And when you eat slowly, recognizing when you've had enough is much easier.

Keep in mind that there's a difference between appetite and hunger. Appetite has more to do with flavor preferences and craving; hunger is a biological manifestation of the body's real need for food. If it's been a while since you and your appetite have seen eye to eye on how much to eat, try this: Serve yourself only half of what you think you want to eat. If you're still hungry after eating at a leisurely pace, go for it--in moderation, of course.

Also recognize that you're hungrier on some days than on others. So when you're really, truly hungry, it's fine to eat more. Remember that one meal does not define healthy eating. What you eat over the course of a day, or actually over several days, does.

* Deny Your Cravings; They're All in Your Head

Sometimes, the faster you give in and have a small portion of the food you're craving, the better off you are. You can pack on lots of calories by trying to eat around the one thing you truly want. Have a small serving of the food you crave and get over it.

* Don't Eat Between Meals

Most people need to eat every 3 to 4 hours to avoid a feast-or-famine mentality and risk overeating because they are overhungry. Dividing your calories into three meals and two or three snacks, instead of only three meals, can keep you well fueled for the day. Try planning two or three snack-sized portions (for example, a piece of fruit or a couple of Fig Newtons plus low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt) into your day's food choices. Doing so may help lessen your hunger pangs so that you're less likely to overeat at the next meal.

* Eating Breakfast Makes You Hungry All Day

Many typical breakfast foods--Danish, toast with jelly, and bagels, for example--are mainly carbohydrates in their simplest form. These foods, while initially satisfying, are out of your system in about 30 minutes, and you need (and want) to eat again. That's why many people say that breakfast kicks off nonstop eating throughout the day.

Breakfast foods that have some protein and a little fat, in addition to complex carbohydrates and sugars, stay with you longer and give you the energy you need to make it through the morning. Whole-grain cereal with low-fat or fat-free milk, an egg on toast, and even a fruity breakfast shake made with low-fat or fat-free milk are good choices.

* To Lose Weight, Become a Vegetarian

Being vegetarian doesn't ensure that you'll lose weight. Like any way of eating, a vegetarian diet can be high in fat and cholesterol, low in fiber, or both. Many vegetarian foods, including cheese and nuts, are high in fat and calories. So cutting out meat and replacing it with other equally fatty (or even more fatty) vegetarian foods is not only a bad diet move, but it may also increase your chances for nutritional deficiencies--especially if you don't plan your diet well.

* Fasting for a Few Days Drops the Pounds Quickly and Shrinks Your Stomach

If you fast, you may drop pounds, but some of that weight will be muscle, and most of it will be water. You need to eat protein foods such as lean meat, eggs, low-fat or fat-free milk, or legumes (beans and peas), or you'll be thin and flabby, not thin and shapely.

There's a misconception that fasting cleans out your system. But actually, the opposite is true. When the body doesn't get food, body chemicals called ketones build up over time. That process puts a burden on the kidneys, which can be harmful to your health. Not to mention that it gives you really bad breath, too!

* You Can Eat Anything You Want as Long as It's Fat-Free

Fat-free foods are not calorie-free foods; check the Nutrition Facts panel on the food label. Many have just as many calories as the original versions, and a few have even more, because lots of sugar (among other ingredients) is needed to replace the way fat tastes and feels in your mouth. In the end, the total number of calories in a food is what's important.

A little fat is a good thing because it can help you eat less by giving a meal staying power, which keeps you from feeling hungry too quickly. Instead of a sandwich made with fat-free mayonnaise and fat-free cold cuts, make one with a teaspoon of real mayonnaise and low-fat meat; it will stay with you longer than a fat-free meal.


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