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People who know me know that I am a big fact checker. I have a serious pet peeve against spreading false information, passing myths as facts, and calling anecdotal evidence factual research evidence. when it comes my way, I just have to correct it like it is an itch that I have to scratch. It doesn’t win me too many friends, but I like my facts. So when I decided to get serious about getting fit, I decided to look at all the stuff that are touted as “facts” and “rules to live by” and see if they are worth worrying about.
Here are the top 3 diet myths I found:
You need to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.
There are a few other myths that comes with this one. For example, you might hear that if you are thirsty you are already dehydrated, and drinking water will help you lose weight. While drinking a glass or two of water before eating can help you eat less overall, the whole 8 glasses of water rule of water is not really based on any scientific research. Thirst and hunger are two distinctly different mechanisms, however, drinking a glass of water before a meal seems to help if you are older.
Why is this good to know: Being a mom to a young baby is tough. I am breastfeeding so I already drink a lot of water (it makes me thirsty all the time), but I drink to thirst like I always do. I don’t have the luxury of spending extra time going to the bathroom or carrying around huge jugs of water on my walks when I already have to carry a big load in my diaper bag!
You should eat 6 meals a day, or eat every 2-3 hours.
This is a real popular one and yet there are few in the way of scientific evidence to back this up. I have heard a few different version: You need to eat every 2-3 hours to keep your metabolism revved up, keep your body out of starvation mode (gasp!), so that your body will not consume lean muscle instead of fat (scary!). To lose fat, you most certainly need to have caloric deficit, but you don’t really need to eat 6 times a day. Several studies, like this one on rats, this one on young British women, or this one on humans in Netherlands, have shown that the the frequent meals does not raise metabolism. In fact, research seems to indicate that intermittent fasting might be healthy for you. In fact, you probably don’t have to worry about “starvation mode” unless you are on very low restricted calories for an extended period of time, or if you fasted for over 60 hours.
Why is this good to know: For my part, I will not entertain the idea of fasting for personal reasons, but it is also good to know I can keep things simple and not have to graze all the time. As a busy mom, I find it hard to plan 3 meals, let alone having to plan 6 meals takes more mental energy. Having so much access to food is a pain to me as well, especially since I would be constantly eating! I like to eat when I am hungry, not when I am not. The less I have to work on each meal, the better. I already spend a lot of energy preparing fresh meals for my family, so having a few more meals less to worry about makes watching caloric intake that much easier and more sustainable.
Your need to cut fat /carbohydrates /sugar to lose weight.
There are a lot of diets out there, ones that cut fat and ones that cut carbs, but ultimately you need to make sure you are not taking in too many calories. This is the reason that diet foods are not necessarily good for you. In fact, the body needs both fat and carbohydrates to function properly. Sugar isn’t going to kill your diet if you watch what your total intake. The truth is that only energy deficit is necessary for weight loss and you need to eat a balanced diet that is not drastically low in calories.
Why This is Good to Know: Knowing what to focus on when you are trying to accomplish a goal and knowing that all I need to do is to have a lower caloric intake (about 500 calories a day) to lose weight healthily and effectively is helpful. I don’t need to worry about cutting out certain foods, just have to watch the total intake.
You should not be on a diet while breastfeeding.
First of all, one needs to think of diet as just how you eat. It is watching what you eat. If you think diet as in deprivation of food, then there is a problem in that mentality because then all diets are meant to fail. This is one that I personally learned the hard way. I had heard that if I reduced my caloric intake while breastfeeding that my milk would dry up. The truth is that unless you are in serious starvation situations, where your diet means a sudden drop in calories less than half of what you need in energy in a day, will your milk dry up. Your body will use up the fat stores it accumulated during pregnancy and if you established a good breastfeeding routine and supply (waiting 3 months before dieting), stay hydrated, and eat at least 1500 calories a day, then there is no fear of drying up. Engaging in light exercise such as walking is also a great way to get fit and stay healthy.
Why This is Good to Know: As a mom of an infant, breastfeeding and the nutrition of my child is important to me. This was one of the reasons I had used (in addition to my terrible fatigue) to put off any effort in losing weight after the birth of my first child. Knowing more about how to do it right and safely empowered me to do it.
What I learned to focus on: drink to your thirsty and watch the total caloric intake.