When you’ve got extra pounds to lose, and they’re not budging, shortcuts and secrets start to sound good. Maybe a friend whittled her waistline by eating nothing more than grapefruit. Maybe you read online that one superfood could boost your metabolism. Dieter beware: in a desperate state, you might give any trick a try. Before you take any drastic measures, know what will truly work versus what flat-out will not.
Myth 1: Limiting yourself to two meals a day will help you lose fat.
Fact: Eating fewer large meals only promotes fat storage. If you limit calories to less than 1,200 per day and only eat these calories two times a day, the body will go into survival mode. When your body doesn’t know when its next source of fuel will come, it will store what it gets for later – like an animal in hibernation.
Better body plan: Keep metabolism burning by eating every 3 to 4 hours, which will help weight loss instead of fighting against it. For extra energy-boosting effects, try cooking with coconut oil and taking a CLA supplement daily.
Myth 2: You can out-exercise a bad diet.
Fact: Many people believe exercise can offset the calories they consume. Unfortunately, our bodies just don’t work that way. Eating an unhealthy, high-calorie diet day in and day out will not get you the lean body of your dreams – no matter how much you work out. This is largely because we don’t realize how many calories we’re actually taking in. Or, thanks to the not-so-accurate cardio machines, we think we’re burning a ton of calories.
Better body plan: Is that glazed donut really worth an hour of intense aerobics? Clean up your diet to include more whole foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and as little refined sugar as possible (sorry, donut). With the right food in your belly, you’ll be able to get the most out of your workouts. Then, and only then, will you fully appreciate a once-weekly cheat meal.
Myth 3: Snacks are unnecessary calories.
Fact: Snacking gets a bad rap, because when most people think of snacks they think cookies, chips and all those over-processed, fattening treats. In reality, snacking is a great idea when done right, because wholesome foods keep your metabolism burning, help reduce hunger signals and prevent your chances of overeating.
Better body plan: Between meals, nosh on healthy foods in smaller portions. Aim for 150-250 calories per snack. Some good ideas include: veggies with hummus, low-fat cheese and crackers, yogurt with a ½-cup serving of fruit or about a ¼ cup of nuts. If you’re really missing the taste of crunchy, salty chips, try honey mustard protein pretzels instead.
Myth 4: You can never eat fast food.
Fact: I’m not a proponent of fast food, but let’s face it; sometimes we don’t have a better option. Fast food doesn’t always have to mean blowing your healthy diet, especially with more and more companies being pressured to reveal ingredients and nutrition stats.
Better body plan: There’s a wealth of information right at your fingertips – literally. Before you hit the drive-thru, look up the menu and nutritional guide for the fast food joint (most big chains have a direct link from their homepage). Sift through to find a low-calorie, low-fat and high-protein option. To get you started, here are a few better fast food menu items:
- Salad (no croutons or crunchy noodles) with grilled chicken or chicken strips, choose a low-fat dressing on the side (olive oil vinaigrette if it’s available)
- Plain hamburger with a side salad
- Soft taco over the hard shell, and skip the sour cream and cheese (or choose one over the other)
- Yogurt with granola, plus a side salad
Myth 5: You should avoid starches.
Fact: It drives me crazy when I hear people say, “I don’t eat starches.” Let’s first de-bunk what most people consider a starch. You might automatically think of white bread, potatoes, heavy pasta or sugary cereal. Yes, these are starches, but so are healthy carbohydrates such as whole grain bread, brown rice and sweet potatoes. And guess what? You need these starches to fuel your workouts and maintain energy. The truth is, these healthy carb sources only become unhealthy when you add cream sauces, butter or mayonnaise to the mix.
Better body plan: Keep carbs healthy by eating correct portion sizes (1/2 cup or about one cupped hand). Of course, you still need to choose healthy starches – whole grain over refined white products. Long grain brown rice pairs perfectly with chicken breasts, works well in stuffed peppers and bulks up any homemade gumbo. For your morning toast or lunchtime sandwiches, make sure you’re using 100% whole wheat or Ezekiel bread. Lastly, cereal lovers, rejoice. Kashi GOLEAN Cereal is lightly sweetened and full of whole grain goodness.
Myth 6: Eating after 7 p.m. will cause you to gain weight.
Fact: I have a healthy low-carb/high-protein snack every night. If you eat dinner at 6:30 pm and nothing else before going to bed, you may not eat for 12 hours or more. Even when we sleep our bodies burn calories.
Better body plan: Finish your day with a delicious, dessert-like protein shake. Mix your own with ARO Vitacost Lean Diet Shake in Angel Food Cake or About Time Shake and Go Vanilla. They really taste like cake! For an even easier after-dinner treat, the Atkins Advantage RTD Dark Chocolate Royale is super convenient and squashes any chocolate craving you might have.
Myth 7: Lifting weights will make me bulk up and maybe even gain weight.
Fact: Lifting weights or doing strengthening workouts regularly will help increase lean muscle mass. Women especially do not bulk up that easily due to their naturally lower testosterone levels. Just remember: building up lean muscle composition will result in burning more calories at rest, because muscle burns more than fat.
Better body plan: Incorporate strength training into your routine two to three times each week. I promise this will not make you rip holes in your jeans, as it takes VERY intense heavy weight lifting to build big, bulky muscles. Again, this is extremely difficult for women to achieve.