Low-Calorie Dieting For Dummies
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You may encounter more weight-loss misinformation floating around than reliable advice. If you're new to the weight-loss game — and it is something of a game — you're going to hear and read all types of tips and advice on how to do it, what foods to eat and not eat, and what works and what doesn't. Here are six popular diet myths, debunked:

  • Eating in-between meals makes you fat. The truth is, snacking can actually help you lose weight. The purpose of a snack is to prevent you from getting so hungry that you overeat at your next meal.

  • You must stick to a strict number of calories to lose weight. In fact, you can lose weight with a range of calories. Also, you'll be more successful at weight loss if you give in and cheat a little (with an emphasis on "little") once in a while, especially if you feel hungry, than if you allow yourself to get too hungry and end up binge eating.

  • Eating certain specific foods helps you burn calories. Have you ever heard that you can lose weight by eating only cabbage soup? How about the grapefruit diet? Has anyone ever told you that it takes more calories to digest an apple than the apple itself contains? If you haven't heard any of these stories yet, you will. Unfortunately, none of them are true.

  • Eating late at night causes you to gain more weight than eating during the day. Not true. The total amount and type of food you eat is what matters, not when you eat it.

  • Reduced-fat and fat-free foods can help you lose weight. Certain naturally fat-free foods, such as vegetables and fruits, can help you lose weight because you can fill up on larger quantities of these foods for fewer calories than if you were to choose food higher in fat. Fat-free convenience food products, however, are another story. Many of these foods contain so much added sugar or other ingredients that they contribute just as many, if not more, calories to your diet.

  • Using sugar substitutes helps you lose weight. Many diet products on supermarket shelves contain the most recently approved sugar substitute that slashes their calories in half. The sudden appearance of these products coincides with a rising trend of eliminating sugar from the diet to lose weight and the release of new dietary guidelines from government health experts, advising overweight people to cut calories to lose weight. How convenient for food manufacturers!

    Put two and two together and the answer is that sugar substitutes are not the answer to weight control! Check out these two facts:

    • On the whole, Americans have gotten fatter and fatter over the past 100 years.

    • Sugar substitutes, also known as artificial sweeteners and low-calorie sweeteners, have been around for more than 125 years.

    Using sugar substitutes is a matter of personal choice. If you're comfortable with the products and you want to use them in your low-calorie plan, it's entirely up to you. The problem with sugar substitutes is that they may lead you to believe you can eat more food because you're not getting as many calories from sugar. Sugar substitutes don't teach you how to eat less food overall, and that's why, in the bigger picture, they don't work as a weight-loss tool.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Susan McQuillan, a registered dietitian, writes about food, nutrition, and weight control from her home in New York City. She received her bachelor’s degree in dietetics management from New York University and her master’s degree in human nutrition from Hunter College, both in Manhattan. She was formerly a food and nutrition editor at American Health magazine and Reader’s Digest general books division. Susan is the author of Breaking the Bonds of Food Addiction (Alpha/Penguin) and a contributor to many health and nutrition-related books and cookbooks. Her articles and recipes have appeared in Woman’s Day, Family Circle, Cooking Light, Prevention, Fitness, Women’s Sports and Fitness, McCall’s, and Fit Pregnancy magazines.

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