World Anti-Obesity Day: Common weight loss diet myths busted

On the eve of World Anti-Obesity Day, Hassan M Kamal looks into some of the most common weight loss diet myths, and why an improved lifestyle is as important as changing one's diet plan

Myth 1: Fat is always bad
Truth: Fat is the most misunderstood nutrient. A combination of healthy fats in the form of olive oil, rice bran oil, extra virgin coconut oil and omega 3 rich oils are healthy. Small amounts of saturated fats in the form of pure ghee is also acceptable. "The trans fats (vanaspati or hydrogenated vegetable oils and margerine) in the form of processed sodium-rich packaged foods are the killers which should be avoided, no matter what," says Tripti Gupta, lifestyle nutrition consultant and founder of iPink.


Myth 2: Carbohydrates make you gain weight
Truth: While there are plenty of diet regimes that promote low-carb food, so far, there's no proof that healthy carbohydrates are more likely to make one gain weight. In fact, it's an excess in calories that's responsible for weight gain. If you consume more calories than you burn in a week, you are more likely to gain weight, irrespective of where the calories come from. The goal should always be to eat in moderation.


Myth 3: Eating more protein can help lose weight
Truth: Anything in excess is bad, even if it's one of the most healthiest foods. You can't just gorge on eggs, sprouts or chicken and expect weight loss. Excess consumption of protein without backing it up with physical activity can, in fact, cause weight gain. "A balance of nutrients is the need of your body. Healthy weight loss can be achieved and sustained in the form of fat loss that has been attained as a consistent lifestyle correction," reminds Gupta.

Myth 4: Fruit juices help in weight loss
Truth: Fruit juices are calorie-dense drinks. You get more phytonutrients that may be present in fruits since you are squeezing more fruit to prepare a glass of juice. You are also consuming a fructose-rich drink. Besides, since the fibre is strained out and thrown away, you deprive yourself of fibre, one of the best parts of a fruit. Choosing whole fruits with fibre is a wise decision for dieters and the calorie-conscious. In fact, fruit juices can be administered for gaining weight.

Myth 5: Bananas, rice and potatoes are fattening foods
Truth: These are very much a part of our natural healthy food groups and not to be treated as junk foods. Making a hue and cry about potatoes and rice does not make sense if you are guzzling down mugs of beer and eating sodium-rich diet farsan. Eat all food groups wisely, and you won't find these fattening.

Myth 6: Don't drink water while eating meals
Truth: This is the most commonly circulated myth. Water is the key for digestion, transportation of nutrients and effective absorption. Let's make it simple; think of your stomach as a mixer-grinder, which has to churn the ground food and get it ready to further break down for absorption. If your meal comprises thin dal, curries, buttermilk, with plenty of fluids to churn, your body may be able to do without water. But with today's lifestyle where we carry dry lunches to work such as roti with dry vegetables, and vegetable sandwiches, you will need to back it up with enough fluids.

Myth 7: Whey protein and supplements are pro-youth
Truth: Whey protein is very highly misunderstood. It's simply a muscle-building, quick-absorbing simplified form of amino acid, which is most effective in muscle repair. A basic whey supplement is not necessarily used to build muscles but to help you meet the protein requirements, especially since Indian meals are largely carbohydrate-based. As one gets older, the protein requirement increases and muscle-wasting speeds up. Hence, it's even more important for senior citizens to incorporate suitable whey protein supplements to help repair muscle, gain strength and maintain good stamina and health. It can be used correctly with any meal to meet your protein requirements for the day.

Myth 8: Fat burners and mono diets is the short cut to quick weight loss
Truth: Gaining and losing weight is the normal behaviour of human body but going for "fad diets" and pills for temporary weight loss is foolish. You can't achieve fat loss through these fat burners; in fact, they make you lose muscle and water, and fool you into temporary results you begin to believe in.

Myth 9: Eating organic food is healthier
Organic foods are better for the environment as they are grown in natural environments and doesn't contain residues of the modern-day pesticides. But eating them doesn't necessarily mean you are consuming less calories. Organic cake, juices, chocolates and biscuits contain as much fat, sugar and salt as their non-organic counterparts. Don't be fooled by the label. The term 'organic' refers to farming methods used to produce a food item, and not to the nutrients found it.

Myth 10: Dieting is enough to lose weight
"Overweight and obesity are misunderstood words. It is a chronic condition and there is no 'quick-fix' solution or treatment that is effective for all overweight or obese individuals," says Dr Manish Motwani, consultant bariatric surgeon, Jaslok Hospital. "Lifestyle modification (with a reduction of calorie intake and an increase in physical activity) is essential in all treatment strategies. All long-term programmes require at least some lifestyle changes. Positive changes in eating and exercise behaviour are essential for sustained reduction in weight. However, if you are extremely overweight you may have to undergo bariatric surgery," suggests Dr Motwani.

Other common weight-loss myths

>> Food eaten at night stops you from losing weight. Wrong. It’s not eating in the evening that stops losing weight, but eating in excess. In the end, it’s all about maintaining a zero balance in the calories and consumption sheet.

 People inherit obesity: While scientists believe that children inherit obesity genes from their parents, it doesn’t explain how there is a sudden increase in obesity in the population. While genes have a role to play, our sedentary lifestyle is more responsible than the genes.

 Cereal bars are lower in fat and sugar than chocolate or sweets. Wrong again. If you check the ingredients and calorie chart in a cereal bar, you will find just as much sugar as in chocolate. Read the nutrient chart before you buy any cereal bars.

 Following a diet is not a punishment but simply a correction in your lifestyle and food choices. Whether at home or out, choosing wisely is the best option. Steamed or grilled foods, green salads and clear soups are wiser than eating homemade bhajiyas and chaats.

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