10 Diet Rules That Are Keeping You Overweight

Want to slim down? Quit believing these diet myths.

(This article appeared previously on Grandparents.com.)

1. “Calories don’t matter, fat does.”

Why it’s false: “Calories do matter, no matter which way you slice it,” says Alissa Rumsey, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “If you eat far more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.” However, she adds, the type of calories are also very important. Calories from whole foods, like vegetables, nuts and whole grains are better for you and make your body work harder, thus burning more energy. Plus you feel full for longer.

“Compare that to calories from something like soda or a piece of white bread,” she says. “These items are simple sugars that digest very quickly and lead to a spike in blood sugar, which stimulates an increase in insulin, and you are more apt to store these calories as fat.”

2. “Diet soda can help you lose weight.”

Why it’s false: “Diet soda is not a health drink or a magic bullet for weight loss,” says Rumsey. “Although switching from regular soda to diet soda will save you calories and sugar, it isn’t clear yet if it is effective for weight loss.” Some studies have found that drinking diet soda may be a factor in people eating more calories.

A study in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine found that the artificial sweeteners in diet soda can stimulate the craving for sugar and cause people to eat more calories rather than fewer. Another study found that overweight people who drink diet soda consume more food than overweight people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages.

3. “Eggs are bad for you.”

Why it’s false: The first thing to understand here is that cholesterol that is found in foods, like eggs, is different than the cholesterol found in your body. “It was originally thought that foods high in cholesterol negatively impacted our blood cholesterol levels, eggs being one of the higher sources of food cholesterol,” says Rumsey. “However, more recent evidence shows no relationship between consuming foods high in cholesterol and blood levels of cholesterol, when looking at a typical American diet.”

4. “A protein bar is better for losing weight than eating a full meal.”

Why it’s false: “Most protein or granola bars on the market have a laundry list of ingredients, often with multiple types of sugar and various additives,” says Rumsey. “Some have the equivalent of six or seven teaspoons worth of sugar in one bar!”

Fat helps to slow digestion and keeps us full for longer, which can help with weight loss.

— Alissa Rumsey

She advises people to eat whole, real food instead. “Not only will you feel more satisfied, but you’ll get many more health benefits than can be found in a bar such as more fiber, which can decrease risk of chronic diseases like cancer, and can help to control weight. If you do reach for a bar, look for a short ingredient list with foods you recognize, such as nuts, dates, seeds, etc, and aim for one with less than 15 grams of sugar.

5. “Low-fat foods are better for weight loss.”

Why it’s false: Some low-fat foods are actually good when it comes to weight loss (think skim milk or 1 percent yogurt), but many other low-fat foods are filled with sugar, salt and other not-great-for-you ingredients.

“When the fat is removed, food companies have to do something to make up for that loss in taste, so you’ll see more sweeteners or additives in the food item,” says Rumsey. The other reason you might want to reconsider low-fat foods: “Fat helps to slow digestion and keeps us full for longer, which can help with weight loss,” she says.

6. “Eat oatmeal.”

Why it’s false: Oatmeal is very good for you in general, but you need to be sure you are choosing the right kind. “Plain oatmeal is the best, as it doesn’t have any sugars or sweeteners added,” says Rumsey. “I recommend old-fashioned rolled oats or steel cut oats, as they have a few more grams of fiber compared with the more heavily processed instant or quick-cooking oats.” The flavored oatmeals have a sugar and additives, which could affect your dieting.

7. “You have to detox your body.”

Why it’s false: Detox diets and cleanses are all the rage, but there is little evidence they remove toxins from your body. “Our livers and kidneys do a great job of cleansing our bodies on a daily basis,” says Rumsey. “Instead of doing a cleanse or juice diet, for lasting health benefits increase your fruit, vegetable, whole grain and water intake on a daily basis.”

By eating more whole foods and avoiding highly processed foods, you will help your body function at an optimum level every day.

8. “Eating fat makes you fat.”

Why it’s false: “While fat does have more calories per gram (nine) versus carbohydrates and protein (four), fat itself is not what makes you fat,” says Rumsey. “Fat is actually really important in weight control.” Fat can help slow digestion and keeps us full longer.

The key is the portion size: “Since fat has more calories per gram, you do have to watch how much you are eating.”

9. “Gluten is harmful to your body.”

Why it’s false: “If you don’t have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, there’s no need to avoid gluten,” says Rumsey. There is no scientific evidence that a gluten-free diet promises weight loss or better health. “In fact, many gluten-free products have higher calories than their gluten-containing counterparts,” she says.

10. “Organic foods are higher in nutrients.”

Why it’s false: Organic foods are a great choice, but not necessarily for nutritional reasons. A study from Stanford University found that there is not much different health-wise between organic and non-organic food. “Nutritionally speaking they have little extra to offer other than potentially slightly higher content of omega-3 fats in organic chicken and milk,” says Rumsey.

However, organic foods do contain fewer pesticides and other potentially harmful chemicals.


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