5 Diet Myths That Are Actually Making You Gain Weight

What the old wives told you may not be true after all.

5 Diet Myths That Are Actually Making You Gain Weight

Could the diet you're on right now be full of lies and misinformation that are actually keeping you from losing the weight you want? Here are five shocking weight-loss myths you should stop believing.

Diet Myth #1: Diet Soda Helps You Lose Weight

Most diet sodas are lower in calories than regular soda because they don't use regular sugar. The problem here is the artificial sweeteners, which have been tied to weight gain. Why?

Research shows that artificial sweeteners stimulate taste receptors that sense sweetness in both the esophagus and stomach. Anticipating energy, the pancreas releases insulin, an important hormone for accumulating body fat. At the same time, chemicals are sent to the brain's satiety center, which becomes confused as to whether or not the body is actually receiving calories.

As your body gets “tricked" by the sugar substitute, you crave more food and become susceptible to overeating in order to feel satisfied. The result? You feel even hungrier and less full, which can lead to weight gain.

Artificial sweeteners are more than 100 times sweeter than natural table sugar – this is cause for concern since naturally sweet foods, like fruits, won't seem as sweet to a desensitized palate.

Choose a healthier alternative, like a glass of seltzer with lemon or lime, the next time you reach for a refreshment.

Diet Myth #2: The More Calories You Cut, the More Weight You Lose

It may seem counterintuitive, but cutting too many calories from your diet can be bad for your waistline. Because 3500 calories equal about 1 pound of fat, you would need to cut 3500 calories out of your diet each week to lose 1 pound a week. In order to do this, you'd have to cut 500 calories a day to lose 1 pound a week.

The problem with severely restricting diets, however, is that they jolt your body into “starvation mode," preventing your body from burning unwanted fat. This mechanism, which is thought to have evolved as a defense against starvation, helps the body make the most of the calories it gets from food and drink; the body, in order to keep functioning, then looks to get some of it calories from lean muscle. This results in muscle loss. Less muscle means a slower metabolic rate – and in this case, stalled weight loss.

Diet Myth #3: Pasta Makes You Fat

The problem with pasta is not the pasta itself – it's more about portions. If you eat too much of anything, and don't burn it off, your body will store it as fat. So whether it's bread or pasta or rice, it's about the volume and extra calories, not about the carbohydrates themselves. Add to that the heavy sauces and high-calorie cheeses, and no wonder pasta has such a bad rap.

They key here is practicing portion control. Pasta is okay in moderation. Dietitians recommend 2 or 3 ounces of uncooked noodles per person – or half of a one-pound box to serve a family of four.

Diet Myth #4: Eating After 8 p.m. Will Make You Gain Weight

There is some truth to this myth. Dr. Oz recommends not eating after 8 p.m. because studies have shown that you are more likely to overeat and misjudge how many calories you consume when you eat late. Fatigue may be to blame here as it may cause you to eat too much of the wrong foods, causing you to put on weight.

However, it's not the time of day that makes you gain weight – it's the extra calories! It does not matter when you consume the calories – if you exceed your recommended calorie intake, what you don't burn will be stored as fat. Always be vigilant of how many calories you consume throughout the day. A healthy woman should consume between 1800-2000 calories a day.

Diet Myth #5: Reduced Fat Foods Are Healthier Alternatives

Fat is one of the things that makes food taste good. When fat is removed from foods, a lot of the flavor is removed as well. To make up for this, extras – like sugars, chemicals and thickeners – are often added to enhance the flavor and texture of these foods. These additives can be far worse for you and sometimes just as fattening as full-fat food. Additionally, “low-fat" and “fat-free" doesn't mean low-calorie. Think about all the additives – they've got to turn up somewhere, right? When looking at nutrition labels, keep your eyes peeled for the sources of these calories and think twice about bringing reduced fat foods into your home. Opt for fresh or whole foods – or buy the full-fat food instead, but consume in moderation.

Emerging Research: Small Plates and Dieting

Dieters have been advised to eat from smaller plates in order to limit the amount they eat. Why? Because smaller plates make regular portions look larger. However, new research published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics found that plate size had no impact on the calorie consumption of either normal weight or obese individuals. Despite these findings, Dr. Oz still recommends using small plates to help guide you in terms of how much you eat. But use them the right way – a small plate is not an excuse to pile on food vertically or go back for seconds.

Q: I end up overeating because it makes me feel better and I never really get full. I'd like to lose weight but this makes it hard. Any suggestions?

A: Being persistently hungry can cause big trouble. So can overeating for comfort/pleasure. These two behaviors, say researchers from Baylor University's Children's Nutrition Research Center, are controlled deep within your brain by serotonin-producing neurons, but operate separately from each other — one in the hypothalamus, the other in the midbrain. They both can, however, end up fueling poor nutritional choices and obesity.

Eating for Hunger

When hunger is your motive for eating, the question is: "Does your body know when you've had enough?" Well, if you are overweight, obese or have diabetes you may develop leptin resistance and your "I am full" hormone, leptin, can't do its job. The hormone's signal to your hypothalamus is dampened, and you keep eating.

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