By Deborah A. Wilburn
Who isn't for looking for fresh ways to slim down? The trouble is that, in time, the latest weight loss or diet trick doesn't work anymore -- you get lazy or don't quite remember what the tip was so you follow it in a halfhearted, or even diet-busting, fashion. Here are three current weight loss beliefs that have morphed into myths.
1. Myth: Eat five mini meals throughout the day. The initial idea was to eat small, healthy amounts of food every couple of hours to keep blood sugar levels steady and energy high. The trouble is, many people end up eating what amounts to five full meals. "I find that people do much better when they sit down and have three balanced meals a day with two small snacks in between," says nutrition counselor Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD. "Real meals stave off hunger. If you eat tiny bits throughout the day, you're hungry all the time."
2. Myth: Eat less by using small plates. Studies have shown that large plates lead to more eating because they make portions look smaller. But the small-plates idea only works if there's a limited amount of food to put on them. In a recent diet study at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, 10 overweight and 10 normal-weight women were randomly assigned a large or small plate for eating lunch on two different days, then allowed to serve themselves. The result: The ladies ate until they were full, regardless of plate size. "Make what you need, or measure the amount before putting it on a plate, then put things away," recommends Tallmadge, who was not involved in the study. "It's having easy access to food that keeps you eating more."
3. Myth: There's only one right way to diet. Diet books are churned out all the time, touting pounds lost by following the rules of the latest trendy plan. But a new weight loss study from Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., shows it doesn't matter what meal plan you're on because you'll lose weight as long as you stick to it. In the study, several hundred overweight or obese people were randomly assigned one of four diets, with varying amounts of protein, fat, and carbs. The researchers checked the participants' weight after six months and again at two years. They found that people were able to maintain a weight loss of more than eight pounds over two years no matter which plan they were on.
"A healthy diet will work because it forces you to organize yourself because you're watching portions, you're following a guide," says Tallmadge. "What needs to be looked at is weight loss over the long term. You can only follow an eating plan like an automaton for so long. It's better to understand the principles of healthy eating."
Still, she says, no matter what diet you follow, "adherence is the key."
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