Fat-free is the healthiest choice. Don’t eat after the sun goes down. Eat a low carb diet. We’ve all been exposed to various “diet tips” over the years and, accurate or not, many of us still live by them. It’s time to demystify six of these outdated and unhelpful rules once and for all and provide you with new guidelines that will actually help you reach your goals.
1. Old rule: You should burn every calorie you eat through exercise.
To lose weight, it’s true that you should burn more calories than you consume. But some people misinterpret this weight-loss equation, thinking they must burn off every calorie they eat—and then some—by exercising. Besides being inaccurate, this practice can be unsafe and lead to exhaustion, overuse injuries and stalled weight-loss, among other problems. Remember, your body is constantly burning calories throughout the day, even when you’re not physically active. This is known as a basal metabolic rate (BMR), and it accounts for more than 1,200-1,500 calories per day (on average). Add to that all the calories you burn by moving, walking, standing and yes, exercising, and you can see how easy it is to “burn more calories than you consume” without spending your life in the gym.
New rule: Move more and exercise moderately.
Try to achieve an active lifestyle by adding more physical activity to your days. Not all of this activity needs to be planned exercise (although it’s best to exercise 3-6 times per week for 30-60 minutes per session to help burn additional calories and enhance your health). Small things that get you moving more—taking the stairs, walking to a co-worker’s desk instead of e-mailing, or playing an active video game instead of watching TV—add to your daily calorie burn and help you lose weight. There is no need to resort to exercise extremes; you only need to burn about 200-600 calories per day (not thousands) through actual exercise to safely lose weight.
2. Old rule: Skip meals to lose weight faster.
Many people believe that skipping meals like breakfast will help them eat fewer calories and therefore speed up weight loss. In theory, this idea seems to make sense, but skipping meals to save calories backfires more often than not. When you go several hours without food, you will be ravenous by the time your next meal comes along and this will make you more likely to throw your eating plans out the window and consume anything within reach. In addition to this, eating too infrequently may slow down your metabolism, sending your body into conservation (or “starvation”) mode because it thinks calories are scarce.
New rule: Eat sensible portions at regular intervals throughout the day.
Try to keep your body’s metabolism running as efficiently as possible by fueling it at regular intervals. Try eating small, balanced meals every 3- 4 hours to properly nourish yourself and encourage weight loss, or at the very least, eat three meals (including breakfast) and a couple healthful snacks to curb hunger and keep your metabolic fire stoked.
3. Old rule: Eating low-carb is the way to win at weight loss.
Over the past several years, low-carb diet fads have given carbohydrates a bad rap, but this reputation is unfounded. Carbohydrates are an important fuel source for your body and they are necessary for safe, steady weight loss, too. Your body needs carbohydrates to efficiently burn fat, so skimping on the carbs could actually hurt your weight-loss efforts and be detrimental to your health.
New rule: Cut back on processed carbs and choose whole foods instead.
It is true that some carbs (whole grains, vegetables, legumes, etc.) are better for you than others (white bread, sugary cereals, sweets). Rather than omitting carbs from your diet plan, be more selective. Choose more whole grains and unprocessed foods like brown rice, quinoa, whole-grain bread and oats, and limit your intake of unhealthy carbs that sneak into your diet via processed foods, sweets, caloric beverages and refined flours.