By Nicci Micco, Editor-at-Large for EatingWell Magazine
It's one thing to feel disappointed that you're lugging around a few extra pounds when you know you've been a little lax with your eating or exercise. But religiously following diet rules and not making progress (or, worse yet, gaining weight) is infuriating and depressing. If you're watching your weight and not getting any closer to your goal, look closely at the weight-loss principles you're following. It could be that diet myths are causing you to pack on pounds. (And try this 7-Day Diet Meal Plan to Lose Weight.)
Myth #1: As long as you're eating healthy foods, calories don't matter.
Truth: Not necessarily. Whole-wheat pasta (or bread or, um, pie crust) has just as many calories as regular. Same goes for brown and white rice. Avocados, nuts and olive oil deliver heart-healthy fats -- and significant calories. Red wine and dark chocolate are full of antioxidants, but if you indulge every day without accounting for their calories, you're likely to gain weight. Upshot: Pay close attention to calorie counts of all foods (OK, maybe not plain steamed broccoli) so that "health halos" don't lead your eating astray.
Related: What does a 1,500-calorie day look like?
Myth #2: You can lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks. (See what EatingWell nutrition advisor Dr. Rachel Johnson has to say about this myth, fasting and other fad diets.)
Truth: You probably can lose 10 pounds in two weeks if you crash-diet, but that pace is rarely sustainable -- and most of the weight will return once you start eating normally. To truly lose one pound, you need to "eliminate" 3,500 calories -- the amount stored in a pound of fat -- by eating less and moving more. If you cut 500 calories (or cut 300 and burn 200 through exercise) every single day of the week, you'll lose about a pound a week. And that's real weight loss. (Be slimmer by next month when you follow one of our delicious 28-day weight-loss menu plans.)
Myth #3: If you exercise, you can eat as much as you want.
Truth: Consider this: Eat two medium cookies and you'll take in about 400 calories. But to burn 400 calories, the average person needs to run or walk 4 miles. So essentially, "a moment on the lips" can mean an hour or more on the treadmill. Bottom line: Unless you're working out like an Olympic athlete, to lose weight you'll still need to keep an eye on how many calories you're eating. Keep your calorie intake in check with these 7 Ways to Cut 100 Calories.
Myth #4: It's better to eat lots of mini meals rather than eating fewer, larger meals.
Truth: There's a kernel of truth in this myth, as EatingWell contributing editor Joyce Hendley reported in The 13 Biggest Diet and Food Myths Busted. Our metabolisms rev up slightly each time we eat, as our bodies process what we&'ve consumed. So by having many mini meals instead of fewer, larger ones, we shift our metabolism into a higher gear more often -- and burn a few more calories. But "the calorie difference is so small it doesn't add up to a hill of beans," says Dr. John Foreyt, director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. And for some people, eating more often may mean eating more, period.
Myth #5: It's always a good idea to go with the salad.
Truth: "Salads trip up many of my clients," Anne Daly, R.D., director of nutrition and diabetes education at the Springfield Diabetes and Endocrine Center in Springfield, Illinois, told EatingWell's advisor Dr. Johnson. Most of us could use more vegetables -- so what's not to love? In a word, toppings. The pecans and Gorgonzola cheese on Panera Bread's Fuji Apple Chicken Salad (580 calories, 30 grams fat, 7 grams saturated fat), for instance, propel it into double-cheeseburger territory. A McDonald's double cheeseburger has 440 calories, 23 grams fat, 11 grams saturated fat. Discover 5 More “Healthy” Foods That Really Aren’t.
What diet myths have sabotaged your weight-loss success?
By Nicci Micco Nicci Micco is editor-at-large for EatingWell and co-author of EatingWell 500-Calorie Dinners. She has a master's degree in nutrition and food sciences, with a focus in weight management.