There’s a world of weight-loss advice out there, and it’s hard to know what to trust. Here, we’ve collected six pieces of weight-loss advice you don’t want to follow, with tips on what to do instead.
Bad weight-loss advice #1: Eat five meals a day
Why it doesn’t work: Assuming 1,800 calories a day, this means each meal would have to be 360 calories, about the amount in just one of our Morning Glory Muffins. But for most of us, eating this way means feeling not quite full all day long – a recipe for disaster when snacks show up in the office or your kids leave food on their plates. Plus, it means eating out of sync with other people.
What’s better: Eat three larger meals, leaving yourself room for a couple of 150-calorie snacks. Schedule your snacks based on when your cravings usually strike, and make sure to include the odd treat to keep your taste buds happy.
Bad weight-loss advice #2: Don’t eat after 7 p.m.
Why it doesn’t work: Assuming you’re eating reasonable quantities of healthy foods throughout the day, there’s no reason you can’t have an evening snack, even if it’s something sugary or salty. There’s no evidence that ingesting calories later in the day makes you gain weight. Plus, if you’re among those who go to the gym right after work, when else are you supposed to eat?
What’s better: Plan your eating schedule according to your lifestyle. If you work out or chase after kids in the evening, you may need more fuel at that time of day; if you spend your post-work hours communing with your couch, make lunch bigger and have a light dinner. But if you’re prone to overeating at night, to curb mindless eating try brushing your teeth when you decide you’re done for the day.
Bad weight-loss advice #3: Don’t eat carbs
Why it doesn’t work: Well, for one thing, your body needs carbs. "They are vital for providing energy for our bodies and brains," note Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, authors of healthy-eating guides Skinny Bitch and Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. By avoiding carbs, you’re avoiding a whole range of healthy foods that provide necessary nutrients to your body, like vegetables, fruits and whole grains. And even if a low-carb diet helps you lose weight in the short term, it’s not a sustainable long-term solution, and may lower your energy levels, leaving you less able to maintain healthy amounts of exercise.
What’s better: Be smart about carbs. Choose whole grains over refined, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and make sure to include healthy protein sources in your meals for optimal nutrition.
Bad weight-loss advice #4: Don’t eat fat
Why it doesn’t work: Your body needs fat just as much as it needs carbs and protein. Fat makes food taste better and helps keep you satisfied. And low-fat on food labels often translates into high-sugar, which certainly isn’t going to help you lose weight.
What’s better: Choose high-quality fats and don’t eat too many of them. The best way to do this is to eat foods that contain healthy fats, such as fish, nuts and seeds, olive oil and avocado. Cut back on foods high in unhealthy fats, such as butter, lard (and products containing these, such as cookies and pastries), fatty meats and fatty cheeses and dairy products.
Bad weight-loss advice #5: Trust food packaging
Why it doesn’t work: Low carb, trans fat free, low calorie – packaged foods are laden with these labels meant to convince you that they’re healthy choices. (Low-carb ketchup? How much are you eating of it, anyway?) But the claims manufacturers are allowed to make are complex and not always intuitive, and a product low in one bad-for-you ingredient is often made more flavourful by pumping up quantities of another. Besides, a trans-fat-free cookie is still a cookie.
What’s better: Instead of trusting what the packaging tells you, trust your common sense, say Freedman and Barnouin. "Read the ingredients," they write. "If you plan on eating something, you should know exactly what it is." Watch for added sugar (including glucose, corn syrup and other sugar substitutes), unhealthy fats and fillers. Once you’ve read the ingredients and the calorie count (don’t forget to check the suggested serving size), you may decide you’d rather have an orange.
Bad weight-loss advice #6: Eat lots of soup
Why it doesn’t work: Well, this one does – sometimes. The truth is, it depends on the soup. Just don’t assume that all soups are created equal, especially when you’re eating out. Avoid anything creamy or with tons of oil floating on top, and if you’re eating at a restaurant that provides nutrition information for its menus, find out exactly how healthy that cup of soup is.
What’s better: Broth-based soups, or soups made creamy through the addition of pureed vegetables or grains, are low in calorie density, meaning they’re filling but still low-calorie. They make an excellent option for a light meal (serve with bread or crackers) or starter. For the healthiest picks, make vegetable- and legume-heavy soup at home, and pack it in a Thermos for lunch.