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The facts outweigh fiction ... and fads

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, why do we continually go on diets? Study after study has shown that most diets don’t work in keeping the weight off for the majority of dieters. Keeping weight off requires the real challenge of making proper lifestyle and behavior changes.

Some “new and improved” system is always available to take our money. One advantage of over 30 years in the fitness business is witnessing fads come and go. Some were only a danger to our good sense of fashion, but many resurfaced fads like the extremely low calorie HCG diets, colon cleanses, and carbohydrate deprivation diets are potentially detrimental to our health. If these programs failed and went out of vogue with disco, leg warmers and spandex, why are they going to be successful now?

A recent U.S. News and World Report study reviewed 20 popular diets. The Dash Diet received top honors in overall and best diabetes diet. Paleo, also known as The Caveman Diet, was listed last in all categories. A highly regarded obesity study, the National Weight Control Registry, shows that the best diet to lose weight may actually be no commercial diet at all. Of the 5,000 successful weight loss participants who lost an average of 66 pounds and maintained the loss for five and a half years, 95 percent reported that they succeeded by modifying their food intake and increasing their physical activity. Surprise, surprise!

Following are some of the more common myths that a majority of diets are based on.

MYTH: You must have a precise ratio of protein, calories, and fats.

FACT: Things have changed over the years in how scientists and nutrition professionals view a balanced diet. When it comes to health, as long as the diet falls within the acceptable range of 10-30 percent protein, 45-65 percent carbohydrates and 20-35 percent fats, then the best diet for producing weight loss is the one that works for the individual. As long as the diet does not vastly exceed the guidelines, weight loss itself trumps the dieting method when it comes to improving health. In other words, weight loss is the primary driver of health improvement rather than the type of diet used.

MYTH: Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and other carbohydrates stimulate insulin and fat storage.

FACT: No one would argue that a diet high in sugar and low nutrient density foods is good for you, but in the end these poor food choices are simply a delivery vehicle for excess calories. Insulin plays a major role in keeping us alive, but in short, this hormone is not responsible for weight loss or continuous body fat gains. Only we are in control of our weight. The excess food one consumes leads to the average adult’s growing waistline, and of course that is 100 percent under the control of the person eating the calories. The true culprit is excess caloric intake, poor food choices, and a lack of physical activity.

MYTH: Eating past 7 p.m. makes you fat.

FACT: Weight gain is a result of eating more calories than you burn on a regular basis, not when you eat those calories. If one gains weight eating at night, it is due to excess calorie intake, not the timing.

MYTH: Working out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach will maximize fat burning, since muscle glycogen (stored carbohydrate) is low.

FACT: Without eating breakfast, your performance will suffer causing you to burn fewer calories.

Fats do not make us fat. Carbohydrates do not make us fat. No specific class of food makes us fat. It is only excess calories that make us fat. There are definitely health benefits to eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean sources of protein. However, contrary to all the pseudo science and reasons given for weight loss, it is entirely dependent on how many calories are consumed and how many calories are expended. Many diets claim that calories don’t count, yet ironically if any of them are successful it is always done by reducing calories. No substantial scientific evidence exists to disprove this. Follow the examples of successful losers who have learned the facts and ignore all those late night infomercials.

Perry Buchanan, owner of PT Gym, is certified as Health Fitness Specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine and has been in the fitness industry for over 30 years.