How to lose weight: The top 10 weight loss myths debunked

Dr Sara explains how being cold could help with weight loss

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Losing weight is crucial if you’re overweight or obese, which 64 percent of adults in England are. If you have excess weight and you’re trying to find the best way to lose it, it can be hard to know what information to trust when there are so many fad diets and diet myths. Fear not, chatted to the experts at the British Heart Foundation to find out the top 10 weight loss myths.

Healthier foods are more expensive

Lots of people complain that eating a healthy, balanced diet is too expensive and impossible for people on a low income, but this isn’t true.

According to the BHF, eating healthy doesn’t have to cost any more than eating junk food all the time.

You can do the following to cut costs:

  • Buy frozen fruit and vegetables. They come ready to use and they’ll help you reduce waste. You can use only what you need and put the rest back in the freezer. It will last longer in the freezer than fresh products.
  • Try cheaper or supermarket own brands. The value range is usually similar in taste to premium brands.
  • Write a shopping list and stick to it. Planning each of your meals for the week can help you stop your shopping bill from going up by adding things you don’t need like sugary treats.
  • Use more pulses in your meals. Pulses (like beans, lentils, chickpeas and peas) are usually one of the cheapest supermarket items. They are low in fat and full of vitamins and fibre to keep you fuller for longer. They’ll also add flavour and texture to any tasty meal.
  • Cook from scratch rather than eating ready meals or takeaways. Making your own food at home is a great way to make your food budget go further. You can make savings if you buy loose fruit and vegetables instead of pre-packed ones. You can also control what goes into your meal to make it healthier.

Carbs are fattening

Carbohydrates have been vilified for years, but they’re actually good for you when you eat the right amount.

Bread, pasta, potatoes, rice and other carbs are an important part of having a healthy, balanced diet that you can stick to.

Carbs give your body energy, vitamins like iron, calcium and B vitamins and fibre to support your digestion and help you feel fuller for longer.

The BHF warns: “Carbs can become unhealthy when high-fat foods are added to them, like adding butter and cheese on your jacket potato or a creamy sauce on your pasta.”

You should always try to do the following:

  • Top your jacket potato with a vegetable oil spread, flaky tuna or baked beans.
  • Choose wholegrain bread, pasta and rice. They taste just as good and might help you feel fuller.
  • Use a vegetable-based sauce for your pasta. A tomato sauce might be easier to digest than a heavy, cream sauce but it can taste just as good. And if you buy cans of chopped tomatoes, they’ll keep for longer in the cupboard than a cream sauce will in the fridge.

Intense exercise is the only way to lose weight

Don’t waste your time on a treadmill for hours a day if your aim is to lose weight.

The most effective way to lose weight is to reduce the number of calories we eat and drink, the BHF points out.

Exercise can support weight loss when we consume fewer calories, but it won’t do all of the work alone.

The BHF site adds: “Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week, like walking and cycling, or 75 minutes of intense activity every week by playing sports such as football.

“If you’re exercising to lose excess weight, you may want to do more than this, and reduce your calorie intake.

“Intense (or vigorous) exercise, like running and swimming, makes you breathe hard and fast – it’s usually difficult to speak to someone without pausing during intense activities.

“Intense exercise isn’t suitable for everyone, so if you have a medical condition, your doctor will be able to suggest types of activities and the intensity that’s safe for you.”

Some moderate-intensity exercises that can still help you be physically active are:

  • dancing
  • riding a bike
  • washing a car
  • water aerobics
  • walking up and downstairs
  • pushing a lawnmower or hoovering
  • brisk walking with your dog or friends.

No snacks, no treats and restricted portions

Some diets are hard to stick to because they’re too restrictive, making the whole thing pointless.

The BHF adds: “The limited foods some diets allow can leave you lacking essential nutrients and feeling tired, which is not safe.

“This can make your body crave foods high in fat and sugar to give you a boost.

“Crash diets, or fad diets, are a type of restrictive diet – they require the person following the diet to eat a lot fewer calories than the recommended daily calorie intake for adults and they usually restrict whole food groups.

“You might be surprised to know that having an occasional treat can make it easier to stick to a healthy balanced diet.

“And eating a healthy snack in between meals can reduce the temptation to eat foods high in fat and sugar.”

Some healthy snacks are:

  • fresh fruit
  • rice cakes
  • unsalted nuts
  • vegetables with a hummus dip

Slimming pills and teas are safe and effective for weight loss

Many unprescribed weight loss products available to buy can contain ingredients that can be harmful to your health, so avoid them at all costs!

The BHF stresses: “The most effective way to lose excess weight is to reduce the number of calories you eat and drink and be more physically active.

“You can do this in a way that you find easiest to stick to, like arranging physical activities before or after work.

“There are prescribed medicines for weight loss available from GP services, but they are not suitable for everyone.

“If you are worried about your weight, you can talk to your doctor at your local GP.”

Skipping meals will keep the weight off

Stop skipping meals! Skipping meals can make you lack essential nutrients and feel tired.

The BHF expanded: “If you miss meals like breakfast, you might feel tempted to eat foods high in fat and sugar when you feel hungry.

“This can mean you eat more calories than you need throughout the day.

“Eating healthy balanced meals at regular times during the day can help you lose weight more successfully than if you skip meals.”

‘Low fat’ foods are a healthy option

A lower fat option might not be better for you, so read the food packaging to make sure.

The BHF explained: “Sometimes, the fat will be replaced with more sugar or salt to make it taste like the original product.

“This might not make the lower fat option healthier.

“Even if your food’s packaging says it’s lower fat, you might want to check its nutrition label.

“You can check the amount of ‘total fat’ and the amount of ‘saturated fat’ (unhealthy fat) per serving on the label.”

Drinking water helps you lose weight

Water is really important but it doesn’t make you lose weight.

The BHF site explains: “Drinking water and staying hydrated is part of a balanced diet and can support your weight loss.

“Sometimes, if you feel hungry you might actually be thirsty. If you’re tempted to snack, try drinking a glass of water first.

“Water doesn’t have any calories or sugar so it’s a healthier option than sugary or caffeinated drinks.”

You can make water more exciting by adding:

  • sweet, fresh berries
  • a slice of fruit like lemon, lime, orange or apple
  • fragrant herbs like fresh mint leaves, rosemary or a slice of ginger
  • a herbal tea bag like green, peppermint, camomile or jasmine in hot water

Certain foods help you burn fat

There is very little evidence to prove that some foods and drinks can help you burn more fat.

The BHF said: “You may have heard this about chilli, green tea, citrus fruits, black coffee and energy drinks.

“Although certain foods and drinks might not burn more fat, eating a healthy balanced diet and physical activity can.”

Eating after 8pm will make you gain weight

Gaining weight isn’t caused by the time you eat, so eating after 8pm will make no difference when it comes to how much you weigh.

The BHF stressed: “If you don’t eat more than your recommended daily intake of calories, eating late won’t make you gain weight.

“Most people are more likely to be physically active during the day.

“Eating earlier might mean you use more of the calories you’re eating to fuel your physical activity, rather than when you’re sitting or sleeping late at night.

“Eating dinner earlier can also help your body digest your food properly.

“This can prevent you from having indigestion before bedtime. It might also help you sleep better.”

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