Dieting myths debunked
There are seemingly a thousand dieting myths out there to lose weight, and it can easily be confusing for beginners looking to embark on the journey towards your personal ideal size. Plus, it doesn’t help when that one friend claims their dieting methods are the “best way” – whether it’s cutting out sugar completely or eating spicier food and cabbage to help burn fat.
Even if they have a six-pack or a svelte waist, don’t be fooled – their dietary habits may not necessarily be the healthiest, or work for you. Before diving straight into a new regime, here are 10 dieting myths debunked, as explained by Mr Won Tin Chiang, Principal Dietitian from National Healthcare Group Polyclinics.
1. “You should cut out carbs completely, and eat more proteins”
“Auntie, chicken rice no rice”. If this sounds like somebody you know, they might probably be on the increasingly popular Keto or Atkins diet – where carbs are drastically reduced or completely nowhere to be found.
The logic is that carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars like glucose during digestion. This then causes a spike in your blood sugar level and triggers the release of insulin to use glucose as energy. Extra carbs are converted and stored as fats – which is why people tend to avoid staples like rice, noodles and bread while trying to lose weight.
Contrary to popular belief, not many scientific studies show that a diet high in healthy carbohydrates causes weight gain. In fact, healthy carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits and vegetables are packed with phytochemicals, fibre and vitamins – loads of essential goodness.
2. “Go on a full fruit and vegetable diet to detox your body”
It’s easy to buy into the idea of detoxing your body with tons of au natural fruits and vegetables for its perceived freshness and ‘cleanliness’ in comparison to other foods. But there’s really no need to do that. According to Mr Won, “our liver and kidneys are already well-equipped to eliminate toxins”.
While going vegan is considered healthy, essential nutrients like protein and B vitamins are still needed from other sources, such as nuts and tofu. An unbalanced diet with fruits and veggies can only go wrong real quick.
The solution is simple: have a balanced diet. Putting yourself through the fruits and vegetables-only regime will not only cause you to be light-headed and have fatigue due to malnourishment, but also leave you constantly feeling peckish – which may in turn cause you to binge eat eventually.
3. “Cut down on one meal so that you’ll eat less and lose weight”
Our parents might nag at us for skipping breakfast, since it’s “the most important meal of the day” and all. Truth is, all main meals are equally important.
“Cutting down on one meal or skipping meals may reduce the total daily calorie intake leading to weight loss, however it can lead to an overcompensation at the next meal due to hunger”, Mr Won shares.
Losing weight by skipping meals is not a healthy and long term solution to maintaining a healthy body and weight. Which is why the next time you’re thinking of passing on a full meal because of deadlines or a hectic schedule, try as much as you can to get a bite on the way.
4. “Use meal replacement shakes since they’re nutritious enough”
Sure, meal replacement shakes can supplement nutrients if we’re not getting enough from fruits and veggies, but they shouldn’t be all you consume. Replacing all your meals with meal replacement shakes as a long-term solution may have some detrimental effects – especially, to your wallets. Not only are they pricey, a liquid diet can get monotonous after awhile.
5. “Just drink water and stop eating, it’ll help with losing weight”
Drinking loads of water is definitely beneficial for your health. It helps to maintain your body’s temperature and help remove waste. But a strict water diet will only cause a depletion of vitamins and minerals. “This can affect one’s health adversely, and may cause bone loss or gastrointestinal disturbances”, shares Mr Won.
There’s more to possibly being hangry. Those with existing chronic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure are put at a higher risk of experiencing mood disorders and having their daily body functions affected if they starve their body for long periods of time.
6. “Eat more chilli, grapefruit and cabbage to burn more fats”
“Negative calorie foods that can burn fat to achieve weight loss do not exist”, Mr Won says. The fact is, our body uses only a mere 10 percent of our total calorie intake for the whole process of digestion and absorption of foods. Not even chillies, grapefruits and cabbages – food that supposedly aid the weight loss process, according to the Internet – can burn fat.
To achieve a leaner body, exercising and a healthy diet is still a recommended way to go.
7. “Reduce or cut out sugar from your diet”
Image credit: Eatbook
If you’re the type that orders your BBT with 100% sugar, you might need some positive influence from that “0%” buddy.
If you can’t have anything completely unsweetened, switching sugar with artificial sweeteners is a helpful way to help you reduce sugar and caloric intake. Artificial sweeteners are also safe for consumption, so you can be rest assured that you’ll be reducing the chances of developing illnesses like diabetes. That’s not to say that moderate calorie intake and exercise should be neglected of course.
8. “Slimming pills are a quicker way to lose weight, instead of working out”
While they do help with weight loss, relying solely on slimming pills can do more harm than good. Weight-loss medication is only prescribed by doctors to people who are suitable, such as those troubled by unwanted weight gain due to certain health problems.
Bear in mind that the only two prescribed medications approved by the Health Promotion Board and Ministry Of Health to aid in weight management in Singapore are phentemine (inhibits appetite) and orlistat (influences metabolism and absorption in gastrointestinal system). But these medications do come with side effects such as abdominal pain and fluctuating appetites.
Do not trust slimming pills from unknown sources, as they may not be manufactured with adequate research and stringent quality control. They may end up causing you serious complications such as organ failure if consumed improperly.
9. “Stop eating fatty foods, they’ll make you fat!”
Nuts are a source of healthy fats
Sometimes we can’t help but resent that layer of fat around our waists when we slouch. But the fact is: fat is still required as part of a healthy diet.
In fact, healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can actually lower the risk of heart diseases. Some examples of these foods are nuts, fish and avocados. The rule is simple – moderation is key.
“Choose foods with unsaturated fats and limit foods high in saturated fat and trans fat which are commonly linked to heart diseases”, recommends Mr Won. Whether it’s carbohydrates, proteins or fats, any excessive amounts can cause you to gain weight as the unused and extra nutrients are stored as fats in your body.
Some examples of foods high in saturated and trans fat are butter, red meat and processed foods like canned meat.
10. “Dietitians will restrict what you eat”
Even if you’re living with a chronic condition such as diabetes, kidney disease or obesity, a dietitian can still do wonders to prescribe the necessary medical nutrition therapy for you, and motivate a positive change in your lifestyle, mindset and diet.
Contrary to popular belief, dietitians do not simply hand out a list of food restrictions to adhere to. If you’re clueless on where to start with regards to what you put on your plate every meal, a dietitian will lead you in the right direction. From current physical and medical conditions to blood tests, eating habits and food preferences, dietitians are able to provide a comprehensive assessment of the clinical and psychosocial conditions of patients to determine their nutritional requirements and prescribe the right nutrition plans for them.
Besides direct patient care, dietitians also support patient care through provision of consultation to food service systems to ensure patients receive appropriate nutrition to manage various conditions during hospitalisation. Dietitians also actively conduct inter-professional nutrition education and training to other healthcare professionals to improve collaborative care.
Nurses, doctors and allied health professionals like dietitians work hand-in-hand daily to take care of patients’ needs, whatever they may be.
Healthcare opportunities in Singapore
Eating seems like a straightforward daily task, but whether we’re truly doing what’s best for our health is a different story.
Instead of simply believing your friends’ research on the Internet, dietitians are a trusted guide to healthy eating by using their scientific knowledge of food and human nutrition to help you maintain and achieve good nutritional health by adopting evidence-based healthy eating habits.
Dietitians also give advice to patients with other medical conditions, such as malnutrition, dementia, stroke, surgery and cancer. They support patients’ nutrition before, during and after surgery and cancer treatments, by guiding them with nutrition strategies and providing more food options to enhance their recovery and quality of life.
Those with chewing and swallowing impairments are also carefully assessed and given advice from dietitians on the preparation and planning of modified texture meals to optimise their nutrition intake. While some who are unable to continue with oral feeding, they usually receive tube feeding prescriptions from the dietitian as the main nutrition care plan.
Mr Won works with patients on their dietary habits with improved health in mind
If you’re interested to explore what dietitians like Mr Won do or want to learn more about allied health professions, the Care To Go Beyond campaign has both student and mid-career opportunities for aspiring allied health professionals.
Whether you’re taking your first steps or considering a career switch to be an allied health professional, you’ll be able to help patients in their journey towards recovery and a better lifestyle.
This post was brought to you by Care To Go Beyond.
Photography by Rae Phang.