Myths about food and weight dispelled
Q: Is it true that eating later in the evening can cause weight gain?
A: There are many myths out there related to food intake and physical activity that make it difficult to know what to believe. In 2009, the Weight-Control Information Network developed a publication to address many of these weight-loss and nutrition myths. Your question was one of them. Here are several of the common myths that I hear on a routine basis. For the complete publication, go to our website at www.douglas.ksu.edu.
MYTH: Eating after 8 p.m. causes weight gain.
Fact: It does not matter what time of day you eat. It is what and how much you eat and how much physical activity you do during the whole day that determines whether you gain, lose or maintain your weight. No matter when you eat, your body will store extra calories as fat.
Tip: If you want to have a snack before bedtime, think first about how many calories you have eaten that day. And try to avoid snacking in front of the TV at night — it may be easier to overeat when you are distracted by the television.
MYTH: High-protein/low-carbohydrate diets are a healthy way to lose weight.
Fact: The long-term health effects of a high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet are unknown. But getting most of your daily calories from high-protein foods like meat, eggs and cheese is not a balanced eating plan. You may be eating too much fat and cholesterol, which may raise heart disease risk. You may be eating too few fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which may lead to constipation because of lack of dietary fiber. Following a high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet may also make you feel nauseous, tired and weak.
Eating fewer than 130 grams of carbohydrate a day can lead to the buildup of ketones in your blood. Ketones are partially broken-down fats. A buildup of these in your blood (called ketosis) can cause your body to produce high levels of uric acid, which is a risk factor for gout (a painful swelling of the joints) and kidney stones. Ketosis may be especially risky for pregnant women and people with diabetes or kidney disease. Be sure to discuss any changes in your diet with a health care professional, especially if you have health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease or type 2 diabetes.
MYTH: Skipping meals is a good way to lose weight.
Fact: Studies show that people who skip breakfast and eat fewer times during the day tend to be heavier than people who eat a healthy breakfast and eat four or five times a day. This may be because people who skip meals tend to feel hungrier later on and eat more than they normally would. It may also be that eating many small meals throughout the day helps people control their appetites.
MYTH: Lifting weights is not good to do if you want to lose weight, because it will make you “bulk up.”
Fact: Lifting weights or doing strengthening activities like push-ups and crunches on a regular basis can actually help you maintain or lose weight. These activities can help you build muscle, and muscle burns more calories than body fat. So if you have more muscle, you burn more calories — even sitting still. Doing strengthening activities two or three days a week will not “bulk you up.” Only intense strength training, combined with a certain genetic background, can build very large muscles.
Tip: In addition to doing moderate-intensity physical activity (like walking 2 miles in 30 minutes) on most days of the week, try to do strengthening activities 2 to 3 days a week. You can lift weights, use large rubber bands (resistance bands), do push-ups or sit-ups, or do household or garden tasks that make you lift or dig. Strength training helps keep your bones strong while building muscle, which can help burn calories.
MYTH: “Going vegetarian” means you are sure to lose weight and be healthier.
Fact: Research shows that people who follow a vegetarian eating plan, on average, eat fewer calories and less fat than nonvegetarians. They also tend to have lower body weights relative to their heights than nonvegetarians. Choosing a vegetarian eating plan with a low fat content may be helpful for weight loss. But vegetarians — like nonvegetarians — can make food choices that contribute to weight gain, like eating large amounts of high-fat, high-calorie foods or foods with little or no nutritional value. Vegetarian diets should be as carefully planned as nonvegetarian diets to make sure they are balanced. Food and beverage sources of nutrients that may be lacking in a vegetarian diet are:
- Iron: cashews, spinach, lentils, garbanzo beans, fortified bread or cereal
- Calcium: dairy products, fortified soy-based beverages, tofu made with calcium sulfate, collard greens, kale, broccoli
- Vitamin D: fortified foods and beverages including milk, soy-based beverages, or cereal
- Vitamin B12: eggs, dairy products, fortified cereal or soy-based beverages, tempeh, miso (tempeh and miso are foods made from soybeans)
- Zinc: whole grains (especially the germ and bran of the grain), nuts, tofu, leafy vegetables (spinach, cabbage, lettuce)
- Protein: eggs, dairy products, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, soy-based burgers.
If you do not know whether to believe a weight-loss or nutrition claim, check it out! The Federal Trade Commission has information on deceptive weight-loss advertising claims. You can find this online at www.ftc.com or call (877) 382-4357.
— Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.