You’ve been pigging out for a month straight and now you’re frantically preparing to reverse the damage and start fresh in the New Year. Well in the words of Snoop Dogg: just chill. It’s probably not as bad as you think!
Believe it or not, people tend to overestimate the weight gain damage done during the holidays. Studies show that most Americans gain only one pound between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, but they estimate that they gain five pounds or more! People who are already overweight stand to gain more at the holidays than those who are of a healthy weight, but in general, you probably haven’t gained as much weight as you think.
So before you overcompensate with rash diet tricks, it pays to get some perspective. Besides, that’ll buy you time to sort through all the bad diet advice out there. Here are some of the worst pieces of diet advice out there. Beware!
Bad Diet Advice #1: Reverse Holiday Chowing With a Detox
Considering a New Year’s cleanse? Fasting might seem to offer a fresh start for January, but cleaning out your system can backfire. For one, your brain and muscles need glucose to function. Depleting your body of the carbs, proteins and fats that deliver glucose can make you irritable, lightheaded, confused, and weak. In other words, you won’t be going to the gym that week, and you might be difficult to be around at work and at home! Strike one.
Plus, detoxing slows down your metabolism. Once you stop a drastic detox diet, you’ll gain the weight you’ve lost right back… perhaps with an extra pound or two to boot! Strike two.
While nutritionists generally say the body can bounce back from 1-2 days of a cleansing diet, fasting for 7 or 10 days typically sets you back rather than giving you a jumpstart in the right direction.
Bad Diet Advice #2: Use Smaller Eating Utensils
This wisdom is coming under increasing fire from weight loss experts. The idea is to trick yourself portion-wise: shrink your portions, then shrink the plates and forks, and you won’t feel like you’re eating less. Your plate looks full. Your fork makes an equal number of trips to your mouth. You’re good, right?
But that’s just a band-aid.
It’s true that Americans tend to eat bigger portions than some other cultures. Just go to a McDonald’s in France and you’ll see. And we tend to fill our plates completely rather than dishing up meals according to actual serving sizes recommended for different types of food. You may have noticed that our government’s MyPlate visual guideline—a plate divided up into four sections—isn’t particularly helpful in this respect.
Serving smaller portions can backfire by causing a different kind of portion distortion, though: you see smaller amounts, and so you think it’s okay to go back for seconds. Ever eaten four “fun-size” candy bars in one sitting? Yeah. So have I.
Unless you’re just using this as an excuse to head to Crate & Barrel for new dinnerware, it makes more sense to become familiar with your ideal portion sizes than it does to shrink your utensils. Whatever plate size you use, stick with it consistently to help you eyeball your ideal portions as you’re serving your meal. When your plate’s empty, leave the table and put the food away so that eating seconds isn’t an easy option.
Bad Diet Advice #3: Don’t Eat a Big Breakfast
I keep hearing that eating a full breakfast will fill you up and slow you down, and that it shouldn’t be your heartiest meal of the day. Usually I follow this advice. I eat a small cup of oatmeal in the morning, then a bigger lunch, and then an even bigger dinner. I’m a typical American, I know.
But yesterday, I had a craving for a hearty breakfast. I went to the store and bought eggs, a couple slices of bacon, low-fat cheese, whole wheat toast, and some orange juice. And it was amazing! I had extra energy all day long, I didn’t feel compelled to snack at all (a big problem for me), and I was content with a smaller lunch and dinner. I even drank less coffee that morning!
It seems like eating a healthy, filling breakfast can go a long way. It can even help you lose weight! For morning exercisers, you’ll want to eat your big breakfast shortly after exercise, and have a small snack before your workout.
Stumped for breakfast ideas? Check out these 31 healthy and delicious recipes to jumpstart your mornings.
Bad Diet Advice #4: Eat Dessert First
Yes, I’ve really heard this (from a reputable source, no less!). The logic is that if you know you’re going to want a big plush dessert, it’s better to eat it before your meal, even if it spoils your appetite, than to eat a full dinner and then stuff the dessert in too.
Granted, this advice is for holidays, not everyday eating. But it points to quantity over quality when it comes to calories, which I think is wrong. And I’m not the only one: this mentality is currently one of the biggest reasons people are condemning calorie counting and diets in general.
Surely it’s better to eat the full meal and fill up on the most important nutrients, even if dessert tips you over your ideal calorie intake. That is, if you even still want dessert after your full meal!
Let’s wrap it up!
Bad diet advice is everywhere: online, on TV, even told right to your face by well-meaning friends and family. If you’re looking for a way to cut through the chaos of a million conflicting opinions about nutrition and dieting, check out Diet Chaos by David Meine. This book helps you through diets that have failed you and how to cut a clear path to one that works.
Have you encountered any bad diet advice lately? Tell us in the comments!