Weight Loss Myths and Misconceptions

On the subject of weight loss, misconceptions abound. Women, for example, think that we men don’t care about our weight.

Any one of us can confirm that this is not true. It’s just that we don’t obsess about our weight and don’t go on diets as often as women.

Men are rightfully skeptical about food fads. We go to bookstores for Tom Clancy techno-thrillers, not 30-day recipe books.

We believe weight loss is something that must be undertaken only when truly necessary, like a military operation. We’ll cut our flab a little slack, but when things really get out of line, we’re ready to take action.

Starches Don’t Make You Fat!

There’s been a lot of new thinking based on solid research about proper food choices and exercise, the two key elements of any weight-loss plan. Think of it as new intelligence in the weight loss war.

One big myth is that starches make you fat. Not so. In fact, “stick-to-the-rib” fare like potatoes, breads and pasta are the fastest-burning foods you can eat.

All are carbohydrates, which provide the body’s main source of ready-to-use fuel. Experts recommend that the greatest share of our diet–60 percent–be composed of this high-octane nutrient.

“Only a tiny percentage of carbohydrates are ever converted to fat in the body,” says Adam Drewnowski, Ph.D., director of the human nutrition program at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.

Still, misconceptions linger on this score because of studies suggesting that overweight people crave starchy food, which implies that carbohydrates foster obesity.

Drewnowski has found otherwise in studies showing that what people really crave is fat, which turns to flab far more easily than either carbohydrates or protein.

It’s easy to confuse high carbohydrate foods with high-fat ones because the two ingredients often appear together, especially in baked goods.

“Muffins are bready, brown and often have raisins in them, so they look very healthy, but they can contain as much fat as you’d want in an entire meal,” says Susan Kayman, Dr.P.H., R.D., a nutrition consultant with the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group in northern California.

When in doubt about whether you’re eating mainly fat or carbohydrate, the litmus test is to put the food on a paper napkin, she says. “Anything that leaves a grease stain is fatty.”

High-Fat Foods That Masquerade as Low-Fat Ones

* Crackers. They look wholesome, but some are as fatty as potato chips. Putting cheese spread on them makes them even worse. Lower-fat alternatives include rye crisp or melba toast.
* Croissants. Don’t let a filling of, say, broccoli fool you. Croissants were invented by the French, after all, and every one of those thin layers of pastry is made with a fresh coating of butter.
* Baked potatoes. On their own, potatoes are excellent sources of carbohydrates, but heaps of butter or sour cream tell another story. Choose instead toppings like yogurt, salsa or low-fat cottage cheese.
* Microwave popcorn (or any kind of popcorn you don’t air-pop yourself). Most use a heavy dose of oil as part of their preparation.