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5 Diet and Fitness Myths That Pack on Pounds

We are excited to share one of our fave stories from Prevention here on FitSugar!

Don't let one of these rumors prevent you from reaching your weight loss goals.
By Diana Kelly, Prevention

Sorry, Journey, but it's finally time to stop believing . . . In weight loss myths at least. Believing popular misconceptions can keep you from taking the right course of action to reach your goals, says Julia Valentour, MS, program coordinator and media spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. Blaming a plateau (or a gain) on any of these half-truths will keep you stuck in your rut and derail your motivation. Here, five of the most pervasive diet-related rumors and the real scoop on how to hit your goal weight for good.

1. "I exercise every day, so I can eat whatever I want."

The sad truth: Even if you work out religiously, going to yoga several times a week and sweating it out in Spinning, it's not a license to eat as much as you want and still expect to lose weight. This may seem obvious, but the desire to reward a workout well done is natural; after all, you endured those endless vinyasas — you deserve an extra slice of pizza (or three), right? Not if you're trying to lose weight.

"You can outeat your workout," says Valentour. Even though you burn calories and fat when you exercise, it's often not as much as you think — or what the readout on the treadmill tells you. Use Prevention's Daily Calorie Calculator tool to see how many calories you should eat each day.

Valentour recommends eating 250 fewer calories per day and aiming to burn an extra 250 calories a day; that creates enough of a calorie deficit to achieve an average weight loss of a pound a week.

6 Lamest excuses for not losing weight

2. "It's harder for women to lose weight than for men."

OK, this one has some basis. Biologically, men are built with more lean muscle mass (the compact, tight muscles that keep metabolism humming) than women are — meaning his metabolism is working at a 5 to 10 percent higher rate (even if he's the same height and weight as you) when you're lying on the couch together. Annoying, isn't it?

Another biological challenge women face is that we generally have more body fat than men do, and our bodies are more inclined to store it. On top of that, women lose about 1/2 pound of calorie-burning muscle mass a year during peri-menopause and sometimes a pound a year during menopause. With the deck stacked against you, why bother trying to fit back in your skinny jeans?

You can do something about these problems, but it's going to take some work — and sweat. Add strength training to your fitness routine at least twice a week to shed fat and build lean muscle mass that will fire up your resting metabolism.

Get more tips on how to lose weight like a guy

Prevention clears up three more myths after the break.

3. "All calories are equal, so it doesn't matter what I eat."

Ever since you learned what a calorie is, you've been told that they're all alike: Whether you eat 500 calories' worth of celery stalks or crème brûlée, your body will burn or store them equally, right? Wrong. New science shows that when it comes to weight loss, calories are nowhere near alike.

Some foods take more work to eat — and therefore burn more calories while you're digesting them. Just the act of chewing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean cuts of meat can increase your calorie burn by up to 30 percent! And then your stomach and intestines do their jobs. In a Japanese study, researchers found that women who ate the foods that required the most work had significantly slimmer waistlines than those who ate the softest, easiest-to-eat foods. The fiber and protein in such foods take so much effort to digest that your body doesn't absorb some of their calories.

The Active Calorie Diet is a smart new plan from Prevention magazine that takes advantage of all the new knowledge about calories. By choosing more Active Calories and fewer processed foods, you'll set your fat-burning engines on high all day long so you'll lose more weight — without feeling hungry.

Rev fat burn with this downloadable workout routine

4. "Eating at night will make me gain weight."

Cutting out nighttime snacking is a popular weight loss strategy because it feels logical — eat less when you're less active. But this topic has been debated for years, and even recently, a study in the April 2011 journal Obesity suggested that eating after 8 p.m. may increase the risk of obesity, but there aren't clear-cut reasons why.

It's mainly how much you eat — not when you eat — each day that affects weight gain. Many people eat at night out of boredom or other emotions instead of hunger, and they wind up consuming more calories than they need for the day--calories that are then stored as fat. Also, people who eat at night may wake up without an appetite and skip breakfast, the meal that helps control calorie intake throughout the day.

To ward off nighttime hunger, eat dinner an hour later, suggests Marjorie Nolan, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. You'll save calories by curbing the urge to nosh in front of the TV. "Having dinner a little bit later--but at least two hours before sleeping — helps prevent mindless snacking, which often happens in the evening," says Nolan.

5. "Becoming a vegetarian will help me drop a size."
Eliminating meat from your diet can result in great health benefits, but if you don't follow a vegetarian diet properly, you could accidentally pack on pounds.

Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of The Flexitarian Diet, explains common vegetarian beginners' mistakes that may cause weight gain. Vegetarian "types" to avoid becoming:

Cheese-aholic vegetarians: They cut out meat from their diets and turn to cheese as a protein source. But cheese is a high-calorie, high-fat food and should be eaten in moderation.

Faux-meat fixators: All they eat is boxes of frozen faux meats, such as soy chicken nuggets, vegetarian sausage links, and veggie bacon strips. These products are okay once in a while, but they are heavily processed and can have a lot of sodium, resulting in bloating and water retention.

No-veggie vegetarians: A lot of vegetarians don't eat enough fruits and vegetables. They eat only grains, beans and veggie burgers, all of which can be high in calories.

Same-meal-minus-the-meat vegetarians: These people eat the same meals they did before, but without the meat. If they're not replacing the protein, they'll probably have a ferocious appetite and may be missing out on essential nutrients.

"Vegetarian" food label fans: These people find any recipe or packaging that contains the word "vegetarian" or "meatless" and then overeat that food. They often wind up taking in too much junk food. Be aware that the word "vegetarian" is not synonymous with "healthy" or "low calorie."

Blatner recommends replacing meat with beans in recipes for an easy, healthy — and inexpensive--protein source. She advises new vegetarians--and those who want to dabble in a vegetarian diet — to start having fun with vegetarian recipes. "Find ones you like that you're going to keep eating. Enjoy the journey of it."

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