So you began on this fat-busting regime that involves a diet full of greens and fruits, cutting down on saturated fat, removing almost all discernable traces of sugar. You even started hitting the treadmill, hired and paid for a trainer to yell at you hoping that will somehow make you like exercising… However, the pounds don’t seem to be shedding and instead your weight is going up!
Fitness has, since time immemorial, been shrouded in a cloud of science, fads, puzzling personal anecdotes and falsehoods that, collectively, make this area of wellness feel like an enigmatic arcane knowledge only Indiana Jones can solve. Here, we debunk 5 simple myths to help you stay clear-minded and fighting fit.
“Salads Are Always Good For You”
Oh yes, salads made up of a variety of vegetables, nuts, grains and fruits are definitely good for you, if only our guilty pleasure instincts that nudge us ever closer to sinful top-ups and dressings would stay away from you. Like the forbidden fruit to Adam and Eve, that mayonnaise and Thousand Island sauce sometimes look too good to resist.
As salads are meant to be ‘creative’ dishes limited only by your creativity and desire, there are countless salad ingredients out there that can make a burger blush — just think fried croutons, candied bacon bits, cheeses, dressings, side of mushroom cream soup etc. Stay conscious and alert over what you eat, be decisive when it comes to options and suggestions at salad bars, and your micro-decisions will pay off over the long run.
“I Eat Healthy Snacks Only”
This is a little more contentious. We do not dispute the existence of healthy snacks, but perhaps your snacking habits could be undoing the benefits of your carefully-planned meals. Many health-conscious individuals make the good first step of swapping a bag potato chips for an organic muesli bar, or cookies for honey granola. However, many of these so-called ‘healthy’ snacks are still highly processed with relatively high sugar content which, when consumed without expending the energy, will become the new and insidious contributors to your weight woes.
A good substitute as a snack could be a handful of unsalted nuts and seeds — high in good polyunsaturated fats, essential minerals and fibre.
“Sugar Is Evil, Natural Sweeteners Are Good”
No prize for guessing how nature makes its sweet stuff like edible fruits, tree saps/syrups and honey. As Nature’s way in storing energy for future use, as well as to flavour fruits and pollen to persuade animals and insects to consume them, sugar is all around us in various forms. The shift from sugar to natural sweeteners in a bid to reduce calorie intake from ‘evil sugar’ is nothing but an illusion. Whether it is honey, maple or agave, these sweeteners are just flavoured sugar. In fact, it’s harder now than ever to know how much sugar you’re adding because beyond counting teaspoons, you now have to consider concentration gradients.
If you feel like having something sweet, have the fruit with its pulp/flesh instead — fruit fibre helps satiate you and moderate your consumption (remember, fruit has sugar too). You can also practice developing healthier habits gradually such as reducing half a teaspoon of sugar in your coffee/tea between every two cups of coffee; the difference will be barely noticeable after a while.
“It’s Fruit-Based. It Must Be Healthy”
Consider banana bread, pandan bread, raspberry sorbet and apple crumble. They are undoubtedly based on fruit, but no thanks to the added sugar, butter and flour, they hardly reflect what’s good of the original fruit.
Or think about deceptively benign marketing terms like, “Made with real fruit” or, “Now comes with pulp”. These are like the fishcakes and meatballs of processed fruit products where the featured ingredient provides only superficial gratification and no other benefit.
Fruit drinks, of which real juices (still high in sugar content and processed, nonetheless) make up about 25 percent with the rest being added cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup, makes them capable of tearing your diet regime apart single-handedly. The smoothie shop is no saint either; in the name of competition and differentiation, they often neglect what makes smoothies a healthier choice in the first place with all their customisation options.
“That Glass of Wine Is Harmless, Right?”
When it comes to moderation, it’s not just about volume but concentration too. Alcoholic drinks like wines, beers and cocktails are reminders that for their small volumes, they aren’t just expensive but the calorie count in a single glass is treacherous.
Many have been deceived that the harmless-looking, resveratrol-touting glass of wine should not be that bad. In truth, a 148ml glass of wine can contain 120-140 kcal, equivalent to 4 or 5 heaped teaspoons of sugar. Oh, and we don’t always stop at one glass either.
Combating weight gain and hidden calories is not an easy battle, especially when today they are packaged and presented beautifully, colourfully and sometimes deceptively. However, if you stay vigilant, be informed of your choices and pick foods with your brain instead of your tummy, your fight against fat and falsehoods can be made easier and more effective.