If you're so committed to losing weight that you refuse to eat a baked potato for fear of eating empty carbs, you might be missing out on important nutrients and backing your diet into a corner. Open your mind to the truth behind these diet and weight myths and learn how to enjoy some of your favorite foods again.
Myth 1: Potatoes and bread are fattening.
Actually: It's just the opposite. Starchy vegetables and bread (whole-grain bread, that is) are quality carbs needed to fuel every part of you, from your brain to your muscles. What gets you into trouble is how you eat them: Smear butter on a slice of whole-wheat bread or deep-fry potatoes and you can double, triple, or quadruple the calories.
Myth 2: Drinking a glass of water before a meal curbs appetite.
Actually: Yes and no. Water tames appetite if it's incorporated into food, such as soup, or a thick drink, like V8 100% Vegetable Juice. Apparently, when water is bound to food, digestion is slower, explains Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of 10 Habits That Mess Up a Woman's Diet.
That's why women in one study found chicken-rice soup more satisfying than chicken-rice casserole and a glass of water -- even though the soup had 27% fewer calories! One exception to this rule: It's easy to confuse hunger and thirst, so if you find yourself craving something -- but what? -- drink a big glass of water and wait a few minutes. You may find that's what your body really wanted.
Myth 3: Shellfish is high in cholesterol.
Actually: On the one hand, it's true: Just 3 ounces of shrimp delivers more than a third of your daily cholesterol. But there's a surprising flip side to this story: Shrimp is low in saturated fat -- the kind that becomes artery-clogging bad cholesterol -- and has a smidgen of heart-healthy omega-3s. In fact, University of Southern California researchers discovered that eating shellfish, such as shrimp, every week reduced heart attack risk by 59 percent!
Myth 4: The occasional burger and fries won't kill you.
Actually: It depends on your definition of "occasional." If occasional means every Friday night and then some, well, you may be pushing it. But if it means every few months, and you're fit, and you've got good numbers (i.e., weight, waist size, cholesterol, blood pressure), AND you're chowing down on vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and other nutritious fare most other days, hey, you'll live. But few of us are that perfect. If you do occasionally indulge, offset the effects of a fat fiesta with a brisk 90-minute walk afterward.
Myth 5: Women naturally gain weight after menopause.
Actually: While you can blame a lot of things on hormones (everything from acne to PMS), in this case, slowing down physically is far more likely the cause. Study after study has found that older women who exercise regularly and vigorously can maintain their figures.
Myth 6: Diet soda is worse than the real thing.
Actually: We all would be better off switching to water, diluted fruit juice, and green tea rather than drinking soda -- diet or regular. Both types increase kidney and heart disease risk, plus they contain acids that erode tooth enamel, inviting cavities.
Final Fact (this one's no myth): Maintaining your weight, waist, and body mass index at a desirable level can make your RealAge as much as 6 years younger.