Don’t Waste Your Time With These Terrible Diet Tips
Photo: Viacheslav Nikolaenko (Shutterstock)
It’s the new year and everyone is on a diet – I mean, a wellness journey. Whether you want to lose weight or not is none of my business, but please please, let all the following stupid weight loss “hacks” die. Many border on eating disorders, while others are just ways to make yourself miserable for no reason.
(By the way, if you feel like your relationship with food is out of control, the National Eating Disorders Association has a checkup tool, helpline, and more resources here.)
Smaller plates don’t make us eat less
This is a classic: Serving yourself on a smaller plate is supposed to make a small amount of food seem larger. Therefore, you will eat less food overall, and eventually lose weight.
But our brains and bodies are too smart to be fooled by this. The idea that smaller plates promote smaller portions came from a lab that was later found to be engaging in sketchy research practices. Other labs conducted their own plate size experiments and found that people typically do not eat less when given smaller plates. What’s more, we get better at judging portion sizes when we’re hungry. After all, the small plate hack wasn’t fooling us.
Drinking a glass of water will not satisfy your hunger
There is a common healthy eating tip that says if you are hungry, you should drink a big glass of water because sometimes our body can’t tell the difference between hunger and thirst.
But there is no evidence that this is true, or that drinking a glass of water will help. One of the oft-cited papers on hunger, thirst, eating and drinking found that we actually feel a little hungrier after drinking – so even if it were true that our bodies mix signals, the proposed solution is unlikely to help. .
After all, there’s nothing wrong with drinking a glass of water if you think you might like one, whether you’re hungry or not. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that hunger pangs are your body telling you that you’re thirsty. Your body knows the difference between food and water, right? That’s why you haven’t starved or dehydrated to death yet.
It’s not necessarily a good idea to eat like a bodybuilder
There is a stereotype about bodybuilders who eat nothing but chicken breast, brown rice and broccoli out of small plastic containers. They eat with discipline and end up shredded, so this must be a healthy meal choice, right?
While it can be a good meal if you enjoy it, this combination isn’t the best or only way to prepare the meal—especially if you’re not a fan of the individual ingredients. However, chicken breast and rice are pretty unforgiving when it comes to meal prep. They tend to dry out, especially if you prepare them without marinades or sauces.
So ditch your idea of what healthy food looks like and make a plan that includes foods you really enjoy. Upgrade to chicken thighs, learn to use a good marinade, throw that dry rice in a waffle maker, or just make a completely different recipe. It’s okay for food to taste good.
Oh, and while we’re on the subject of bodybuilder habits: no, eating lots of small meals does not “boost” your metabolism.
It’s a diet, not a lifestyle change
The latter is not so much a hack as an oft-repeated saying: “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.” If you are trying to lose weight, please do not make this a lifelong process. Dieting is the act of deliberately undernourishing yourself. If you want or need to do it for a short time, then own that choice and do it in the healthiest way you can. But after you’ve lost some weight, go back to feeding your body whole.
After all, it wouldn’t be healthy or smart to lose weight forever. Since the way we lose weight is by eating fewer calories than we burn, the exact meals and habits that help us lose weight won’t be the ones that help us maintain our ideal weight once we get there. At the very least, you’ll need to increase your portions.
So if you think your current diet or habits need to change, be sure to separate what needs to change overall (for example: cook at home more often) and what needs to change temporarily (for example: smaller portions) . Healthy eating and undereating are not the same thing at all.