Debunking Weight Loss Myths


Q1. Should I avoid noodles and rice to lose weight?
Most people try to lose weight by cutting carbs. They think eating rice and noodles make them fat. However, moderate carb intake can provide nutrients and energy. The key to effective weight management is to control the portion. Normally, women should have half a bowl of rice or noodles per meal, whereas men should eat at least one full bowl. All in all, you don’t need to skip carbs to lose weight so long as it is consumed in moderate amount.
Q2. Is intermittent fasting effective?
Intermittent fasting has been popular in recent years. To achieve weight loss, one is supposed to eat only within an 8-hour period and fast for the remaining 16 hours each day. Some people choose to eat two meals a day, i.e. breakfast and lunch between 8am and 4pm, or lunch and dinner. Some studies suggest that intermittent fasting can achieve weight loss and control blood sugar by affecting the hormone level. But the studies are small in scale.
Clinically speaking, I will first assess the lifestyles and dietary habits of patients during consultation. Meal plans are devised for patients if they can incorporate intermittent fasting into their daily lives. But the most effective way is to control oil and sugar intake with a balanced diet. Dietary restrictions differ from person to person. Some can get all the nutrients and energy they need with 3 meals a day and still manage to lose weight. Intermittent eating may work for some but not others. It is not suitable for everyone. It does not help if high-energy food is consumed in high portions during the 8-hour period.
Q3. The ketogenic diet: can you lose weight while feeling full?
The ketogenic diet (keto diet) is another new fad with long history. It was first developed in 1920s as treatment for epilepsy in children. As a high-fat diet with moderate protein and very low carbs, keto diet is believed to be able to promote weight loss while making one feel full with the oil intake. What may happen if carbs are too low in meals? It makes the liver burn fat for energy, and the ketone bodies are what the brain needs for energy. While it was used to treat epilepsy and reduce seizures in the past, keto diet is not recommended by dietitians for weight management.  Due to its high-fat content, keto diet can increase cholesterol level, causing constipation, malnutrition and even headache.
The keto diet is more like the once popular “Dr. Atkins Diet” which is more extreme and with more side effects. It may fail to provide sufficient nutrition, and is thus not recommended for weight management. Here you try to lose weight for better health. And you can avoid all possible adverse effects if you do it with proper guidance.
Q4. What fruits should I avoid or eat to lose weight? When to eat fruits?
Patients often ask what fruits they should avoid if they want to lose weight. The answer is to eat less high-fat fruits such as durian, coconut and avocado. Many people like to eat avocados for their health benefits. But the truth is avocados are considered as high-fat food rather than fruit. A 1/8 of avocado contains a teaspoon of oil. Rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals, fruits are recommended during the weight loss period. If you are worried about the high fructose content, try to consume 2 to 3 portions each day during the weight loss period.  You should also eat fruits of different colours, especially those that are rich in vitamin C.
Another common question is when to eat fruits. After surfing the internet, some patients ask if they should eat fruits with an empty stomach, before meal or in the morning. As dietitians, we suggest that you can have fruits any time during the weight loss period. The timing only matters under three circumstances. If you want to lose weight, try to eat fruits before meal. It helps control portion by making you feel full. If you have diabetes, try to eat fruits between meals. Do not eat fruits immediately after meal, or the blood sugar may increase. Better have fruits as snacks or 2 hours after dinner as late night meals.  If you have anaemia, try to eat fruits after meal for they enhance iron absorption with vitamin C. Except for the above circumstances, you are free to eat fruits any time during the day.
Q5. I have stopped losing weight after making some progress. Have I reached the weight loss plateau? How can I break it?
Many people worry that they may stop losing weight when stuck at a weight loss plateau. People have different weight loss targets. Some may want to lose 10 to 20 pounds, or even a hundred pounds. You should not worry about the plateau if you just want to lose a mere 10 to 20 pounds. If you want to lose more than that, try to keep a high metabolic rate during the weight loss period. The rate may slow down after different attempts to lose weight. And you are more likely to reach the weight-loss plateau and no progress afterwards. With our meal plans, we try to help our patients by reducing calorie intake and portion gradually. Instead of a 1,000 to 1,200 calorie diet, which can be too low in energy, patients can still lose weight by cutting no more than 500 calories per day.  Rather than eat too few calories, patients are advised to follow their meal plans and eat adequate portions. It helps avoid the weight-loss plateau. Our experience tells us that most patients were motivated at first. They were able to strictly follow their meal plans and do well in the early period. So why did weight loss slow down afterwards? It happened because they started eating snacks or bigger portions. To avoid a weight-loss plateau, all you need is to reduce calorie intake gradually. And you need to stick to the meal plans and work with your dietitian all the way.

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