6 So-Called Diet Rules to Break If You Want to Lose Weight

Carbohydrates

Sara Remington / Stocksy United / Getty Images

If you've ever tried to lose weight, you've probably encountered mixed messages about the best way to achieve your goals. Weight loss myths and diet rules perpetuated by diet culture have been around for years. Along with misguided rules that come and go, there is no shortage of confusing advice to over-complicate the science of weight loss and healthy eating. Rather than being led astray by some unfounded dogma, stick with the facts for sustainable weight management long term and feel free to break the "rules."

Diet Rule #1: Eat More Often to Avoid Starvation Mode

Reality: There is nothing wrong with eating small, frequent meals to quell the urge to overeat during mealtimes. While you never want to feel like you're starving yourself, eating more often isn't necessarily the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off. Instead, be mindful of your internal hunger cues to guide your eating pattern and reduce mindless snacking or emotional eating.

Diet Rule #2: Avoid All Carbs

Reality: Carbohydrates alone don't cause weight gain. Eating too many calories of anything (especially less nutritious or "empty" calories, like sugar) can lead to weight gain. When you don't balance out a higher calorie intake with enough physical activity, your weight can creep up over time. Choosing a balanced diet with enough protein, healthy fats, and high-fiber carbohydrates will help you feel full for longer and calm your appetite.

Diet Rule #3: Stick to Low-Fat Foods

Reality: Many foods that are naturally low in fat, like most fruits and vegetables, are healthy choices. But processed foods that have been altered to remove the fat (like fat-free salad dressings) often contain added sugar to compensate for the loss in flavor. It's also important to note that not all fats are created equal. Although high in dietary fat, avocados, nuts, olives, and egg yolks are actually very nutritious. Natural fats satisfy your hunger, which can support weight loss overall.

Diet Rule #4: High-Intensity Workouts Are the Way to Go

Reality: High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has become a big trend in the fitness industry...for good reason! A high-intensity session can burn mega calories in a short period of time and can be great for weight loss. However, depending on your fitness starting point, HIIT isn't always the best way to go. In some cases, doing a hard workout may cause more harm than good. Rather than challenging yourself to an injury, build on your progress gradually and allow enough time for recovery between workouts so you can stay consistent.

Diet Rule #5: Eat Only Organic, Non-GMO, Gluten-Free Foods

Reality: While there are some notable benefits in choosing organic, gluten-free, or non-GMO foods, many food products with these labels still contain added sugar, sodium or preservatives. Organic, non-GMO, and gluten-free food labels may be used as a marketing ploy in some cases, rather than a reliable healthy-eating guideline. Instead of accepting label claims at face value, be discerning. Reach for nutrient-dense, whole foods, rather than highly-processed "health foods."

Diet Rule #6: Use Cheat Days to Help Stick to Your Diet

Reality: Cheat days may seem like a welcome respite from an overly restrictive weight loss program, however, rather than viewing food as "good" or "bad," focusing your weight loss around making sustainable, nutritious choices will only benefit you in the long run. Can treats sometimes fit into a healthy diet? Absolutely! But, purposefully overdoing it to give yourself a "break" from a restrictive weight loss plan may sabotage your ability to develop a healthy attitude regarding food. A more moderate approach to eating and exercise will keep you off the destructive roller-coaster ride of yo-yo dieting.

A Word From Verywell

As with anything, there are exceptions to every rule. While some of these diet rules were originally based on scientific evidence and expert opinion, others stemmed from diet culture and clever marketing, and new research constantly offers fresh insight on the best recommendations for weight loss. Before following a specific "diet rule," be sure to do your homework. Think twice about whether or not it makes sense for you.

Try looking at your eating and exercise habits holistically, rather than cutting out major food groups or resorting to extreme measures. Simple changes like getting a better handle on emotional eating or learning to cook vegetables that you enjoy may be all that's required to help you find peace at a healthier weight.

Was this page helpful?