In my last post, I set out to debunk popular diet myths. Approximately 45 million Americans will go on a diet this year, most of whom will strictly limit calories and deprive themselves of foods they enjoy, only to regain the weight they lost, and more!

Americans are obsessed with dieting. We spend nearly $40 billion each year on fad diets, yet we’re fatter and sicker than any other country in the world.

In this post, I’ll demystify a few more diet trends so that you don’t waste any more time and money, or damage your metabolism any further. It’s time to ditch dieting forever!

The sumo wrestler myth: Skipping meals helps you lose weight

Many people mistakenly believe that skipping meals will help them shed pounds. In the last post we learned that starving yourself won’t help you lose weight –it actually has the opposite effect. As funny as it sounds, the dietary habits of many Americans can be compared to sumo wrestlers. Here’s how: Sumo wrestlers aren’t born obese. They have to work at it. Their typical day goes something like this: they wake up early, skip breakfast, exercise strenuously, eat a huge meal, spend several hours sleeping, wake up and eat dinner, then go back to bed for the night. This regime of fasting, exercising, eating and sleeping leads to staggering weight gain of anywhere from 400-700 pounds!

Many of us lead similar lifestyles and wonder why we’re fat. If you skip breakfast and/or lunch, by the time you sit down to dinner you’re starving and most likely overeat. If you eat a huge dinner and go right to bed the calories are not burned off. Instead, they are being stored as fat because your metabolism slows during sleep. To make matters worse, most of the calories Americans consume are from unhealthy foods like sugar and refined carbohydrates.

To optimize your metabolism I recommend spreading out your meals evenly throughout the day. Wait at least two to three hours after dinner before going to bed.

The French paradox myth: The French are thin because they drink wine and eat butter

It’s a well known fact that the French eat more saturated fat and drink more wine than Americans yet are slimmer and suffer less chronic disease. Taken out of context these facts don’t add up. But add the French lifestyle to the equation and things begin to make sense.

In contrast to most Americans, French people eat fresh, nutrient-dense food. They shop for it daily at local markets and prepare home cooked meals from scratch. The typical French diet consists of real food, not the fake, processed, nutrient-void food that has become common fare in American today. Whole foods were designed by nature to keep you at a healthy weight and keep your metabolism finely tuned.

The French also consume less food than Americans by eating smaller portions. They don’t deprive themselves; they satisfy their hunger with an adequate meal –not too much, not too little. Americans, on the other hand, have become accustomed to super-sizing everything. Not surprisingly, this practice has resulted in supersized waistlines!

Along with eating less, the French also eat their meals more slowly than Americans. They create pleasure around mealtimes by relaxing with family and friends. They spend time savoring their food. The joy you experience while eating is important to your metabolism. You need to be in a relaxed state for your digestive system to work properly. Eating slowly also helps you to eat less because your stomach has time to signal your brain that it’s full (this take 20 minutes!). Many Americans have lost the connection between eating and nourishment.

Finally, the French use their legs to get around more than their cars. French people walk everywhere – they walk to work, to get their groceries and take leisurely strolls after meals. This helps to balance blood sugar, maintain muscle mass and keep the metabolism humming.

The protector myth: government food policies and food industry regulations protect our health

Despite what advertisers tell you, the food industry is not looking out for your best interests when it comes to your health and well being. The food industry spends more than $33 billion dollars a year on marketing, most of which is to promote fast food, packaged food, candy, snacks, soda, alcohol and dessert. But that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to how much money they bring in each year in profits. The food industry’s annual sales account for 12 percent of the U.S. gross national product (GNP)!

Not surprisingly, U.S. government food policy is closely tied to the food industry. Looking at the USDA Food Pyramid it’s plain to see the influence of Big Food. It encourages the consumption of refined flour in breads, cereals and pasta, as well as saturated fat in dairy products. This is not a recipe for longterm health.

After the Food Pyramid was introduced the rate of obesity in American doubled. Everything about the profit-driven American diet works against our genes and promotes obesity and chronic disease. Poor diet is the second leading cause of death. It’s projected to overtake smoking as the number one cause in the near future.

The food industry and our government are not looking out for your health. Take it upon yourself to eat whole, natural, unprocessed foods, including lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, wild fish and organic, pastured animal products.

Sorting through the myriad diet myths can be confusing. To quote author Michael Pollan, “Eat real Food. Not too much. Mostly plants”. Until next time, make every bite count!