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10 diet rules meant to be broken

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

There are a lot of myths and half-truths surrounding successful dieting, such as not eating before bedtime and missing meals to lose weight.

How do you sort out the fact from fiction when it comes to diet rules to stick to and those that can be broken?

10 food rules to ignore

1. Eating at night will pile on the pounds.

It's the total calories you consume over a 24-hour period - and more often, over a week - that causes you to gain weight, and when you eat those calories doesn't matter. That said, because you may be more tired at night, your resolve may be lower, so you may tend to eat larger portions, or more high-calorie foods, than you would during the day. But as long as you keep an eye on calories and portion size, feel free to set your hunger alarm to the time that suits your lifestyle.

2. It's best to eat at the same times every day.

Eating when you're hungry rather than when the clock says it's time to eat is a better strategy than eating at the same time every day. While it can help to keep some consistency to mealtimes, forcing yourself to eat when you're not hungry - or forcing yourself to wait when you are - only makes it harder to stick to your diet. If you must eat at a certain time, for example, during a set lunch break at work - cut yourself some slack the rest of the day and eat only when your stomach says it's time.

3. Dieting with a friend always makes weight loss easier.

No one doubts that companionship and common goals can pay off for dieters. But there are some instances in which the buddy system may work against you and your friend.

If one friend fails and the other doesn't, it could upset the balance. Also if one friend falls off the diet wagon, the other may follow suit. Ultimately, weight loss is a personal journey. If you find it's easier with a friend, remember to compete only against yourself - not each other.

4. Dietary fat keeps you feeling full longer, so you'll eat less.

This was a well-accepted food rule for many years but new research has challenged this logic. It has shown that while fat does take longer to digest, it's actually the least satiating of any food group so it won’t help you control your appetite. The foods likely to stave off hunger the longest are protein foods, followed by carbohydrates, then fats.

5. When you disrupt your diet, you might as well wait until the next day to get back on track.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Every meal matters, so if you ate a big piece of birthday cake at lunchtime, you can still get back on track with your next meal. You don't have to have a full day of healthy eating in order for it to count.

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