How are those New Year's resolutions coming? Statistics show that the number one resolution people make is to "lose weight". No surprise there, right?

During this time of year, diet and fitness products thrive. With so many options available, it can be hard to weed out the gimmicks and fads, especially when our culture craves fast results. We've all witnessed it. "Lose 10 lbs. FAST!", "Cookie Diet is the New Rage!", "Celebrity Juice Detox Helps You Shed the Pounds!" Where does it end?

As some of you may know, I choose to follow a whole foods diet that excludes refined sugars, grains, legumes and processed vegetable oils; often referred to as the "Paleo" diet. I won't get preachy, but I can say that changing my diet was one of the best decisions I ever made. Among other benefits, it resulted in a whole new appreciation, fascination and passion for food and nutrition.

Being a part of the Paleo community, I'm happy to see this way of thinking is becoming more mainstream. As a matter of fact, the Paleo diet was the most googled diet of 2013. People are not only curious, they are beginning to question the conventional wisdom of what they thought was considered healthy.

Clear divisions of dietary opinions exist. People tend to pick and choose things to believe when it comes to health, nutrition and weight loss myself included. We've been told things from all angles. Whether it be a quick fix or a long-lasting lifestyle change, mixed opinions are prevalent in the world of dietary choices. 

Opinions I Find to be the Most Interesting and Controversial:

"HEART HEALTHY" LOW-FAT DIETS

We've long been told that diets high in fat particularly saturated fat are bad for us. The word "fat", itself, sort of has a negative connotation to it. Nobody wants to be fat, right? Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high cholesterol and other plagues of illness come to mind...

The popularity of low-fat diets began during the mid to late 80s when the American Heart Association launched their heart healthy food labeling campaign. Although no credible studies had linked dietary fat to disease, the mass speculation scared many consumers into to avoiding it. The government jumped on this bandwagon in 1992, releasing the food pyramid that endorsed a diet low in fat and high in carbohydrates.

USDA Food Pyramid, Public Domain Image 

In lieu of fat, food manufacturers began adding more sugar, salt and chemicals to their products to take advantage of the trending diet, while still satisfying consumers' tastes. Meanwhile, obesity rates in America rose. Compelling evidence exists that the low-fat/high carb movement is actually what made obesity an epidemic in our country.

Today, low-fat diets still have a reputation of being healthy, most likely because these foods tend to have less calories. While this may be true, these foods are also significantly less satiating, which can lead to over-consumption and the dreaded feeling of "always being hungry".

Here's a link to a very informative article, citing various government studies, medical journals and other scientific trials: Do Low-Fat Diets Actually Work? A Critical Look

EAT LESS AND EXERCISE MORE

(Fast forward to 1:55 for the joke! Or watch the whole thing. Maria Bamford is funny.)

Long thought to be the mantra for success in the weight loss world, those with excellent discipline and willpower seem to have it all figured out... "Eat less, exercise more and you'll undoubtedly create a calorie deficit, which will in turn, result in weight loss."

While I believe it is very important to be conscious of your diet and to get regular exercise, people sometimes take this concept to the extremes for faster or more efficient results. Instead of creating a healthy balance, they restrict and/or overwork themselves, which is dangerous behavior.

Refusing to listen to your body is not natural. If you hungry, you should eat. If you are tired, you should rest. Deprivation has alarmingly become something to be proud of in the world of dieting but it can come back to haunt you. Calorie deprivation and chronic exercise have both been linked to increased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that causes us to gain or hold onto weight.

Many people claim that abs are made in the kitchen, while others have changed their lives at the gym. My beliefs? You can't exercise your way out of a bad diet but staying active has many more benefits than just weight loss or maintenance. Balance is the key to a healthy lifestyle. Don't overdo it.

EAT SMALL MEALS FREQUENTLY AND INCREASE METABOLISM

Another popular myth for weight loss suggests eating six mini-meals throughout the day instead of three to boost your metabolism. The idea is that eating frequently will constantly keep your digestive system at work, therefore burning more calories throughout the day. "Don't skip meals, it will slow your metabolism down!"

While it may seem logical, there is absolutely no scientific data to back this theory up.
Interestingly enough, scientific studies suggest the exact opposite is true. Short periods (1 day or less) of intermittent fasting actually showed to increase metabolic rate, as long as the amount of calories consumed were the same as usual.

These test subjects ate double the amount of what they normally eat when they weren't fasting, resulting in an increased metabolism. Interesting!

Personally, I eat when I'm hungry and I don't when I'm not. If I'm not hungry, I won't force myself to eat because the clock is telling me to... And if that means skipping lunch in favor of a bigger dinner, bring it on!

What do you believe when it comes to dieting?