MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We know the way to lose weight is to cut calories from our diet. But how do we separate the nutrition facts from the myths? The new book “Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics” can help us do some of the dirty work. Here are eight long-held beliefs about calories that are myths.

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Myth One: If you eat breakfast, you lose weight.

Calories are calories, no matter what time of day you’re eating them. For some people, skipping breakfast helps reduce calorie intake. For others, it makes them overcompensate later on in the day.

Myth Two: People are obese because they don’t take enough responsibility for what they eat.

Well, obesity is not that simple.  It involves genetics and interaction with the food environment. Food is everywhere, in huge portions, heavily advertised and cheap. Everyone has to learn to manage these things, and some do it better than others.

Myth Three: If you significantly restrict calories, you could increase your lifespan.

Not true, according to the study. Human studies show that mortality rates go up in people who are unusually thin. And it doesn’t feel very good to be hungry. People who live the longest have moderate body weights.

Myth Four: Calories in alcohol don’t count … for weight gain.

Alcohol calories count just as much as those from foods. As always, larger drinks have more calories than smaller ones.

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Myth Five: Anything labeled “organic” has fewer calories than it’s alternative.

Just because something is labeled “organic” does not mean it has fewer calories. The word organic has a healthy aura. But, organic is about production methods, not calories.

Myth Six: Obesity happens when Americans are less active.

Most studies say that Americans are more active now than they were 30 years ago. The culprit is most likely larger portions, which means more calories. Take muffins, for example. They used to be the size of what are now considered mini-muffins. Those were about 200 calories a piece, but typical muffins today can be three times larger and contain up to 600 calories!

Myth Seven: Frequent snacking helps you lost weight.

Again, overall calories is what counts. If you want to snack, you need to reduce calories at meals. Eating small meals more often helps some people to maintain weight. But the meals should actually be small.

Myth Eight: Some foods have negative calories.

You know the saying that celery has such few calories that chewing and digesting it actually burns those and then some? Well, apparently it only takes a few percent of calories available in foods to digest them. And the calories on labels take digestion losses into consideration. So you might as well forget about the energy cost of digestion when you are eating.

With these eight myths debunked, navigating the ins and outs of healthy eating and dieting will make your journal to wellness a little less bumpy.

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