What is a weight loss myth? It is a false or a semi-false belief about losing weight. Myths evolve around a true concept, a principle. As the time goes by, the initial true concept undergoes a change and transforms to a false statement—the myth. While this change can be slight, it can affect your weight loss results. Here are the 25 most perpetuating weight loss myths you will hear if you ever try to lose weight.
Myth: Losing Weight is Healthy
The term “weight loss” has dominated the diet industry. The end result of any weight loss program is decreasing body weight. In the US, 2 out of 3 people are obese or overweight and they are supposed to lose weight to improve their health. But is it really “weight loss” what overweight people need?
Fact: Losing weight is not necessarily healthy. Losing fat is healthy. Weight loss can be the result of water loss, or muscle loss. Either one is unhealthy. Muscle needs to be preserved at all cost when dieting. Successful diets (i.e Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, etc) are designed to keep the muscle and burn the fat. Fad diets, crash diets, and very low-calorie diets “eat” your muscles. The whole point when dieting to “lose weight” is to lose the fat and only that.
Myth: Some Foods Help You Burn Fat Because they Provide “Negative” Calories
Some fruits and vegetables, such as celery, lettuce, broccoli, and grapefruit, are claimed to be fat burners. This is because they are purported to deliver less energy than what is required to get digested, processed and eliminated by your body— thermic effect. You can supposedly eat as much of these “negative-calorie” foods as you want without gaining an ounce of weight. They could even help you burn fat since they presumably burn more calories than they provide.Fact: No known food provides negative calories. Some foods, such as hot peppers, tea and coffee can increase your resting metabolism (the rate your body spends energy at rest) but no food has been proven to be a “negative calorie food”. The thermic effect of all known foods is 10-20% of the calories they provide. That means, when you eat a 20-calorie stalk of celery, your body utilizes 4 calories in order to process it (thermic effect) and stores the remaining 16 calories. Of course, these 16 calories will not make you gain any measurable weight, which is why the concept of “free calorie” or “negative calorie” food emerged in the first place.
Myth: Natural Weight Loss Products are Safe
Natural supplements (also known as herbals or botanicals) have always been popular because they claim to be free of the harmful substances (preservatives, artificial additives, etc) and side effects associated with conventional drugs. When you read on the label “All Natural”, you tend to think that the supplement must be side-effect-free, safe and effective. Right?Fact: Natural supplements do not require FDA approval. Therefore, they are not subjected to the same scientific scrutiny as drugs. Some herbal supplements contain bioactive substances that have strong effects in the body, especially when taken in combination with prescribed medicines. For example, Ephedrine, a herbal substance used for years in dietary supplements, has now been banned by the FDA due to mounting safety concerns that include even the risk of death. Therefore, a weight loss product marketed as “natural” is not necessarily neither safe nor effective. Often, the term “Natural” is nothing but a slick pitch.
Myth: To Lose Weight You Need to Avoid Your Favorite Foods
No chocolate, no fast food, no white bread, no sugary sodas… and the list goes on. You are supposed to avoid the foods you like in order to lose weight.Fact: Losing weight is a matter of “calories in” and “calories out”. If you burn more calories than you consume, it doesn’t matter where these calories come from. You will lose weight eating any kind of food. While avoiding processed food and dangerous fats is good for your health, eliminating these foods from your diet will not help you lose weight faster. Depriving yourself of the foods you enjoy is not fun, and it will not last. When you are on a diet, allow yourself, now and then, to eat whatever you want.
Myth: Eat Low-fat or Nonfat to Avoid the Calories
The low-fat or non-fat options in the grocery isles are countless. Fat is known to be the most calorie-dense macronutrient. One gram of fat delivers 9 calories versus the 4 contained in one gram of protein or carbs. So, does eating fat-free food mean you avoid the calories?Fact: What matters is the total calories contained in your meal, not the amount of fat in it. If the calories in your food are high, the lack of fat makes no difference. There are so many low-fat products that contain a ton of sugar. Frequent sugar spikes in the blood are associated with visceral fat deposition, the worst form of fat in the body. So, when the food label says “fat-free”, look for the sugar and carbs content.
Fat shouldn’t be totally avoided for another reason, too. Studies show that fat gives you a feeling of fullness. Fat delays digestion and makes you feel full for longer.
Myth: Avoid Fast Foods to Lose Weight
Eating fast foods increases your risk of getting fat, because fast food is usually loaded with sugar, fat, and all sorts of empty calories. Yet, not all people who habitually eat in fast food restaurants are overweight.Fact: Losing weight is about ingesting fewer calories that what you burn. Based on this principle, you can eat what you want—including fast foods—and not gain a pound.t
Myth: Skipping Meals Will Help You Lose Weight Faster
People who want to lose weight often assert that eating fewer meals within a day is a good thing. They faultily assume that if they skip a meal, they will eat less overall during the day, correct? Not really.Fact: Eating fewer than 3 meals a day has been shown to increase hunger. Studies show that skipping a meal, especially breakfast, will make you eat more in subsequent meals. Not only will you eat more, you will show a preference toward high-fat foods. As a result, you may consume more calories throughout the day comparing to eating several smaller meals. Research has concluded that people who eat fewer times a day tend to be heavier.
Myth: Eating at Night Causes Weight Gain
According to this misconception, the food you eat before you go to bed is stored as fat because during sleep you burn very little energy.Fact: Studies have shown that the time of day you eat your food is related to your total daily food intake. So, if you eat the bulk of your food at the beginning of the day, you tend to feel satiated throughout the day and eat less food as a result. In contrast, if you eat the main portion of your daily food after the day has progressed, the food is less satiating and causes you to eat more calories throughout the day. However, while it’s true that eating your large meals relatively early during the day will help you consume fewer calories overall, eating at night by itself will not make you gain weight.
You gain weight only if the arithmetic sum of caloric ingestion and caloric expenditure is negative. So, you can have only one meal a day, at midnight, and lose weight, simply because you are on a negative caloric balance.
Myth: You Should Not Eat Nuts Because They Are Fattening
Nuts are calorie-dense. A cup (100g) of almonds, for example, contains over 550 calories which is the equivalent of 8 slices of whole wheat bread. So, eating nuts is fattening, isn’t it?Fact: Studies have shown that nuts are not fattening. People who consume nuts do not gain weight. In fact, they tend to lose some weight for the following three reasons: (1) Nuts are not completely absorbed by the human body. A significant amount of the calories they contain is expelled through the feces. (2) Nuts are satiating. That means, you will eat less food in subsequent meals and this will counterbalance the calories you have taken from nuts. (3) Nuts increase your resting energy expenditure by 11%. Collectively, these mechanisms prevent you from gaining weight when you eat nuts. This is why weight loss programs, such as Atkins, Medifast, and Weight Watchers, encourage nuts consumption.
Myth: Calories Are Not Important – What Matters is Portion Control
Some people find it intimidating to count the calories they eat. After all, how can they know the caloric content of each food they consume? They think that just by eating less food (i.e a smaller piece of cake) they will lose weight. And, occasionally, they may lose weight indeed.Fact: You will never lose weight unless you take in fewer calories than you burn. This is called “caloric deficit”. In order to establish caloric deficit, you need to know your daily energy expenditure and the amount of calories you ingest every day. You can certainly decrease the portions you eat and hope that at the end of the day you have burned more calories than you have consumed. Effective weight loss, though, is not the result of guesswork. Counting calories has been proven necessary for weight loss, and it can be achieved easily using online calorie calculators.
Myth: Bread and Other Starches Make You Fat
Bread, and other starchy foods such as potatoes and rice, contain carbohydrates. Some people argue that one should avoid carbs when attempting to lose weight.Fact: A balanced diet requires carbs. None of the 3 macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein) make you fat. Only excess calories can make you fat. You can consume as many carbs as you wish. If your total daily caloric intake is less than the calories you burn you will not gain any weight.
Myth: Do Not Eat Desserts
Cookies and cakes are usually not included in a weight loss diet menu. Desserts contain sugar and fat so they are fattening, correct? No really.Fact: Research has shown that eating dessert, especially in the morning, diminishes cravings throughout the day. People who included dessert in their diet not only lost more weight than those who avoided it, they also kept the pounds off longer. A diet that eliminates sweets completely increases the desire for these foods to the point of addiction in the long term. So, don’t deprive yourself of sweets.
Myth: Exercise is Enough for Weight Loss – Dieting is Not Necessary
How many times have you heard a person say right before eating a meal: “I will burn it off through exercise”?Fact: While exercise is a great way to burn calories, most of the times it’s not sufficient by itself to create the caloric deficit required for weight loss. Dieting is key. Think about it: In order to lose 1 lb a week, you need to burn 500 more calories a day than you eat. If you rely only on exercise to achieve this 500 calorie deficit, you need to swim every day for an hour, or walk briskly 2 hours or clean your house for 3 hours. It’s hard to do these activities every day for this amount of time. A simple snack such as two cans of Coca-cola or two Grande Satrbucks Caffe Latte contain 500 calories. What would you rather do: Walk for 2 hours or skip the calorie laden snacks? Practically, exercise alone will not help you lose weight fast. Calorie restriction is much more effective.
Myth: Fad Diets are Good for Permanent Weight Loss
“Lose 7 pounds in 7 days!”, “Lose inches from your waist wearing the Muscle Tone Belt!”. Have you noticed that every year there is a new diet craze or exercise device that makes over-hyped health claims? People become enthusiastic about a new weight loss method that gains mass appeal because it makes bold promises and appears to work better than its predecessor. First, it was the cabbage soup diet, then the lemon-red pepper juice diet, then came the African cactus Hoodia pills, and the list goes on.Fact: Fad diets work temporarily. They do help you drop a few pounds, but they require that you strictly limit your calories, cut many foods out of your diet, or take a pill that will decrease your hunger. You soon realize that this approach is not sustainable. It’s hard to follow it. Fad diets are usually not nutritionally balanced. This is why they come and go. Their results are short-lived and so is their fame. Here is an example: The marketers of Ab Circle Pro promised that you will lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks if you exercise on their abdominal exercise device for 3 minutes a day. They are now charged by the Federal Trade Commission to pay $25 million in refunds for their deceptive claims. Fad can be deceptive. Be ware.
Myth: Become a Vegetarian to Lose Weight and be Healthier
According to this misconception, since fruits and vegetables have low calories and are packed with vitamins and minerals, they should help one lose weight and become healthier.Fact: A vegetarian diet, if not properly planned, can make you fat and nutritionally deficient. Like all other diets, a vegetarian diet requires careful design in order to lead to weight loss and health improvement. Irrespective of the diet you follow, you will always gain weight if you eat more than what you burn.
While vegetarian foods are usually not calorie-dense, there are plenty of calorie-laden choices available, such as plant oils (i.e olive oil), fruits (i.e avocados), starchy vegetables (i.e potatoes) that can make a vegetarian gain weight pretty fast. In addition, research has shown that vegans tend to become deficient in iron, vitamin D, calcium, vitamin B12, zinc, and protein, which leads to lower bone density—a risk factor for bone fractures—and increased vulnerability to cardiovascular diseases, comparing to their non-vegan counterparts. Going vegetarian does not mean getting healthier, unless careful planning goes with it.
Matthew Denos is the editor of a Medifast coupon code blog where he reviews some of the best weight loss programs available today. He has a PhD in biology and a great interest in diets, nutrition, and fitness.