Advice about how to lose weight is everywhere: on the internet, in print publications, by word of mouth and on television.
Some of it is true and may help you shed those unwanted pounds, but much of it isn’t based on evidence, and may even sabotage your efforts.
These are the top ten myths when it comes to losing weight.
1. Choose “Diet” Foods For Success
Marketing strategies are powerful, and it’s tempting to believe that sticking with foods manufacturers claim can help with weight loss is the key to success.
It’s important to remember the bottom line for them is making money, rather than helping you meet your weight loss goal.
Claims and labeling may be misleading, and the more you see on package labels claiming a product is healthy, the more cautious you should be.
If a processed product claims to be “fat-free,” “low-fat, “gluten-free” or “weight-loss friendly,” check the label to see what’s in it. Even beverages claiming to be helpful for weight-loss may be loaded with sugar and other undesirable ingredients.
2. Fat Makes You Fat
Since body fat is fat we have stored, it sounds logical that limiting fat would contribute to weight loss, but that’s not the case.
While there are certain circumstances where eating a diet high in fat can contribute to weight gain, fat in itself is not inherently wrong or bad when it comes to losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight.
Combine generous quantities of fat with a diet heavy on the junk food, high in carbs, and rich in calories, and you’ve got a recipe for fast weight gain.
However, high-fat diets low in carbs can be an efficient way to drop excess pounds. Study after study shows this to be true. (1) Don’t be afraid to include quality fats in your diet plan. You need them for good health.
3. Carbs Make You Fat
The key is choosing the right carbs to include in your weight-loss diet or maintenance plan; refined carbohydrates like white flour and sugar, along with other processed foods can cause weight gain.
The carbohydrates in whole foods, like those humans have eaten for hundreds and thousands of years, aren’t the problem, and can be part of a healthy diet.
4. Calories Are Calories
Calorie counts represent the amount of energy contained in a food. But foods with the same number of calories don’t affect your body in the same manner.
Different types of food trigger different reactions, activating various metabolic pathways in the process of calorie assimilation. The hormones released in response, including those that regulate hunger, can vary greatly.
Calories from fat, carbohydrates and protein each affect the body in different ways. For example, substituting protein calories for carb and fat calories is proven to reduce appetite and cravings, rev up metabolism, and optimize the release of hormones involved in the regulation of weight. (6, 7, 8)
5. Move More and Eat Less
While it’s a biological fact that in order to lose stored fat, more calories must be burned than the amount being taken in, it’s not that simple.
Obese people who follow this advice usually end up gaining back the weight they lose; fundamental changes on psychological and biological levels are also required for long-term success. (9)
Changes in perspective as well as behavior are also integral. Telling someone suffering from obesity to exercise more and eat less food is very much like advising an alcoholic to drink less, or a depressed person to get happy.
6. Eat Breakfast to Lose Weight
People who eat breakfast are usually lighter than people who don’t, (10) but experts believe this is because breakfast-eaters generally embrace healthier habits than breakfast-skippers.
In a recent 4-month study focused on this with more than 300 men and women, results showed no significant weight changes occurred regardless of people’s habits. (11)
Similar conclusions were reached in a trial testing the effects of breakfast and eating more, smaller meals on metabolism. (12)
Pay attention to how you feel in the mornings, and follow your instincts.
7. Taking Supplements Will Help A Lot
They might help a little, like most supplements. But 80% of it will be diet and exercise.
Unfortunately, most of them have very little effect; the best weight loss supplements available on today’s market may result in modest weight loss of 5 pounds or less over a few weeks’ time.
When people spend money on weight loss supplements, they want the pills to work so badly, the placebo effect kicks in and they become hyper-aware of food choices; in addition, they are usually more motivated to follow a weight-loss diet to justify the cost of supplements.
8. Obese People Are Always Unhealthy and Thin People Are Always Healthy
However, some obese people enjoy good metabolic health, and some thin people suffer from diabetes and heart disease. (15)
How extra weight affects health depends greatly on where the fat is carried. Abdominal fat has a significant negative affect on health, much more so than fat carried in the hips or evenly distributed on the body.
9. People Who Are Obese Have No Willpower
Biology affects a person’s chances of becoming obese much more than making choices and sticking to them.
The disorder is complex, with a number of variables on both genetic and physical levels. These include medical conditions like depression and hypothyroidism, as well as hormonal issues that can affect biological pathways involved in weight regulation. (16, 17)
Here’s an example: the hormone leptin signals the brain to either store fat or burn it, and when leptin resistance develops, the body gets a starvation message. It’s nearly impossible to ignore these biological survival orders. (18)
Eating habits are driven by both biochemistry and physiology in a complicated dance that has virtually nothing to do with choices and willpower. This makes it extremely difficult for the obese the lose weight and keep it off.
10. Losing Weight is a Matter of Following a Weight-loss Diet
The statistics for long-term weight control are grim: 85% of people who lose weight on a diet gain it back within a year or less. (19)
Dieters are actually more likely to gain weight in the future than those who eat what they want. (20)
Summary: The best avenue to success when it comes to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is to change relevant lifestyle factors and allow weight loss to happen as a natural side effect. This includes eating in a healthier manner, getting good sleep, and becoming more fit.