Oh the weight loss myths…they seem to grow by the dozens every year. So there’s a good chance you have heard many different ways to lose weight. It can be hard to discern fact from fiction when you want to create healthy eating habits or achieve lasting and substantial weight loss.
Well, we’re here to dispel the most common weight loss myths. That’s right, this post is all about separating facts (i.e. science) from fiction. So continue reading to learn the truth about the most common myths told today surrounding weight loss.
1. All calories are made equal
A calorie can be good or bad depending on its source, meaning it all depends on where your calories come from, and whether they are caloric-dense or nutritionally dense.
Many people believe that eating healthy is as simple as sticking to a set number of calories each day. But what if it’s all calories from sweets, pizza, and soda? This particular myth can make it difficult to eat a healthy, balanced diet. It is impossible to compare 100 calories of fish or chicken with 100 calories of soda.
Fish and chicken are rich in beneficial nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and a host of other nutrients that help nourish the body. It’s the exact opposite with foods and drinks that have no nutritional content.
Those calories are actually working against your body when you’re trying to lose weight. Why? Because they typically only provide momentary satiation and can cause your appetite to increase instead.
Studies show that the spike in your blood sugar (caused by foods with a high glycemic index) can also have the reverse effect on your weight loss–making it harder for you to shed the pounds.
Nothing’s wrong with having a sweet treat every day, but try to get the bulk of your calories from whole foods and grains.
2. You can target specific fat areas
For aesthetic reasons, many people desire to lose fat in certain areas such as their abdomen or thighs. Unfortunately, this is impossible in reality, as you can’t spot lose weight, unfortunately. Everyone’s body will respond differently to weight loss.
Factors including genetics, the amount of weight lost, and workout regimen will affect the rate at which you lose weight–and places where you lose it. If weight loss is combined with exercises to tone particular areas, it can create the illusion of more regional weight loss.
3. A big breakfast will help you lose weight
While some research supports the idea that eating breakfast can aid in weight loss, others suggest the contrary. A 2018 review concluded that there was no evidence that eating breakfast can help you lose weight.
Any nutritionist will tell you that eating a large breakfast is only beneficial if it allows you to consume fewer calories later in your day.
So to say, the time of the day doesn’t matter. The total calorie intake vs expenditure does.
4. Eating fat makes you fat
Fat is more caloric than protein and carbs, so this may be why the myth about fat’s calories per gram persists. Fat actually makes you feel fuller and lasts longer.
It can be used to promote weight loss or weight maintenance when it’s included in a balanced meal, snack, or meal that is appropriate for your calorie requirements. This includes unsaturated healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, and nuts.
You will gain weight if you consume too much fat (only if you’ve exceeded your calorie limit for the day). But fat is an essential component of a healthy diet. Moderate amounts of fat are needed to build cells, keep warm, and give energy to the body.
So does eating fat make you fat, it can (if you eat too many calories). But more importantly, it can negatively affect your overall health–especially your heart.
5. Skipping breakfast makes you gain weight
A healthy breakfast can help reduce hunger pangs later in the day. It will also help you say “No thanks” to unhealthy snacks during lunchtime. But there have been no scientific studies that show skipping breakfast directly leads to weight gain.
Listen to your body if you don’t feel hungry. If you do, grab a meal. And if you prefer to eat a large breakfast (instead of a large lunch or dinner) in the morning, have yourself a large breakfast. Remember, it’s all about calorie input vs calorie output.
6. Carbs are just bad for you
The Atkins diet gave carbs a bad name–yes Atkins, we blame you. The truth is that carbohydrates are important in a healthy diet, just like fat. They can be used in moderation to provide energy for the body and regulate digestion.
It is important to know that carbs come in two types: simple and complicated. Simple carbs are processed foods. They can cause blood sugar to rise and weight gain to skyrocket.
Complex carbs are found in complex carbohydrates, which can be found in whole-grain bread and beans, legumes and legumes, as well as certain vegetables.
These “healthy carbs”will keep you fuller for longer. They also help to regulate blood sugar levels–while simple carbs can quickly raise your blood sugar levels due to their glycemic index.
7. People need more willpower to get slim
This isn’t necessarily true. The success or failure of a person in losing weight is not an indicator of their willpower. Many factors, including genetic, environmental, and other factors, can influence a person’s weight.
And for most people, it really is a journey. It can take time to figure out which diet and workout methods will work best for you specifically. So while willpower is needed to motivate yourself to lose weight, it’s not the end all be all to a weight loss journey.
8. To lose weight, you absolutely MUST give up alcohol
Drinking alcohol means taking in a lot of empty calories. However, what and how often you drink alcohol will play a large role in how much weight do you gain–if any. So let’s talk calories for a second.
A 5-oz glass of red or white wine is about 123 calories while a shot of vodka or tequila is about 70-90 calories. Your average 8-oz can of beer is about 150 calories.
Most weight loss programs recommend that people reduce their intake because the sugars and alcohol can quickly add up to gain weight.
According to the New York Times, studies have shown that heavy drinking can lead to weight gain. However, this effect is not as common with moderate or light drinking. The best advice is to simply drink in moderation and consider your total caloric intake for the day. Also, check out some of the latest low-cal alcoholic drinks.
9. There are NO treats
This is another common myth regarding weight loss. Everyone will lose weight differently, and the best way to lose weight is to find what regimen works for you individually.
So while it is important to limit sugary and high-fat treats, cutting them out completely can prove counterproductive if you cut out too many things too soon–especially if you don’t replace them with healthier options.
Depriving yourself of all the food you love won’t work. You will eventually succumb to temptation and give up on your efforts. It’s okay to indulge in treats from time to time–the “trick” is simply not to overindulge. So eat 3-4 chocolate cookies, not the entire roll (unless it’s PMS time–in which case, we understand).
10. Eating later at night causes you to gain weight
Research shows that it is what you eat and how often that matters more than what time of day. A 2016 study found that those who ate between 11 p.m. – 5 a.m. ate 500 more calories each day and gained more weight than those who ate only during the daytime.
Other research has shown that eating at mealtime can affect glucose intolerance, and even reduce fat utilization.
So to say, if you eat at night, you may gain weight if you exceed your daily calorie limit. But keep in mind this is ONLY if you don’t burn off the calories before you go to bed AND you’ve already gone over your calorie intake for the day.
11. Cardio is the best way to lose fat
Running or cycling for long periods of time can help you lose fat. But it is not the only option to burn fat, especially if cardio exercises aren’t your favorite. Research has also shown that strength training is important and it can burn just as many calories–and for longer.
A study published on obesity showed that 249 obese adults were restricted in calorie intake and exercised resistance training for 18 consecutive months.
The result? They lost significantly more fat and had less muscle loss. Building muscle can help you look toned and increase your metabolism, which will allow you to burn more calories while you sleep.
Strength training has many other benefits than weight loss. Lifting weights twice per week can help you protect your bones and posture, as well as help ease back pain.
Weight loss myths are usually based on older (outdated) theories or derived from hearsay, so it’s important to remember that the ultimate measure of weight loss is A CALORIC DEFICIT.
So whether you’re doing a low-cal, a small-portion diet, and/or kicking butt at the gym, take note of your caloric intake and stay on top of it daily.
This way you won’t be surprised when you hit the scale every week.
Need a calculator to get your daily caloric needs? Check out this simple one at MayoClinic.