10 Weight Loss Myths - dummies

By Victoria Shanta Retelny, Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

Trying to shed some pounds? You aren’t alone. Recent statistics show that the global weight loss and management market is expected to reach $206.4 billion by 2019! With weight loss top of mind for many people, they have the tendency to fall into the trap of believing inflated claims, which are simply not true.

Here are ten weight loss myths to watch out for:

  • Carbohydrates are fattening and should be avoided. Some refined sources of white flour carbohydrates like cookies, candy, and cake don’t do your body much good and provide empty calories from added sugars and/or solid fats, but occasionally enjoying a serving of these foods can fit into your weight loss plan. Your brain and body need carbohydrates — the Institute of Medicine recommends that roughly half (45 percent to 65 percent) of your calories come from carbohydrates. Choosing the nutrient-dense carbs like whole grains — the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015) recommend replacing refined grains whenever possible with whole grains, plus fruits and vegetables is smart and fuels your body well.

  • Some foods burn fat and help you lose weight. Claims have abounded that there are fat-burning foods like cabbage, celery, and grapefruit, but there is no supporting evidence. There are no magic foods that cause weight loss — the fact is, the best bet for weight loss and weight maintenance is to combine physical activity with a reduced calorie intake. Eating less and moving more works!

  • Natural and herbal supplements are safe and effective for weight loss. There’s no way to know if so-called “natural” and/or herbal supplements are safe. There’s no magic pill for weight loss, and there can actually be dangerous side-effects associated with popping pills with unknown effects.

  • Skipping meals is the way to lose weight. Although it may seem like bypassing breakfast or passing on lunch will promote weight loss, it could have the opposite effect over the long run. Not eating regular meals can slow down metabolism as your body conserves the energy and goes into starvation mode, awaiting the next meal. When the next meal comes, it’s less likely to be portion-controlled — and overeating ensues.

  • High-protein diets are a healthy way to shed pounds. Although you may lose weight on a high-protein diet because you cut out cakes, candy, and cookies, you’re also missing out on the energy, fiber, and essential nutrients found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Plus, eating too much protein can tax your kidneys — and that can lead to health problems. Balancing your calories with sensible portions of all the food groups is the best bet for sustainable weight loss and maintenance.

  • Don’t eat anything after 6 p.m. There’s no hard and fast rule about when to cut off eating in the evening, but it’s a good idea to give your body time to digest a meal a couple of hours before you to bed. Eating smaller meals in the evening can help you sleep better and may help with weight loss (depending upon your calorie intake during the day). Be smart about choosing your meals at night and not going right to bed on a full stomach — it doesn’t bode well for digestion or your waistline.

  • Eat less acidic and more alkaline foods to lose weight. There is a school of thought that your body functions better in an alkaline environment, but the evidence is scant. Your body naturally maintains a correct pH through a variety of biological mechanisms. Alkaline foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes tend to be healthier and low calorie, but balancing your diet with a variety of foods within all food groups is the best bet for healthy weight loss and maintenance.

  • Liquid diets work for weight loss. Yes, if you drink all your meals, you’ll probably lose weight, but keeping it off is another story. The real issue comes in with weight maintenance. Liquid diets are not sustainable over the long run. Chances are, you’ll regain the weight you lost, if you aren’t careful to keep with a reduced-calorie eating plan once solid foods come into the picture again.

  • All processed food is bad and hinders weight loss. Not necessarily. Most foods go through a process (even fruits and vegetables are processed from farm to table!). However, the typical processed foods like chips, cookies, and crackers can have a place in a weight loss plan, if they’re factored in as a portion-controlled snack or part of a meal. Highly processed foods, which tend to be short on nutrients, may hinder weight loss and cause weight gain, if they’re overeaten regularly. Of course, choosing minimally processed foods, such as produce, whole grains, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, and fat-free or lowfat dairy products can help weight loss and improve overall health.

  • Sugar is toxic and you need to eliminate it completely. Sugar-laden beverages, cereals, and confections abound in our society, but it’s more about toxic consumption levels. Consuming too much added sugar is harmful because it increases risk for type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and weight gain. Because weight loss results from decreasing calories, limiting the amount of added sugar in your foods and drinks is vital to lose weight. However, cutting it out altogether may be unrealistic — instead, read food and beverage labels and consume fewer sources of added sugar to take pounds off in a healthy way.