Three health misconceptions you need to know
How many times have you seen these claims on TV or in online advertisements?
"Lose 30 pounds in 30 days."
"Eat as much as you want without exercising and still lose weight."
"Eat a 10-pound box of chocolate every week and lose 10 inches off your waist in a month."
OK, that last one is made up. But you wouldn’t be surprised to see it advertised, would you?
Weight loss books, DVDs, supplements, surgeries and tools add up to a $20 billion industry annually in the U.S., accompanied by a wide variety of conflicting weight loss claims. But even for savvy consumers, it can be hard to know what to believe.
Many Americans try at least one “quick fix” in their lifetimes to lose weight, only to gain the weight back -- often packing on even more pounds in the process. The prevalence of weight loss myths only adds to the cycle of failure and desperation. If there’s one overall myth-busting rule to keep in mind, it’s this: Be wary of fast and easy weight-loss solutions.
The biggest mistake consumers make is thinking that doing something in the short-term will be effective in the long-term. Jennifer Hubert, DO, a board-certified internal medicine physician at St. Joseph Health Medical Group, says, “While it’s tempting to believe in one quick, easy solution, fad diets can actually end up doing more harm than good when it comes to losing weight in a healthy way, and maintaining that weight loss over time.”
It’s important for your health (and wallet) to separate myths from facts about weight loss, nutrition, and physical activity. Here’s a list of top weight loss myths--put them to rest and you’ll have a better chance of getting to a healthy weight and sticking to it.
1. All calories are equal. Yes, “a calorie is a calorie.” Since the calorie is a measure of energy, all calories do have the same energy content. However, this does not mean that all calorie sources have an equal effect on your weight. “Different food calories are processed in different ways by the body,” says Dr. Hubert. “For example, a protein calorie is not the same as a fat calorie or a carb calorie. Replacing carbs and fats with protein can boost metabolism, while optimizing the effectiveness of the hormones that regulate body weight. This, in turn, reduces cravings, which helps dieters succeed.” Finally, calories from whole, unprocessed foods (like fruit and vegetables) are generally more filling than refined products (like sugary snacks.) So, while counting calories can be part of a diet plan, it isn’t the whole story – it’s the quality of the calorie that matters.
2. Snacking is bad if you’re trying to lose weight. The idea that snacking between meals leads to weight gain is a myth. “Having healthy snacks between meals can help you keep from overeating at regular meal times,” says Dr. Hubert. Some dietitians recommend eating five smaller meals a day instead of dividing daily calories into three sittings. The problem may be with the word “snack” itself – as in chips or cookies – as much as their ready availability. If you feel hunger pangs, obviously you should have a meal or a snack. Just keep that snack healthy and handy: Fruits, nuts, veggie sticks, yogurt, small servings of low-fat cheese or other proteins kept in your desk or backpack. And skip sweetened drinks as much as possible. Try fruit infused plain or carbonated water instead.
3. “Eat less, move more” is the bottom line for losing weight. The mantra of “eat less, move more” is actually a very good rule of thumb for controlling weight. Body fat is stored energy in the form of calories; to lose fat, you need to eat fewer calories than you are expending in activity. Even though this is a scientific fact, in practice it is a terrible piece of advice for anyone with a serious weight problem. “There are physiological and biochemical reasons why this formula is overly simple for some,” cautions Dr. Hubert. “Those who are considered very overweight really should have a medical professional guide them through the process, or they will almost be guaranteed to gain most of the weight back. Simply telling people to eat less and move more just isn’t enough, and it rarely works in the long term.”
When it comes to weight loss and diets, the only constant is that there will always be a new fad just around the corner. By keeping informed, you’re less likely to believe the many weight loss myths out there, and avoid schemes that don’t work. “As with any diet plan, you should always talk to your doctor before making major changes in your daily habits,” adds Dr. Hubert. “You want to focus on healthy changes that support the body over time. Your doctor is your best partner in medical weight loss."
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.