Health & Wellness

Debunking Weight-loss Myths

It’s normal to feel self-conscious when starting a new fitness program

By Jackilyn Rock

If you, like two-thirds of American adults, are overweight, you might feel a bit dazed and confused by the oft-times contradictory advice abound on weight-loss and medical websites. As a personal trainer, I’m passionate about helping people achieve lasting health and fitness. I’ve identified five myths around weight loss that throw people off their goal of losing weight. Here are some strategies to help find your way and keep the pounds off for good.

Myth 1: You have to give up certain food groups to lose weight

We all know how the weight-loss industry works: It’s just one fad diet after the other. The problem with most trendy diets is sustainability. When we eliminate a food group or macronutrient, the weight is most often gained back when food is reintroduced into the diet. “Any diet will work if you follow it correctly,” Taylor Read, owner Max Muscle Nutrition says. “The question is whether it is a lifestyle diet. If it isn’t, what is your plan to maintain a healthy lifestyle after the diet?”

Often, the rebound weight gain is higher than the starting weight. Further, when we cut out entire food groups, we limit our intake of healthy foods that provide natural sources of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber—all of which are critical for optimal health. The fad diets below are both popular and notorious for causing rebound weight gain.

Low-carb diets

Currently trending is low carb or the popular “keto” diet where carbohydrate-intake is extremely low or completely avoided. Carbohydrates are a macronutrient, like protein and fat, and they play a vital role to our overall health. Our body’s preferred source of fuel for most activities is from carbohydrates, while our red blood cells and brain rely almost exclusively on it for fuel. Research shows that low-carb eaters generally lose more weight at first, but that the weight loss levels out over time, and in the end, is no different than those who eat a moderate carb diet.

Going gluten-free

Those diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance need to avoid eating foods high in gluten. Even so, there is little evidence that going gluten-free results in lasting weight loss. In reality, many gluten-free packaged foods are higher in calories (from added sugar) and lower in fiber. Thus, someone who normally eats large quantities of refined flour products (cookies, breads, pasta) can make the switch to gluten-free and still not lose weight. But if they increase their intake of vegetables, fruits and other naturally gluten-free foods, their diet will not only be healthier but likely they would lose weight as well.

Dairy-free

People who are lactose intolerant have obvious reasons for avoiding dairy products. Dairy provides Vitamin D and protein our bodies require to build and maintain muscle as well as calcium for strong bones. Dairy alone does not cause weight gain. If you eat a pint of ice cream every day and top your foods with butter and sour cream, those specific foods are the culprits, not the food group. The important thing to remember is that you need to eat the right kind of dairy. Aim for low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese. It’s all about making healthy choices within the food group.

Vegan diet

Eliminating animal products does not guarantee weight loss. Without staple foods such as meat and dairy, it can be easy to turn to cereals, breads and other processed foods to satisfy hunger. Too many carbs will counteract weight loss. Make wise plantbased choices when subbing out meat, and avoid processed junk food.

Low-fat diet

Avoiding fat often causes weight gain instead of the opposite. When fat is cut from the diet, calories are commonly replaced with refined grains and added sugar. Insulin spikes and so does the belly fat. Furthermore, recent research proves that healthy fats actually speed up your metabolism and can help you shed unwanted pounds. Fat provides nutrients that are essential to the body. Eating healthy fats like olive oil, wild salmon, hemp seeds, walnuts, flax seeds and avocado in moderation will lower inflammation, keep you satisfied after meals and help you lose weight. Fats have more calories per gram than carbohydrates or protein so don’t overdo them.

Myth 2: Cleanses & detoxes help you to lose weight

Suffering through days of not eating only to end up back where you started once you start eating again? Yes, it’s happens to many of us. Additionally, depriving your body of nutrients such as fiber, protein and fat does not allow your body to thrive. If you want to feel cleansed, try eating 100-percent clean (whole, unprocessed) foods for a week and increase your intake of water. Fiber is important for cleaning out the body and for making us feel full and satisfied. An added bonus to not fasting is being able to chew foods and not be limited to drinking juice, tea or other overpriced cleansing products.

Myth 3: You have to be hungry to lose weight

Perhaps you think losing weight means starving by skipping meals and snacks, or by eating toddler-sized portions. Eating fewer calories than normal will usually make the body lose weight. However, eating too few calories for a long period of time will make weight loss stall completely. Long-term undereating makes the hormones go haywire by telling your body to conserve fat as though it is in emergency-survival mode. “Unless medically supervised,” Read says, “it is not advisable to eat fewer than 1,200 calories per day.” Try consuming sufficient amounts of water, vegetables and fiber-rich foods to stay satisfied and eat less garbage.

Myth 4: Strength training does not help in weight loss; it bulks you up

Fact: If you pick up something heavy over and over, you will get stronger. If you eat more calories than you burn every day while you pick up heavy things, you will get stronger and your muscles will get bigger. However, if you pick up heavy things and eat the right kind of healthy foods in a caloric deficit, you will burn the fat on top of your muscles and become “toned.” The density of your muscles will increase, which might not make the scale move dramatically, but the fat will drastically reduce and so will your size.

Myth 5: Long cardio workouts are best for weight loss

The idea that you need to spend hours a day in the gym to make the scale move is far from correct. Long steady-state cardio workouts help the weight come off initially, but eventually the body adapts to the workload, since it is mostly repetitive, stalling any additional progress. Low-intensity cardio (think long, slow jogging, for example) targets the slow-twitch muscle fibers. In order to restart the weight-loss engine, you’ll eventually want to target your fast-twitch muscle fibers by performing resistance training or High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

Bottom Line

There is an abundance of conflicting information regarding diets, exercise and weight loss. While it can be tempting to believe the hype behind every new trend, remember that the magic solution is consistent effort. Reduce the amount of processed junk food consumed and eat the foods you like in moderation, along with healthy foods from all food groups. This will ensure that you develop a lifestyle of healthy eating, and not a rollercoaster ride of fad diets with their accompanying weight losses and gains. Stay active in a variety of ways to continually challenge your body and keep boredom from setting in. Everything worth having takes effort, and your health is worth it.