The facts about weight loss myths

For many people, losing weight helps them manage their chronic pain.  Losing weight can help ease the burden on muscles and bones, and can be especially helpful for people with back pain or pain from osteoarthritis.  Unfortunately, there are many weight-loss myths that can make it hard to try to lose weight.  Here are some common weight-loss myths, and facts you should know.

MYTH:  A low-carbohydrate/high-protein diet is a healthy way to lose weight

There are no studies on whether low-carbohydrate diets are safe to follow long-term, but we do know that they become boring for most people. Research tells us that those with the lowest risks of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, eat lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and many of these foods are severely restricted on low-carb diets.

So, what should I do instead?

  • Carbohydrates contribute calories to your daily diet; it’s okay to eat them, but portion control is the key.

MYTH:  Breads, potatoes and other starchy foods are “fattening”

Regardless of where they come from, calories that are eaten, but not burned by your body, are stored as fat. A lot of other foods are more calorie-packed than bread and potatoes.

So, what’s the truth about starchy foods?

  • Whole-grain carbohydrates contain fiber that makes them more filling, and therefore more “diet-friendly” than refined “white” carbs that are easy to overeat. Switch the French fries and sub rolls to brown rice, quinoa and whole-grain bread.
  • Because weight control is about calories, quantity is most important for all foods — not just carbs.

MYTH:  “Natural” weight loss aids are safe to use 

Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean that it’s safe. Weight loss supplements are not required to be scientifically tested to prove that they’re safe, or even if they work. Many also contain herbal stimulants. The U.S. government eventually banned ephedra, the most hazardous weight loss herb, but other potentially-dangerous herbal stimulants, like guarana and hoodia, have stepped in to take ephedra’s place in many “natural” weight loss products. This has occurred in spite of concerns about the safety of these other stimulants, and the lack of proof about their effectiveness.

Be careful:

  • Check with your doctor before trying any herbal weight loss supplements.

MYTH:  Skipping meals helps you lose weight

In fact, the opposite is true. Skipping meals saps your body of the energy it gets from a regular supply of healthful foods. It also increases the odds that you’ll be over-hungry by the time you do eat, and end up overeating.

Keep in mind:

  • Skipping breakfast seems to be particularly hazardous to your waistline. Studies show that those who skip this most important meal often end up eating too much at night.

MYTH:  Don’t eat after 7 pm if you want to lose weight

While there are no hard and fast rules about when to stop eating at night, some people get into a nightly routine of “mindless” eating in front of the television.  This bad habit can easily add up to several hundred extra calories.

Try this instead:

  • Limit any snack to 150 calories, to help avoid this night-eating trap.

MYTH:  Snacking is bad

Planned snacks between meals can be a great way to add healthful foods to your diet, and help you stay out of that “I’m starving!” zone. Extreme hunger actually causes your primitive “caveman” binge instinct to kick in.  This stimulates you to stock up on food at the next available opportunity.

What’s a better way to eat?

  • Studies show that smaller meals and snacks eaten every 3–4 hours throughout the day can help you stay ahead of hunger, and ultimately cut your calorie intake.

MYTH:  Fad diets work for long-term weight loss

Decades of evidence show that fad diets rarely work long term, because they’re too restrictive. They often require complete avoidance of certain foods, and have rules that are hard to follow.

So if fad diets don’t work, what does work?

  • Lifestyle changes that include watching fat and calorie intake
  • Portion control
  • Regular exercise