10-weight-loss-myths-busted-vivala
photo: iStock

Losing weight seems to be one of the hardest things in the world. Thanks to the overwhelming number of fad diets, monthly workout challenges, and crazy cleanses, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s true and false. We have to unlearn most of what we know about weight loss, and go back to basics. Which is why we spoke to a couple of our trusted experts to help bust these weight loss myths once and for all. 

1

Myth: You’ve become a slave to the scale

It’s easy to get hooked on the scale when you are trying to lose weight, but the truth is that it isn’t the best way to keep track of your progress. “The scale can vary up to five pounds in a single day, which can be discouraging,” explains Tory Tedrow, dietitian for the app ContentChecked. “True weight loss or gain will be apparent if clothes are getting tighter or looser,” she says.

However weighing yourself can be beneficial — depending on your goals. 

“Someone looking to lose weight may find the scale useful — however, if someone is athletic and looking to change their composition, the scale won’t help them as much,” says Lauren Antonnuci sports dietitian and director of Nutrition Energy. Instead of becoming hooked on numbers, whether it’s the scale, or your body measurements, it is best to observe how you feel. 

2

Myth: You need to eliminate carbs (or another food group) to lose weight

With so many diets out there telling you to not eat gluten, carbs, and everything else in between, it’s easy to obsess over “good” and “bad” foods. “I believe we should treat all foods equally,” says Antonucci. But she points out that because it's so easy to overdo it, most people tend to overdo it on carbs or fats — which is why they're deemed “bad,” and the culprits of our weight gain. 

However, ALL nutrients are necessary to keep our bodies healthy. “We need carbs for energy, fats for hormone production, protein to build muscle, but what is most important when eating all of these macronutrients is practicing portion control,” she explains. In addition, Tedrow reminds us of the risks of not eating these foods. “Eliminating certain foods or food groups puts you at risk for vitamin or mineral deficiencies, since specific foods tend to be high in similar vitamins and minerals.”

3

Myth: Cardio is best for weight loss

When it comes to exercise, it’s easy to assume that straight up running is the way to go. However, cardio can only take you so far during your weight loss journey, and that’s where strength training comes in. “Strength training not only keeps your bones strong, and helps with the prevention of osteoporosis later in life, but it also increases muscle mass, which in turn increases your basal metabolic rate (BMR), or the number of calories your body burns at rest,” explains Tedrow. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that the sooner you get into strength training the better, because after the age of 30 we all start to lose muscle mass . “Women NEED to strength train to maintain muscle mass to keep their metabolism in check, which will allow them to maintain a healthy weight,” adds Antonucci.

4

Myth: Counting calories is the best way to lose weight

While cutting back on calories will help you lose weight, it isn’t necessarily the best approach. “If you are someone who needs numbers to keep track of your daily calorie intake, it’s perfectly fine to do so — unless you become unhealthily obsessed with it,” says Antonucci. She says that calorie counting can lead to a disordered view on one’s body and eating habits. “My personal and professional motto has always been ‘Don’t count calories, make calories count,’ and focus on whole and nutrient-dense foods,” explains Tedrow. 

So if you're eating healthy foods (fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains), you are already on the right track. And if you are counting calories, it’s important that you go no lower than 1,800 calories a day. "Anything below this makes it hard to have adequate vitamin and mineral consumption and is usually very low in fat, which can disrupt normal hormone function,” warns Tedrow.

5

Myth: You can out-exercise a bad diet

Sorry to break it to you, but every brunch splurge or late-night taco binge cannot be “fixed” with a severe workout. “People tend to vastly overestimate the number of calories they burn exercising, and underestimate the number of calories they take in,” points out Tedrow. Calories add up quicker than we think, not to mention the fact that certain activities (i.e. HIIT training, running etc.) actually makes you hungrier. This mindset also sets up working out as "punishment" for "bad" eating — which is nonsense. All that does is make you less likely to exercise regularly.

6

Myth: You shouldn’t eat after 7 pm

Another myth centers around the specific times you should be eating. “Nothing happens metabolically after 7 P.M. that makes you more susceptible to weight gain,” says Antonucci. Tedrow agrees, and says, “Setting ending times for eating can be unhealthy, as it teaches us to ignore our hunger signals and base eating on a clock versus how hungry we actually are.” She claims the reasoning behind this myth started because of people who have problems controlling their snacking habits in the evening when they’re tired, emotional, or bored.

7

Myth: Losing weight quickly is effective

In a world where we want instant gratification, most people turn to cleanses, detoxes, or diets that guarantee instantaneous weight loss. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst strategies to approach any weight loss journey because it can really backfire on you. “Unless you get liposuction, a five-pound weight loss in one day is due to water fluctuations, not fat loss,” Tedrow reminds us. Losing weight slowly is the only healthy way to lose fat, but that’s not the only reason slow and steady beats the race.

“If you lose weight quickly, this also means a high percentage of muscle loss, which will slow down your metabolism, and make it harder for you lose any weight you gain back after going back to your normal diet,” says Antonucci. In addition, this type of crash-dieting only sets you up to binge eat, which will make you gain back the weight you lost.

8

Myth: You need to work out every day at high intensity

Some people say they don’t feel like they had a good workout unless they break a sweat, but not all workouts need to be high intensity. It’s important to mix up your workouts throughout the week, not just for weight loss, but for your overall well-being. “Low intensity exercises are great because you can do them for longer and they do not increase your hunger like a high intensity exercise would,” says Tedrow. Lower intensity workouts like walking, yoga, or stretching can also serve as great stress relievers. 

Rest days are also necessary to help your muscles recover from any high intensity workouts that you do. When you exercise, little tears occur in the muscles, and making sure you recover on rest days is key to keep them growing back stronger each time. “Rest days are vital for this process and also help prevent overuse injuries, which are common in people who suddenly go from being very sedentary to exercising daily without allowing the body to adjust to the sudden increase in activity,” explains Tedrow.

9

Myth: Spot training is the key to toning up the body

Sorry, but all of those 30-day squat challenges have been tricking us for years. The truth is there is NO such thing as spot training, or doing effective exercises that focus on one body part. "The problem is so many women believe that spot training is effective, and only end up training small muscle groups,” says Antonucci. This makes exercising a waste of time because nothing physically changes. Instead the key is to work the BIGGER muscles we have to get a more effective workout. 

“In order to change the way your body looks you need to increase muscle and decrease fat mass, which is best done through full body exercises,” says Tedrow. And fitness is only one part of your weight loss journey. “How your body looks is mainly based on your diet, so regardless of how many sit-ups you do or hours you spend in the gym, you will not see results unless you follow a healthy diet that focuses on whole foods and is high in fiber, healthy fats, and protein,“ concludes Tedrow.

10

Myth: Sugars and fats are bad for you

Sugar has received a bad rap in the recent years and while not all of the versions out there are bad for you, some need to be clarified. “Certain foods naturally contain sugar, such as fruit, which contains fructose, and dairy products, which contain lactose. These are fine to consume in moderation,” explains Tedrow. However, the ones we SHOULD be limiting or avoiding are refined sugars like table sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Other names these sugars go by are HFCS, agave, sweetener, cane juice, fruit juice, syrup, dextrin, dextrose, honey, and glucose. 

Alongside sugar, fats have also been put down time and time again. Fats are vital in hormone production, keeping us full, and improves the way our food tastes. The healthiest fats are monounsaturated fats (found in avocados, nuts, and seeds), and polyunsaturated fats (found in fatty fishes such as salmon.) The fats we should be avoiding are trans fats, which are man-made, and found in processed foods.