There are so many weight loss myths out there that people take as fact, no wonder everyone has such a hard time sticking to a diet! Weight loss really is not as complicated as so many experts would have you believe.
You have to remember their motivation. A lot of these gurus want to make money off their diet plan. It’s fine. I get it, but that’s why it’s more important than ever to always always always do your research. A lot of their key metabolism boosting strategies are not necessary.
Here are some of my favorite myths:
Eating frequent, smaller meals helps you lose weight and boosts your metabolism.
Alright, let’s clear this up right now. Eating more meals in a day will not increase your metabolism. (source)
There was an 8 week study done where half of the participants were given 6 meals a day and the other half were given 3 meals, each group having the same amount of total calories consumed. At the end of the 8 weeks it was found that there was no significant difference in fat loss between the two groups. (source)
This weight loss myth started when people began to consider the thermal effect of food (TEF) which are the calories burned from your body digesting the food you ate. Every time you eat your metabolism increases a little to digest the food (because of TEF). So “experts” began to draw the conclusion that the more frequently you eat, the more frequently your metabolism increases. They then started suggesting more frequent, smaller meals.
The problem? TEF doesn’t work that way. It only burns a certain percentage of the number of calories your consume and then it’s done. So you eat 6 smaller meals to total 2000 calories a day or you eat 3 large meals totaling 2000 calories a day, your calories burned via TEF are going to be the same.
So, do what works for you. I’m a constant snacker; I eat small meals often. But, I track my macros to make sure I’m eating the right amount of food.
All calories are created equal.
Remember that TEF we mentioned earlier? The percentage of calories it burns while digesting the food you ate will change depending on the type of food you ate.
The “type” of food is divided into fats, carbs, and protein (macro nutrients). Protein for example, requires more energy to digest than consuming fat or carbs. Plus, protein can also keep you feeling fuller longer which can help you lower the total calories consumed in a day and lead to weight loss.
This is why simply counting calories is not the best diet method. If you are only consuming fats or just carbs, your metabolism will be slower than if you included protein.
Your body will only use a certain amount of protein per meal.
My husband used to believe this one. It was claimed that your body can only use 30 grams of protein at a time. Experts suggested that consuming more protein in one sitting would just go to waste; your body wouldn’t be able to use it.
Carbs make you fat.
Of course not. I went into detail on this topic last week. There are so many benefits to eating carbs. Focus on getting those carbs from whole grains, veggies and fruit. Think high fiber foods!
Recommended Read: Five Reasons to Eat More Carbs
Fasting puts your body in starvation mode.
Okay, this is one of those weight loss myths that is kind of true. A long term fast will lower your metabolism because it’s in “starvation mode.” Basically, your NEAT decreases.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re eating less, you’re more tired? Your body is trying to conserve energy. You’re now burning less calories in a day. You’re fidgeting less, you’re standing less; your body is conserving energy where it can.
If you immediately up your calories to repair your metabolism, chances are you will put on fat because your NEAT didn’t increase as dramatically as your caloric intake.
This isn’t obviously a long term weight loss solution, but if you need to do a short fast for religious reasons, etc don’t feel like it is going to be overly harmful to your RMR, because it’s not.
Fast food is off limits when trying to lose weight.
Good news! Because of increased health consciousness, most fast food restaurants offer healthier alternatives. Not everything is healthy, so be aware of the menu. You may have to customize some salads, wraps, etc and have them put the sauce on the side or get your burger in a lettuce bun instead, but when you don’t have a lot of time to spare these are decent alternatives.
Of course, it’s probably not going to be made with all organic ingredients or even the leanest of meat, but just avoid the fries & soda & it will probably be fine 😉
Supplements can help you lose weight.
There is no magic pill. Weight loss comes from burning more calories than you’re taking in. Period. Most supplements for weight loss have never been proven effective. Some supplements can help you lose weight, but we’re talking a few pounds at most spread out over the course of several months.
If you have a friend who claims otherwise, I’d check their eating/exercise habits to see if they changed something else up to help promote the weight loss. A lot of times people want the supplement to help them lose weight, so without even realizing it they are make healthier choices throughout the day and that is what really makes them shed those pounds!
Eating breakfast aids weight loss and is necessary.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it does not seem to aid weight loss (source). Although, studies have shown that there is a correlation between those who skip breakfast and those who are overweight, it is probably more due to the fact that when we skip breakfast we tend to be hungrier and more likely to reach for a quick, oftentimes unhealthy meal option. (source)
However, studies suggest that children & teens who eat breakfast are more likely to have higher test scores, better memory, and better school attendance (source).
Recommended Read: Healthy on-the-go Breakfast Ideas
Weight loss diets will help you lose weight.
Okay, the fitness industry makes millions off of fad diets. It is ridiculous. People want to believe that this fitness expert or celebrity has the big secret to weight loss. We want to believe that there are rules for when you should eat XYZ and how often. We buy into that all the time!
Think of the headline “10 sure fire ways to lose 10 pounds this week!” or “lose 30 pound in 30 days.” Some experts will even say to only have dairy in the morning or only have fruit during this time, etc. They make all these claims and it’s a gimmick. It’s a gimmick to sell products and make money. And you know what? It’s not sustainable. You may lose weight initially, but 85% of people will gain that weight back within a year! (source)
Why? Because following a set of rules for what to eat at what times is not realistic. Having a diet mindset is not realistic.
Wanna know how to lose weight? Here it is: eat the right amount of food. That’s it! It doesn’t matter if you get all your grains in at morning or at night, it doesn’t matter if you eat 6 small meals a day or just 3, it doesn’t even matter if you accidentally skipped a meal or two because you were busy at work & lost track of time.
The way to lose weight is to consume less calories than you’re burning.
Let us know some of the craziest weight loss myths you’ve heard in the comments below!
This was originally published in October 2016 and was updated March 2019.