15 Weight Loss Myths and Truths

It's unsurprising to learn there are plenty of myths and gimmicks surrounding dieting.

So much so that losing weight can become something of a guessing game, with misinformed dieters having to wade through masses of information in an effort sort fact from fiction.

Need some clarity? Here's the lowdown on 15 weight loss myths ...

1. It's okay to fast occasionally – FALSE

Leptin is a hormone that signals the brain to store or burn fat, and is used by the body to regulate energy use through metabolism and appetite. Fasting or consuming too few calories on a regular basis can lower sensitivity to leptin, which leads to increased hunger, cravings and lack of energy.

Lack of proteins to repair and rebuild the tissues can lead to loss of lean muscle, resulting in a lowering of the metabolic rate, so your potential to store fat is greater.

Another concern is that research has shown intermittent eating causes spikes in insulin levels that could lead to insulin resistance and increased risk of diabetes.

Without a steady source of energy, concentration levels drop and there's a general feeling of fatigue.

Due to negative calorie balance, it may work in the short term, but in the longer term this is questionable as the body will go into starvation mode and begin to compensate.

2. Exercising in the morning on an empty stomach is a great way to shed fat – FALSE

This will actually work, as fasting (which is essentially what happens overnight as we sleep) leads to increased adrenalin and reduced insulin levels, creating an environment that is more conducive to the breakdown of fat for energy.

Those who exercise without eating beforehand burnt significantly more fat than those who had a pre-workout snack.

Before you set your alarm for an early morning jog before breakfast, be aware that not all experts are in agreement about this with some suggesting that with low blood sugar you could become dizzy and even uncoordinated, leading to an increased risk of injury.

It can also feel somewhat uncomfortable to exercise when you're feeling hungry and may even lead to you, subconsciously, eating more afterwards than you actually need.

3. Weight for weight, butter contains many more calories than margarine - FALSE

There's actually not a lot of difference ...

  • Butter is not bad, even though it contains saturated fats, it can increase HDL (the good cholesterol)
  • Margarine is not always better, unsaturated fats reduce LDL (the bad cholesterol) but trans fats can lower HDL
  • Many different brands of margarine are available. They can range from 100% fat e.g. olive oil to 5% fat e.g. very low fat spreads, and there is an immense range in between

Total fat intake should be moderated, particularly when trying to achieve body fat loss, so could you go without?

4. Brown bread is high in fibre – FALSE

  • Wholemeal bread is higher in fibre
  • Brown bread may be coloured
  • Some white breads have fibre added

5. To lose 1lb of body fat, you need to create a calorie deficit of 3500 kcal - TRUE

  • Total body weight is made up of different components e.g. water, glycogen, muscle, fat mass
  • Changes in any one or more of these components will affect total body weight (Atkins)
  • Fast weight changes are not predominantly fat losses
  • Dietary fat is more readily stored as body fat than either dietary protein or carbohydrate

6. The nutrient value of fresh vegetables is higher than that of frozen - FALSE

Possibly, but not always ...

  • Fresh vegetables as you buy them in the shops may be one or two days old
  • Frozen vegetables are picked and frozen within a few hours and offer more vitamins e.g. vitamin C, than the 'fresh' version
  • Frozen foods should be used within a certain period of time before they start to deteriorate – always place new foods behind or underneath existing stocks to ensure a good rotation of produce.

7. Snacks should be avoided - FALSE

  • Some snacks e.g. crisps, chocolate, doughnuts and ice cream, may contain a higher percentage of fat
  • Some snacks can be low in fat e.g. bananas, bread muffins, bread sticks
  • Snacks should not be considered 'bad' or 'good'
  • You may rely on energy from snacks when exercising regularly and/or time is limited

8. You should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day - TRUE

This is a minimum!

  • Does not need to be the whole fruit or a portion of vegetables per se
  • Eat in soups, desserts, pates, drinks, casseroles, stews, in salads etc
  • Carry fruit (fresh or dried) as snacks
  • Chop up vegetables for use with dips instead of corn chips
  • Seasonal fruit and vegetables are cheaper and often higher in nutrients
  • Buy tinned fruit for store, but avoid those packed in sugar syrup

9. You should never eat after 6.00pm - FALSE

  • No scientific research to support this
  • Better not to eat just prior to going to bed
  • Should eat after an exercise session e.g. train from 7.30 - 8.30pm, then need to eat afterwards to refuel glycogen levels
  • Avoid eating meals and snacks containing too much fat e.g. cheese and biscuits, takeaways, crisps and nuts. Better to eat pasta and tomato-based sauce, cereal and low fat milk, lentil soup and a roll

10. Diet shakes are a good choice for weight loss – TRUE

  • Can be effective, but generally whole foods provide a better balance of nutrients
  • Easy to more accurately monitor calorie intake
  • Studies show dieters using shakes felt more positive about weight loss
  • Convenient as remove need to shop for foods and prepare meals
  • Ideal solution for those who can't face breakfast

11. You must exercise in order to lose body fat - FALSE

  • To lose body fat you must create a calorie deficit
  • You can create that deficit by simply eating fewer calories. For example, sick people commonly lose body fat but they don't exercise. Similarly, injured athletes can also lose fat despite lack of exercise.
  • Including exercise in your weight loss efforts, however, will bring many additional health benefits, lead to you being toned rather than just thin and will ensure you maintain your new shape, avoiding the yo-yo so commonly associated with dieting.

12. The more you exercise, the more fat you lose – FALSE

Often, the more you exercise, the hungrier you get and so you might eat more.

Sometimes you believe you 'deserve' to eat more and, in some cases, you might just want to eat more as a reward for having survived the exercise session.

You have to eat according to your whole day's activity level, not according to how hard you've exercised that day. You may fail to lose fat because all of your energy goes into exercising, but then you might be quite sedentary the rest of the day as you recover from the tough workouts.

13. Couples who exercise together, lose fat together - FALSE

A man who exercises is likely to lose more weight than his female partner because he's likely heftier and thereby burns more calories during the same workout.

Mother Nature seems protective of women's role as child bearers, wanting women to maintain adequate body fat for nourishing healthy babies. Hence, women are more energy efficient.

A pound of weight loss in men equates to a deficit of about 2,500 calories, while women need a 3,500 calorie deficit. No wonder women have a tougher time losing weight then men do.

14. Everyone should take vitamin supplements - FALSE

Vitamins are not food but just help us to break it down so we do not need to take vitamin supplements if they are following a well-balanced diet
Vegetarians may benefit from taking a one-a-day multi-mineral/multi-vitamin supplement although better practice is to eat lots of fruits and vegetables that are low in fat and high in vitamins e.g. celery, mushrooms, grapefruit
Females may need to consider their iron and calcium intakes so it is wise to look towards eating foods that are high in these minerals e.g. leafy green vegetables, asparagus, beans
Vitamins do not provide energy, but they help the body to use the energy in food (B)
Just because some is good, more is not necessarily better!

15. My job doesn't help my weight loss efforts - TRUE

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis is the term used to describe everyday movements such as walking, standing, carrying and even fidgeting. The good news is that research has shown this can add up to expenditure of 350 calories per day, not far short of most workouts.

If you have a sedentary job, you won't burn as many calories in a day as someone who has an active job. You could eat and exercise exactly the same, therefore, but they are likely to lose weight more quickly.

Simple tactics such as cycling to the shops, taking the stairs rather than the lift, walking to talk face-to-face to your work colleagues rather than texting, etc, really will add up to make a difference.

For more information about weight loss, diet tips and exercise routines, please check out our Expert Zone for loads of handy health hints.

Featured Offers
Latest News
  • Latest awards...
  • TripAdvisor certificate of excellence 2017
  • Natural Health Magazine Highly Commended 2016
  • SpaFinder Wellness 2016
  • Good Spa Guide Five Bubbles
  • Spa Traveller - Best Wellness Spa UK 2015