Weight Loss: Sorting Through Truth and Fiction

Reviewed Jan 3, 2017

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Summary

  • See someone qualified in the health field for practical, personal strategies for safe weight loss.
  • Eat a diet that is well balanced between carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. 

All carbs. No carbs. All protein. Little protein. Grapefruit. Cabbage soup. Nothing after 6 p.m. Or is it 7 p.m.—maybe 8?

If you are trying to lose weight, you may have come across contradicting theories and more information than you care to sort through. If you want to lose weight, the first place you should turn is to your doctor or a registered dietitian. Someone qualified in the health field is your best bet for practical, personal strategies for safe weight loss. In the meantime, consider some of the common myths and popular practices below, as well as the truth about them.

Restrictions

Many weight loss myths center on restrictive themes:

Myth: Eat a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet for healthy weight loss.
Truth: High-protein diets can be very unhealthy, potentially causing kidney and other problems. You need a diet that is well balanced between carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
 
Myth: Skip breakfast and lunch to lose weight.
Truth: Severely low calorie diets do not lead to permanent weight loss. Your body needs calories throughout the day for energy. Starving the body may ultimately disrupt your metabolism and lead to weight gain in the long run.
 
Myth: Don’t eat anything after a certain time in the evening.
Truth: Your concern is the total number of calories you eat in an entire day. People who have lost weight by closing up the kitchen at a certain time of night simply reduced their total calories by doing so.
 
Myth: Avoid all fatty foods.
Truth: Not all fats are the same. Foods low in saturated fat (nuts, peanut butter, olive oil) are healthy and can be included, in reasonable amounts, in a weight loss program. Dairy products also must be included in your diet to supply calcium, protein and vitamin D. Choose low-fat dairy products to reduce calories.

Bottom line: Yes, you have to reduce calories to lose weight. But you should not eliminate healthy food groups, skip meals, nor should your caloric reduction be severe.

Fads and “magic” foods

Instead of or in addition to restrictions, some “experts” would have you add a miracle product or special “fat burning” food to lose weight:

Myth: Eat grapefruit or some other food after meals to burn more fat and calories from those meals.
Truth: Adding grapefruit to your plate simply adds a healthy low-calorie choice that helps fill you up and keep you from eating more of other foods.
 
Myth: As long as it’s low or nonfat, eat all you want to.
Truth: Low and nonfat foods still have calories. The number of calories you eat is the primary influence on your weight. Although reducing fat in your diet is healthy and may lead to weight loss, you must still be mindful of the total number of calories you are eating.
 
Myth: Over-the-counter and herbal weight loss supplements are all safe and effective.
Truth: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration likely hasn’t tested that herbal product you’re thinking about trying. How does it work? What are the risks? Ask your doctor about any over-the-counter weight loss product you are considering. It may interact with medications you are currently taking.

Popular slogans

As if the various fad diets and restrictive strategies aren’t enough to confuse you, you hear or read all sorts of slogans, claims, and testimonials. Can you really lose 10 pounds in 10 days and keep it off? Sure you can—if you can maintain such a restrictive diet for the rest of your life.

For the best health, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that you limit your weight loss to one to two pounds a week. Look at the source of your weight loss: Are you willing to commit to the program indefinitely?

Myth: You can “spot reduce” or lose fat in specific areas with special creams, belts, etc.
Truth: You must reduce or burn calories overall, losing fat in your whole body, to lose inches anywhere. (The exception is liposuction surgery.)
 
Myth: You can eat whatever you want to and not gain weight as long as you exercise regularly.
Truth: This is a tricky one. For some individuals, this seems to be true. In general, a person who wants to lose weight and keep it off needs to exercise for at least 150 moderate intensity minutes per week as well as monitor his diet.

Tips for success

So what can you do to lose weight safely and permanently? Remember your very first step: Ask your doctor or registered dietitian for advice. It’s possible that your particular health concerns may indicate special attention to how much sugar or cholesterol you get in your diet. Your doctor might also need to determine what amount and intensity of exercise is safest for you.

The following suggestions are likely to meet with your doctor’s approval, but be sure to ask:

  • Eat a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, as recommended in the USDA MyPlate plan. (See www.choosemyplate.gov)
  • Read nutrition labels. Know the fat and calorie content of foods you eat, paying special attention to how much of each food is considered a serving.
  • Become aware of the portion sizes of what you eat. Where can you realistically cut back calories, even if just a bit? One pound is comprised of about 3,500 calories. Could you trim off 300 to 500 calories a day?
  • Drink water instead of diet sodas.
  • Allow the occasional treat—pizza, ice cream, etc.—but be moderate.
  • Learn to recognize genuine hunger. Are you really hungry or just bored? If it isn’t time for a meal and you think you are hungry, try drinking a tall glass of water and waiting 15 minutes. The urge may pass.
  • Exercise five times a week for at least 30 minutes, if your doctor approves. A brisk walk burns significant calories.

Perhaps the best advice, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is to make healthy eating your goal. Focusing on appearance, a clothing size or pounds on the scale may lead to restrictive dieting and temporary weight loss. Striving to take an active role by adopting a healthy eating style and exercise habits may not only improve your health, but also lead to weight loss.

Resources

Weight-control Information Network
http://win.niddk.nih.gov
 
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
www.eatright.org
By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • See someone qualified in the health field for practical, personal strategies for safe weight loss.
  • Eat a diet that is well balanced between carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. 

All carbs. No carbs. All protein. Little protein. Grapefruit. Cabbage soup. Nothing after 6 p.m. Or is it 7 p.m.—maybe 8?

If you are trying to lose weight, you may have come across contradicting theories and more information than you care to sort through. If you want to lose weight, the first place you should turn is to your doctor or a registered dietitian. Someone qualified in the health field is your best bet for practical, personal strategies for safe weight loss. In the meantime, consider some of the common myths and popular practices below, as well as the truth about them.

Restrictions

Many weight loss myths center on restrictive themes:

Myth: Eat a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet for healthy weight loss.
Truth: High-protein diets can be very unhealthy, potentially causing kidney and other problems. You need a diet that is well balanced between carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
 
Myth: Skip breakfast and lunch to lose weight.
Truth: Severely low calorie diets do not lead to permanent weight loss. Your body needs calories throughout the day for energy. Starving the body may ultimately disrupt your metabolism and lead to weight gain in the long run.
 
Myth: Don’t eat anything after a certain time in the evening.
Truth: Your concern is the total number of calories you eat in an entire day. People who have lost weight by closing up the kitchen at a certain time of night simply reduced their total calories by doing so.
 
Myth: Avoid all fatty foods.
Truth: Not all fats are the same. Foods low in saturated fat (nuts, peanut butter, olive oil) are healthy and can be included, in reasonable amounts, in a weight loss program. Dairy products also must be included in your diet to supply calcium, protein and vitamin D. Choose low-fat dairy products to reduce calories.

Bottom line: Yes, you have to reduce calories to lose weight. But you should not eliminate healthy food groups, skip meals, nor should your caloric reduction be severe.

Fads and “magic” foods

Instead of or in addition to restrictions, some “experts” would have you add a miracle product or special “fat burning” food to lose weight:

Myth: Eat grapefruit or some other food after meals to burn more fat and calories from those meals.
Truth: Adding grapefruit to your plate simply adds a healthy low-calorie choice that helps fill you up and keep you from eating more of other foods.
 
Myth: As long as it’s low or nonfat, eat all you want to.
Truth: Low and nonfat foods still have calories. The number of calories you eat is the primary influence on your weight. Although reducing fat in your diet is healthy and may lead to weight loss, you must still be mindful of the total number of calories you are eating.
 
Myth: Over-the-counter and herbal weight loss supplements are all safe and effective.
Truth: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration likely hasn’t tested that herbal product you’re thinking about trying. How does it work? What are the risks? Ask your doctor about any over-the-counter weight loss product you are considering. It may interact with medications you are currently taking.

Popular slogans

As if the various fad diets and restrictive strategies aren’t enough to confuse you, you hear or read all sorts of slogans, claims, and testimonials. Can you really lose 10 pounds in 10 days and keep it off? Sure you can—if you can maintain such a restrictive diet for the rest of your life.

For the best health, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that you limit your weight loss to one to two pounds a week. Look at the source of your weight loss: Are you willing to commit to the program indefinitely?

Myth: You can “spot reduce” or lose fat in specific areas with special creams, belts, etc.
Truth: You must reduce or burn calories overall, losing fat in your whole body, to lose inches anywhere. (The exception is liposuction surgery.)
 
Myth: You can eat whatever you want to and not gain weight as long as you exercise regularly.
Truth: This is a tricky one. For some individuals, this seems to be true. In general, a person who wants to lose weight and keep it off needs to exercise for at least 150 moderate intensity minutes per week as well as monitor his diet.

Tips for success

So what can you do to lose weight safely and permanently? Remember your very first step: Ask your doctor or registered dietitian for advice. It’s possible that your particular health concerns may indicate special attention to how much sugar or cholesterol you get in your diet. Your doctor might also need to determine what amount and intensity of exercise is safest for you.

The following suggestions are likely to meet with your doctor’s approval, but be sure to ask:

  • Eat a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, as recommended in the USDA MyPlate plan. (See www.choosemyplate.gov)
  • Read nutrition labels. Know the fat and calorie content of foods you eat, paying special attention to how much of each food is considered a serving.
  • Become aware of the portion sizes of what you eat. Where can you realistically cut back calories, even if just a bit? One pound is comprised of about 3,500 calories. Could you trim off 300 to 500 calories a day?
  • Drink water instead of diet sodas.
  • Allow the occasional treat—pizza, ice cream, etc.—but be moderate.
  • Learn to recognize genuine hunger. Are you really hungry or just bored? If it isn’t time for a meal and you think you are hungry, try drinking a tall glass of water and waiting 15 minutes. The urge may pass.
  • Exercise five times a week for at least 30 minutes, if your doctor approves. A brisk walk burns significant calories.

Perhaps the best advice, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is to make healthy eating your goal. Focusing on appearance, a clothing size or pounds on the scale may lead to restrictive dieting and temporary weight loss. Striving to take an active role by adopting a healthy eating style and exercise habits may not only improve your health, but also lead to weight loss.

Resources

Weight-control Information Network
http://win.niddk.nih.gov
 
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
www.eatright.org
By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • See someone qualified in the health field for practical, personal strategies for safe weight loss.
  • Eat a diet that is well balanced between carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. 

All carbs. No carbs. All protein. Little protein. Grapefruit. Cabbage soup. Nothing after 6 p.m. Or is it 7 p.m.—maybe 8?

If you are trying to lose weight, you may have come across contradicting theories and more information than you care to sort through. If you want to lose weight, the first place you should turn is to your doctor or a registered dietitian. Someone qualified in the health field is your best bet for practical, personal strategies for safe weight loss. In the meantime, consider some of the common myths and popular practices below, as well as the truth about them.

Restrictions

Many weight loss myths center on restrictive themes:

Myth: Eat a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet for healthy weight loss.
Truth: High-protein diets can be very unhealthy, potentially causing kidney and other problems. You need a diet that is well balanced between carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
 
Myth: Skip breakfast and lunch to lose weight.
Truth: Severely low calorie diets do not lead to permanent weight loss. Your body needs calories throughout the day for energy. Starving the body may ultimately disrupt your metabolism and lead to weight gain in the long run.
 
Myth: Don’t eat anything after a certain time in the evening.
Truth: Your concern is the total number of calories you eat in an entire day. People who have lost weight by closing up the kitchen at a certain time of night simply reduced their total calories by doing so.
 
Myth: Avoid all fatty foods.
Truth: Not all fats are the same. Foods low in saturated fat (nuts, peanut butter, olive oil) are healthy and can be included, in reasonable amounts, in a weight loss program. Dairy products also must be included in your diet to supply calcium, protein and vitamin D. Choose low-fat dairy products to reduce calories.

Bottom line: Yes, you have to reduce calories to lose weight. But you should not eliminate healthy food groups, skip meals, nor should your caloric reduction be severe.

Fads and “magic” foods

Instead of or in addition to restrictions, some “experts” would have you add a miracle product or special “fat burning” food to lose weight:

Myth: Eat grapefruit or some other food after meals to burn more fat and calories from those meals.
Truth: Adding grapefruit to your plate simply adds a healthy low-calorie choice that helps fill you up and keep you from eating more of other foods.
 
Myth: As long as it’s low or nonfat, eat all you want to.
Truth: Low and nonfat foods still have calories. The number of calories you eat is the primary influence on your weight. Although reducing fat in your diet is healthy and may lead to weight loss, you must still be mindful of the total number of calories you are eating.
 
Myth: Over-the-counter and herbal weight loss supplements are all safe and effective.
Truth: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration likely hasn’t tested that herbal product you’re thinking about trying. How does it work? What are the risks? Ask your doctor about any over-the-counter weight loss product you are considering. It may interact with medications you are currently taking.

Popular slogans

As if the various fad diets and restrictive strategies aren’t enough to confuse you, you hear or read all sorts of slogans, claims, and testimonials. Can you really lose 10 pounds in 10 days and keep it off? Sure you can—if you can maintain such a restrictive diet for the rest of your life.

For the best health, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that you limit your weight loss to one to two pounds a week. Look at the source of your weight loss: Are you willing to commit to the program indefinitely?

Myth: You can “spot reduce” or lose fat in specific areas with special creams, belts, etc.
Truth: You must reduce or burn calories overall, losing fat in your whole body, to lose inches anywhere. (The exception is liposuction surgery.)
 
Myth: You can eat whatever you want to and not gain weight as long as you exercise regularly.
Truth: This is a tricky one. For some individuals, this seems to be true. In general, a person who wants to lose weight and keep it off needs to exercise for at least 150 moderate intensity minutes per week as well as monitor his diet.

Tips for success

So what can you do to lose weight safely and permanently? Remember your very first step: Ask your doctor or registered dietitian for advice. It’s possible that your particular health concerns may indicate special attention to how much sugar or cholesterol you get in your diet. Your doctor might also need to determine what amount and intensity of exercise is safest for you.

The following suggestions are likely to meet with your doctor’s approval, but be sure to ask:

  • Eat a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, as recommended in the USDA MyPlate plan. (See www.choosemyplate.gov)
  • Read nutrition labels. Know the fat and calorie content of foods you eat, paying special attention to how much of each food is considered a serving.
  • Become aware of the portion sizes of what you eat. Where can you realistically cut back calories, even if just a bit? One pound is comprised of about 3,500 calories. Could you trim off 300 to 500 calories a day?
  • Drink water instead of diet sodas.
  • Allow the occasional treat—pizza, ice cream, etc.—but be moderate.
  • Learn to recognize genuine hunger. Are you really hungry or just bored? If it isn’t time for a meal and you think you are hungry, try drinking a tall glass of water and waiting 15 minutes. The urge may pass.
  • Exercise five times a week for at least 30 minutes, if your doctor approves. A brisk walk burns significant calories.

Perhaps the best advice, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is to make healthy eating your goal. Focusing on appearance, a clothing size or pounds on the scale may lead to restrictive dieting and temporary weight loss. Striving to take an active role by adopting a healthy eating style and exercise habits may not only improve your health, but also lead to weight loss.

Resources

Weight-control Information Network
http://win.niddk.nih.gov
 
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
www.eatright.org
By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

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