Weight Loss Myths Revealed

You can find weight loss advice at every turn -- but what's true and what's not? Find out if you've been holding on to tips that are nothing more than myths.
  • Weight Loss Myths: Revealed!

    Pick up a diet book, surf the Internet, or chat with a friend, and you'll get all kinds of ideas about how to lose weight. Knowing the facts can keep you on track to drop pounds and improve your health. If you're overweight and at risk for type 2 diabetes or already have it, losing a little extra weight -- even 10-15 pounds -- may help lower blood glucose and blood pressure as well as improve your cholesterol and triglycerides. That's a truth you can hang on to while you get the facts on these common weight loss beliefs.

  • Myth: Men are better at dieting than women

    Fact: "Men have greater amounts of lean body mass, including muscle, so they have a higher metabolism and burn more calories, even when they're resting," says Karen Miller-Kovach, M.S., R.D., author of She Loses, He Loses (John Wiley & Sons, 2007) and chief scientific officer of Weight Watchers International, Inc. "Men also tend to exercise more than women, which contributes to greater weight loss success." However, women often have other key advantages, including more nutrition knowledge and increased awareness of excess weight and emotional triggers for eating.

    The bottom line: For the best results, pair up. "Research has shown that when men and women, especially couples, work together to shed pounds, they are more successful in terms of losing weight and keeping it off compared to going it alone," Miller-Kovach says. "The different ways men and women approach weight loss complement one other."

  • Myth: Eating slowly can help you eat less food

    Fact: "How fast we eat hasn't been firmly shown to affect how much we eat, and research suggests it's tough for people to maintain a slower rate of eating over several months," says Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan (HarperCollins, 2007). "Although many say it can take about 15-20 minutes for you to sense that you're full, certain hormones and satiety signals take longer. Some research suggests it can take up to an hour or more for signs of fullness to peak."

    The bottom line: So what's the best pace? Rolls recommends eating at a rate that maximizes enjoyment of the food.

  • Myth: Drinking water before a meal helps fill you up so you eat less

    Fact: Although it's important to drink enough water, don't count on it to curb your appetite. In several studies at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., tested water's ability to satiate, or provide a feeling of fullness and satisfaction. She found that drinking water before a meal or with a meal didn't help people eat less at the meal.

    The bottom line: What can help is eating foods that contain a lot of water. "I've shown in several studies that eating a broth-base soup before a meal fills you up so you eat less of the main course," Rolls says.

  • Myth: Carbs are fattening

    Fact: "Most research has shown the opposite -- people who consume a greater proportion of their calories from carbohydrates are a little leaner on average," says Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D., coauthor of It's the Calories, Not the Carbs (Trafford Publishing, 2006) and professor of exercise physiology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

    Nonetheless, some people feel cutting back on carbs is a strategy that works for them, perhaps because portion sizes of some carbohydrate-rich foods, such as bagels and muffins, have increased substantially over the past few decades.

    The bottom line: "If you want to follow a lower-carbohydrate diet, discuss it with your health-care team first," says Sue McLaughlin, R.D., CDE, president-elect of Health Care and Education for the American Diabetes Association. "They'll help develop a meal plan for your specific needs and adjust your exercise regimen and dosages of diabetes medications to prevent low-blood-sugar episodes."

    Try these less than 1-carb choice recipes.

  • Myth: Eating late at night packs on the pounds

    Fact: Scientists have found that eating at night rather than during the day has little, if any, impact on weight. Recently, researchers at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland closely monitored female rhesus monkeys (excellent models for studying what happens in humans) all day, every day for a year -- that's pretty tough to do with people. "Monkeys who ate a greater proportion of their calories at night were no more likely to gain weight than those who consumed the majority of their calories before 7 p.m.," says Judy Cameron, Ph.D., professor of physiology at the school.

    The bottom line: If you like to nibble at night, keep your daily calories in check by planning a portion-controlled, sensible evening snack.

    Check out our yummy cake recipes.

  • Myth: You can only eat small amounts of food -- it's best to cut back everywhere

    Fact: Cutting portions of everything you eat could leave you feeling deprived -- and hungry. "The trick is to eat smaller portions of higher-calorie foods, like potato chips and nuts, but eat larger portions of lower-calorie foods, like [nonstarchy] vegetables," says Lisa Young, Ph.D., R.D., author of The Portion Teller Plan (Broadway Books, 2006), and adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University in New York City.

    The bottom line: Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., found in her research that eating a large salad with lots of veggies but not a lot of calories (100-150 maximum) makes you feel like you've eaten a lot and can help you minimize portions of higher-calorie foods at mealtime.

    Try our filling pasta recipes.

  • Myth: People who are overweight simply lack willpower

    Fact: "People who believe they don't have the willpower to lose weight are often in such a challenging environment that they'd have to be superheroes to resist temptation," Miller-Kovach says. "Instead of dwelling on shortfalls, spend your energy setting up your environment to make good choices -- like keeping cookies and chips out of the house."

    The bottom line: Judy Cameron, Ph.D., suggests arranging your environment in a way that gets you moving. "Many people are advised by their doctors to exercise more. But some people are naturally sedentary and have to think creatively how to do this -- such as storing items they need for the same activity far apart from each other," she says.

    Follow our 12 weight loss tips to keep you motivated.

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