So much is said about losing weight that it can be hard to sort truth from fiction. Here’s the truth about 10 common weight-loss myths.
1. Starving myself is the best way to lose weight
Crash diets are unlikely to result in long-term weight loss. In fact, they can sometimes lead to longer term weight gain. The main problem is that this type of diet is too hard to maintain. Your body will be low on energy, causing you to crave high-fat and high-sugar foods. When you finally give in and eat those foods, you will often eat more calories than you need, causing weight gain. Learn more about a healthy diet in Eight tips for healthy eating.
2. A radical exercise regime is the only way to lose weight
Not true. Sensible weight loss involves making small changes that you can stick to for a long time. That means building regular physical activity into your daily routine. Adults between 19 and 64 should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity – such as fast walking or cycling -every week, and those who are overweight are likely to need more than this in order to lose weight. To shift 450g (1lb) a week, you need to create a calorie deficit – that is, more calories used than consumed – of 500 calories per day. This can be achieved by eating less, moving more, or, best of all, a combination of both.
3. Slimming pills are effective for long-term weight loss
No, they’re not. Slimming pills alone will not help you keep the weight off long term. They should only be used when prescribed by a doctor.
4. Healthy foods are more expensive
In fact, healthy foods are not necessarily more expensive than their unhealthy alternatives. You’ll typically pay more for a high-fat, high-salt ready meal than you would if you had bought fresh ingredients and made the meal yourself.
5. Foods labelled ‘low fat’ or ‘reduced fat’ are always a healthy choice
Be cautious. Foods labelled ‘low fat’ have to meet legal criteria to use that label. Labels such as ‘reduced fat’ do not have to meet the same criteria, and can be misleading. A reduced-fat snack should contain less fat than the full-fat version, but that doesn’t automatically make it a healthy choice: it could still contain a lot more fat than, say, a portion of fruit. Low-fat foods also sometimes contain high levels of sugar.
6. Margarine contains less fat than butter
Margarine and butter contain different types of fat. Margarine is usually lower in saturated fat than butter. But it’s more likely to contain hydrogenated fats. Hydrogenated fats, also called trans fats, may be more harmful to health than saturated fats. To lose weight, and for heart health, reduce the amount of saturated and hydrogenated fats you eat. If oil in margarine has been hydrogenated, this has to be listed on the ingredient listing on packaging, so check labels carefully.
7. Carbohydrates make you put on weight
Eaten in the right quantities, carbohydrates will not cause weight gain. A 2003 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that dieters on the best-known low-carb diet, the Atkins diet, tended to lose weight not because they ate fewer carbohydrates, but simply because they ate less overall. Eat wholegrain and wholemeal carbohydrates such as brown rice and wholemeal bread, and don’t fry starchy foods when trying to lose weight.
8. Cutting out all snacks can help you lose weight
Snacking isn’t the problem when trying to lose weight: it’s the type of snack. Many people need a snack in between meals to maintain energy levels, especially if they have an active lifestyle. Choose fruit or vegetables instead of crisps, chocolate and other snacks that are high in sugar or saturated fat.
9. Drinking water helps you lose weight
Water does not cause you to lose weight, but it does keep you hydrated, and might help you snack less. Water is essential for good health and wellbeing. Sometimes thirst can be mistaken for hunger; if you’re thirsty you may snack more. Drink around two litres of fluid a day.
10. Skipping meals is a good way to lose weight
Skipping meals is not a good idea. To lose weight and keep it off, you have to reduce the amount of calories you consume, or increase the calories you burn through exercise. But skipping meals altogether can result in tiredness and poor nutrition. You will also be more likely to snack on high-fat and high-sugar foods, which could result in weight gain.