Weight loss myths: busted
Set clear goals. Slow and steady is the best way to approach weight loss. Burn more calories via sex and breastfeeding is the best way to protect against obesity later in life. These are just some of the health based recommendations frequently given by weight loss experts as many seek the elusive goal of weight loss.
A controversial response to some of these commonly held beliefs was recently published in one of the most powerful medical journals in the world, The New England Journal of Medicine which for the first time has scientifically questioned some of these commonly preached weight loss rules, finding that some may not hold much truth at all.
In real life terms, the good news is that this means certain limitations to weight loss as so often preached by weight loss experts may not be a barrier to success at all.
Small changes in energy expenditure and calorie intake will result in long term weight changes.
Cut out a couple of hundred calories, or walk for an extra 30 minutes a day and over several weeks, months or even years you will lose one half to a kilogram of weight each week – true? No, while we are often given the calculations for losing a kilogram or more of fat tissue, as you do start to reduce calories changes to metabolic rate mean that weight loss is not continuous, and hence why weight loss involves an ongoing series of changes to calorie intake and exercise type and intensity to see continual weight loss over a period of time.
Weight loss goals must be realistic
In order to establish and commit to a sustainable weight loss regime, we have always been told that your weight loss goals should be realistic – no, there is no evidence for this. In fact, there are a number of studies which actually show that human beings do better when it comes to goal attainment when they set ambitious goals. Sure, at some point we need to be realistic and not be expected to do something humanly impossible such as losing 50kg in 6 weeks, but pushing the boundaries and going hard with your weight loss plans may not be such a bad idea after all.
Rapid weight loss is associated with poorer long term weight loss outcomes
One of the most commonly cited recommendations when it comes to weight loss is that it is much better to lose weight slowly and keep it off than to engage in programs which encourage quick weight loss which is often regained quickly. Perhaps in some circumstances, but the truth is that there is no evidence to show that losing weight quickly means that you will regain it. In fact, there is evidence to show that those who lose reasonable amounts of weight quickly are more likely to reach their long term weight loss goals and lose more weight in total than those who lose weight more slowly.
You must be ready to lose weight to be successful.
Again, even though it makes sense, when it comes to looking at the evidence there are no studies which conclusively show that those who are “more ready” do any better than those who are not “as ready” – put simply, when you are ready you are ready – there does not appear to be much in between.
Physical education helps to prevent obesity
One of the frequently proposed strategies to help prevent and manage childhood obesity is to suggest they participate in more activity to school and yet two major studies have shown that school based programs that promoted more activity did not have any significant impact on the weight status of children participating in them.
Breastfeeding is protective against obesity
While breastfeeding infants has numerous benefits for the child and mother alike, being protective against obesity does not appear to be one of them. Despite much emotion surrounding the role of breastfeeding in promoting a healthy weight in children long term, there is no conductive evidence to show that breastfed babies have a lower BMI than bottle fed babies.
Sex burns a lot of calories
Now, we would like this one to be true, but unless you are spending several hours pumping it out, the calorie burn is likely to be minimal. In fact, with the average sexual encounter being just 6 minutes long, you are likely to burn more calories trying to get the sex than you actually burn doing it – but then, there are always exceptions.
Snacking contributes to weight gain
Some people need or like to snack, others maybe not but when it comes to weight control, there is no association between snacking and weight status, it appears to be completely determined by an individual’s regulatory processes around their own food intake and weight.
You need to eat less to lose weight
Initially, sure you may need to eat fewer calories but as the muscle becomes more efficient at burning energy, there will be times when you may need to eat more to continue to lose weight, even if it goes against every weight loss belief that you have.
You need to eat low carbohydrates after 2pm to maximize fat loss
Sure, reducing the carbohydrate content of the diet helps to reduce calorie intake and supports weight loss, for many this will mean simply going lighter at night rather than ditching the carboyhdrates completely. In fact, lowering the carboyhdrates too much can actually reduce metabolic rate long term and make weight loss even harder.
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