Demystifying weight loss myths and misconceptions

Weight Management

by Daniel Steffy, MD

Apr 15, 2018

With spring here and summer just around the corner, it’s the time of year when many start thinking about shedding those holiday pounds. But when it comes to losing weight, there are quite a few myths and misconceptions.

As a physician, I believe the most important thing about losing weight is making sure you’re doing it in a healthy manner. Here are some myths we’d like to bust in order to keep you on a healthy path to weight loss.

1. “You need to exercise to lose weight.”

Ask ten people on the street, or even ten doctors, for strategies on weight loss and odds are you will be told to exercise. Although exercise has a number of health benefits, studies show its benefit in weight loss is modest at best.

What exercise does very well is to prevent weight regain after significant loss. It should be included in any comprehensive weight loss plan but not relied upon as a major driver of weight loss.

2. “It’s all about calories in and calories out.”

This misconception falls short for a number of reasons. The three biggest ones are emulsifiers, non-calorie artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup. These three ingredients have limited-to-no calories, yet have been proven to promote weight gain in a number of studies.

Despite this fact, they can be found in a variety of the most popular “weight loss” bars and food products at your local store. Be sure to read the nutrition labels to avoid these added ingredients.

3. “When you eat doesn’t matter. Calories are all the same.”

This misconception illustrates the difference between a fact and the truth. The calorie is a measure of energy, which does not change. This is a fact. But the truth is that our bodies process calories differently at different times of the day.

Our bodies operate by what is called a circadian rhythm. Studies show that when we consume foods later in the evening and night hours, it causes a greater rise in blood sugar and insulin, which means a larger portion of those calories will be stored as fat. This can be a major problem for busy, working folks who have little time for breakfast and often unwind with a large dinner followed by snacks into the evening.

Now that you know the truth behind these weight loss myths, take precautions when building out your weight loss plan. Consult with your physician beforehand to make sure you’re taking the right steps towards your goal.

Don’t have a primary care physician? Find one nearest you.

About the Author

Daniel Steffy, MD is a family medicine physician on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Clinic – Avery Ranch.

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