Even if you consider yourself to be in decent shape, there are moments when everyone wishes they could lose a little bit here and there. Your main focus of exercising and eating well shouldn’t be targeted directly toward weight loss. However, it’s important not to listen to every tip you hear if you’ve packed on a few pounds and want to get rid of them. As the experts explain, there’s plenty of advice lingering around—from your grandma to Body Mass Index calculators to Google. Not all of it is effective in helping you drop weight and maintain the loss. Here, the pros dispel common weight loss myths.
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You have to give up [insert carbs, alcohol, gluten, dessert].
If you meet anyone on the eve of their new diet, you’ll probably find them downing as many carbs and sweets as they can stomach. It’s a common belief that to shed weight, you have to completely omit anything fatty or carby from your diet. But registered dietitian and professor Keith-Thomas Ayoob, Ed.D., R.D., F.A.N.D., says this extreme approach is often ineffective because it puts “bad” and “good” labels on every food choice.
Instead, he says to consider how much and how often you eat at certain items—because hey, no one can give up their favorite food forever. More so, creating guilt around eating will ensure your self-confidence takes a hit, too. But, calories do count to an extent when you’re trying to lose weight so pay attention. To still enjoy what you eat but in a healthy way, set yourself up for success by creating boundaries. “Love ice cream? Don’t eat all four servings in the container. Purchase the individual-serving size, and enjoy it if you’ve balanced other calories ahead of time to accommodate the calories,” Ayoob recommends.
Do a crash diet to bring a lifestyle change.
Many people turn to crash diets to quickly arrive at their goal size and weight. But chief culinary officer and health expert Ken Immer, C.C.H.E., says it’s not a smart idea to attempt to accelerate weight loss if you intend to keep it off. The most basic reason it doesn’t work is because of sustainability and habit formation, he explains—both require a gentler touch.
“The best way to achieve a lifestyle change that includes big weight loss is to start off really slow and easy, without a lot of ‘quick results.’ This may not sound as attractive, but if it is long-term effects that we want, the latest studies about dieting show that, regardless of the diet trend people choose, the groups that lost the most weight are simply the [diets] that people managed to follow the longest,” he says. This is why you should start slow and make manageable changes to your eating habits that you can easily adapt. You’ll not only lose weight, but you’ll also keep it off.
You can lose weight without exercising.
Technically speaking, Ayoob says sure, you could lose weight if you don’t implement a fitness routine. But why would you want to? As he explains, you would eventually shed the pounds, but it would take an extended amount of time, and you’d have to severely limit your caloric intake. In addition to speeding up the weight loss process, Ayoob says there are countless other health benefits of exercise. “It is very heart-healthy, reduces bad cholesterol and raises good cholesterol, lowers triglycerides and can help manage blood glucose levels, and helps reduce the risk for bone loss,” he says.
The best reason to be active? As Ayoob says, because you can! “I’ve worked for many years with people of all ages with special health care needs, many of whom cannot and never will leave a wheelchair. Weight loss efforts for them are horrendously difficult. Be glad you can take the stairs—they’d give anything to do that,” he continues.
Willpower is the key to success.
As Immer puts it, willpower is exhausting—and no one has enough. It may seem like withholding and staying strong against temptation is the answer. But Immer says people who have lost the most weight don’t credit it to sheer strength. Instead, he says they acknowledge and accept their weaknesses—and find ways to make them healthy. “Preferences don’t exist in a vacuum. If we expect one to ‘go away,’ we need to replace it with something. It’s important to develop a new habit or preference. The idea is that instead of ‘taking away’ a habit or preference, we focus on the new thing,” he continues. “We have a hard time letting go of old [things]. By changing tactics, we have seen people make long-term changes that keep them happy and, best of all, deliver long-term results.”
Here’s an example: If you really don’t want to work out, you should experiment to find a type of fitness that gets you excited. The more options you test out, the better chance you have of sticking to a routine.
Only one thing will make you lose weight.
We hate to break it to you, but there’s no magical, one-stop cure-all for weight loss. Immer says that too often, people believe they’ll instantly lose weight if they make a specific shift—whether it’s not having dairy or not eating past 7 p.m. He says those are too obvious, and the answer is usually a combination of factors. “There is likely a ‘low-hanging fruit’ in your life that could be a great place to start and give you a great feeling of early success, which you can then use to keep you going, creating a powerful inertia of change. Don’t get tunnel vision. Instead, start with an open mind,” he explains.
If you’re struggling to figure out your body’s reactions, speak with your doctor or a health professional who can guide you in the right direction.