The 10 Biggest Myths About Weight Loss You Need to Stop Believing

Making a decision to lose weight takes commitment and perseverance. Don't let these common weight-loss misconceptions sabotage your plans.

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Eating after 6 p.m. leads to weight gain

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While late-night eating has been linked to weight gain, putting a cut-off time on eating doesn't ensure diet success. In reality, putting restrictions on when you cannot eat doesn't align with modern lifestyles as many people don't get home from work early enough to follow time restrictions, explains Susan Kraus, clinical dietitian at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. "The problem lies in what and how much you eat," says Kraus. "After a tough day at work, people tend to reward themselves with food or they may have not eaten well during the day and feel they have to make up for it." The best strategy for eating at the end of the day is to plan ahead and be aware of how much you are eating in the evening. Having a healthy snack later in the day can help curb your appetite and prevent overeating at dinner while eating small, nutrient-rich meals rather than large mixed meals before bed has been shown to be beneficial, helping with morning metabolism and satiety. Find out some of our favorite healthy snacks.

Fat-free and low-fat foods are better for weight loss than those that have fat

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Many people look at the word fat-free on the label and think that it means fewer calories, says Grace Derocha, a registered dietitian at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. "But often fat-free foods have more calories." When you take the fat out of any processed food item, because of food science, you usually have to fill it with other ingredients, and those other ingredients are usually sugar, sugar alcohols, sugar substitutes, or sodium, she explains. It's important to read the labels and look for healthier choices at the supermarket. While the American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to no more than five to six percent of total calories (that's about 11 to 13 grams of fat per day based on a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet), cutting the fat by eating low-fat foods with high-sugar content has been shown to cause weight gain, liver damage, and brain inflammation. You also need to be aware of foods labeled "sugar free," says Derocha. "Sugar-free foods are not necessarily carbohydrate free."

Eating too many carbs will make me fat

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Eating too many carbs may cause weight gain, says Derocha, but the weight gain would be due to consuming too many extra calories, not from the carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are an important food source for healthy nutrition—they fuel our bodies, she says. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends that carbohydrates make up 45 to 65 percent of the calories in our daily diet. Fruits, whole grains, brown rice, oatmeal, beans, nuts, and quinoa are all foods rich in carbohydrates yet none of these foods will cause weight gain on their own, says Derocha. But that doesn't mean you should eat as many carbs as you like; here are the subtle signals you're eating too many carbs.

Skipping breakfast will help me lose weight

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If you are not a breakfast person, you shouldn't force yourself to eat, but skipping meals will catch up with you later on, says Kraus. "Some people feel they can justify having a larger meal later on because they have skipped breakfast, but when you skip meals, it causes stress—you think more about food, you go into 'diet mode,' and that sets up a cascade of negative feelings." Worse, research shows that skipping breakfast has many effects on your body and can actually lead to weight gain and elevate your cholesterol levels. "Skipping breakfast can decrease your caloric intake for the day, but in the long run, it can slow down your metabolism, " says Derocha. "You don't want to slow down your metabolism by putting your body in starvation mode—it confuses the body." Find out the eight things that happen to your body when you skip breakfast.

No treats allowed

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When you start restricting yourself from certain foods, you become more likely to binge eat on those foods that you tried to go without, says Derocha. "It's important to have a good relationship with foods and to practice being patient and kind to your body," she says. "I tell my clients that it takes more than one treat or meal to make you overweight, just like it takes more than one workout to make you fit." Kraus uses a stoplight analogy with her patients. Green foods are the "go" foods, manufactured foods such as cheese are the yellow or "caution" foods, and treats are the red foods. "You can have one, but stop and think about it before you do rather than not have it." Consider these delicious nutritionist-recommended treats next time you have a sugar craving.

A gluten-free diet will help me lose weight

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If you have celiac disease or are allergic to wheat or gluten, then a gluten-free diet may be medically necessary, says Kraus. "But I do not recommend a gluten-free diet if it is not necessary because it is restrictive." There are health risks associated with going gluten-free including an increase in type 2 diabetes. Naturally gluten-free foods such as legumes, vegetables, and fruits are part of a healthy diet, but people often buy gluten-free cookies and muffins because they think they are healthier than traditional foods, says Kraus. "Gluten-free foods can have the same or more calories, and they also may contain more fat or sugar, added to make the food more palatable." Wheat products, which contain the protein gluten, can be beneficial for weight loss because they have more fiber, says Derocha. "This fiber digests slowly to keep us full longer, while also aiding the system as a prebiotic (carbohydrates that cannot be digested) to help keep us regular and rid the body of waste," she says.

I have a slow metabolism, so I can't lose weight

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True, if you have a slower metabolism, then it will be more difficult to lose weight, but there are a variety of ways to boost your metabolism, says Derocha. Exercising regularly and consistently fueling your body with healthy foods are two ways to increase your metabolism, she says. "Think of including both cardiovascular and resistance training exercise in your normal workout routine—for every pound of muscle you gain, you are able to burn 50 more calories per day." Don't miss the 13 things experts won't tell you about weight loss.

Cleansing is the best way to rid my body of toxins and jump-start a diet

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While the cleansing and detox diets are all the rage, they do not help with weight loss over the long-term, says Derocha. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, there isn't any convincing evidence that detox or cleansing programs actually remove toxins from your body or improve your health. Practicing these types of diets can cause health problems such as electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, hunger pains, and headaches. "You do not need to do a juice cleanse/detox to help rid your body of certain toxins because our body has natural ways to detox—we have kidneys, a liver, and other organs," says Derocha. While cleansing diets may be popular with celebrities, Derocha says consistency is the key to long-term weight loss. "I like to ask my clients 'if a diet works, then why are you on a new one every year or every other month?'" These are the 50 things you doctor wishes you knew about losing weight.

Dietary supplements are a quick way to lose weight

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Dietary supplements come in many forms—pills, powder, liquids, and bars—and contain a variety of natural and manufactured ingredients. While approximately 15 percent of the adults in the United States have used some form of weight-loss dietary supplement, they are not a long-term solution for weight loss, says Derocha, because they play a part in yo-yo dieting, which has been proven to increase the risk for cardiometabolic disease. Using diet supplements creates false weight loss and increases your chances of gaining the weight back as opposed to being consistent and living a healthy lifestyle, she says. According to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, dietary supplement firms do not need FDA approval before they start marketing their products. While it is the company's responsibility to ensure its products are safe, seeing them on store shelves does not mean that they are. The FDA has reported that some weight-loss products have been associated with increased blood pressure, heart palpitations, stroke, seizure, and death. "Many supplements contain ingredients that give you the feeling of a caffeine boost, which can be bad for your heart, make you jittery, and cause sleeplessness, says Derocha. "And lack of sleep can increase cortisol or sustain cortisol, a hormone in the body that may increase weight or sustain abdominal fat."

All I need to do to lose weight is exercise more

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Hitting the gym for a tough workout seems like a great way to burn a lot of calories and lose weight, but at the end of the day, the reality comes down to simple math—you have to burn more calories than you eat if you want to shed the pounds. Physical activity is great for your mental and physical health—it helps lower your risk for many diseases—but when it comes to weight loss, research shows that caloric restriction is more likely to result in clinically significant weight loss than exercise alone. "When it comes to weight loss, healthy living and consistency will help you accomplish your health and wellness goals," says Derocha. Want to step up your exercise routine a notch? These workouts burn the most calories.

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