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Debunking Weight-Loss Myths — Plus, What Really Works

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So you've decided to embark on a weight-loss journey. Naturally, you would prefer to see results sooner rather than later; maybe you have a big event coming up or a pair of pants you're trying to fit into by next week. Regardless, you want to lose a lot of weight and you want to lose it now.

We hate to break it to you, but shedding tons of pounds overnight is impossible. Sure, some people lose weight faster than others, and you can slim down in your sleep, but for the most part, losing weight requires some smart choices and usually lots of patience. Here are some of the biggest myths about rapid weight loss. And if you're just looking to begin your slim-down journey, don't be swayed by common misconceptions about shedding the pounds.

Weight-Loss Myths


Weight Loss Always Means Fat Loss

If you notice a sudden drop on the scale, especially overnight, you may be excited that you're losing weight so quickly. But that doesn't mean it's necessarily fat loss—it could be water weight. "[Water weight] is extra water that's hanging around the tissues, joints, and body cavities between cells," says Abbey Sharp, RD, owner of Abbey's Kitchen. It's a different weight from body fat; it's not linked to calories consumed or expended. An uptick in water weight could be because of eating too much sodium or a change in hormones and can quickly be lost through exercise or drinking enough water (which sounds counterintuitive, but it's true!).


You Can Target Trouble Spots

Maybe you're really concerned about the weight on your thighs, and want to slim them down asap. We have some bad news: you can't. Of course, you can lose weight overall by eating the right foods and incorporating some exercise, but there's no telling where that fat is going to be shed from. Each body is different, and it's impossible to target fat loss from specific body regions through diet. That being said, exercises can tone muscle, which may then translate into specific body parts looking slimmer. Check out these 30 Most Effective 30-Second Workout Moves to get a jumpstart.


Lose Weight Fast with a Juice Cleanse

Juice cleanses have been touted as a way to lose weight quickly and detox, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Although you may be getting a reduction in calories, you are also ingesting a lot of liquid sugar, which can spike blood sugar and cause weight gain. And depriving yourself is never a good idea.

"Your body goes into conservation mode because it doesn't know when its next meal is going to be," says nutritionist Ilyse Schapiro MS, RD, CDN. She reminds us that, even though cutting calories will lead to weight loss, going too low for too long can have the opposite effect. This just one thing that happens to your body on a juice cleanse.


Drastically Cut Calories to Lose Weight Quickly

Just like how going on a juice cleanse will deprive you of valuable calories and macronutrients, going on a super low-calorie crash diet will set you up for failure rather than helping you drop pounds. "Under-fueling is just as risky as over-fueling," explains Carolyn Brown, MS, RD. And Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN agrees: "In an attempt for quick, noticeable weight loss, many people wrongfully believe that eating as few calories as possible is the best solution. Not only can this lead to numerous nutritional deficiencies as the body is getting less food overall, but it can also have the opposite effect on weight loss." Instead of cutting calories, which can cause your body to lose muscle mass and decrease the rate of your metabolism, stick to a healthy daily caloric intake (usually that's around 1,200-1,800 calories, depending on your nutritional needs) and be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates.


Ditching Carbs Will Help You Slim Down Fast

Another crash diet people turn to when they are looking to lose weight fast is ditching carbs altogether. Carbs have been deemed the diet devil, and people (wrongfully) assume they lead to weight gain in any context. This is nutritionally false, according to dietitian Jim White, RD, ACSM, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios. Cutting out carbs altogether can actually make you gain weight because you're missing out on filling fiber, which has been proven to help you slim down.


You Can Exercise the Pounds Away

If you're thinking about slogging away on the treadmill for hours or hitting back-to-back spin classes in an effort to lose weight fast, you're just wasting your time—and overexerting yourself for no reason! Research has proved time and time again that while exercise can help boost weight loss, shedding pounds is primarily due to diet. Exercise accounts for very little of your total energy expenditure, and it's hard to create a significant calorie deficit through exercise. Since working out has a ton of health benefits not related to weight loss, keep hitting the gym, just don't overdo it.


You Can Sweat Out Fat

In an effort to cut weight fast, some people turn to steam rooms or saunas in an effort to "sweat it out." While you may notice the number on the scale change, you're only losing water weight. Your body can easily add that water weight back on after a salty meal or a glass of wine. Plus raising your body temperature for an extended period of time can be dangerous; be sure to consult your doctor before stepping into a sauna or steam room.


You'll See Results Immediately

You've done all the right things to lose weight: you've ditched junk food, loaded up on healthy produce and lean meats, and have been reading Eat This, Not That! for go-to nutrition advice and smart swaps. But you still haven't seen the scale budge. That's because everybody is different. Although some people like to boil weight loss down to a specific science of "calories in, calories out," the truth is that the human body is much more complicated than that. Each person has a different metabolism, set of hormones, environmental factors, and potential underlying health issues that could all play a role in how much weight he or she loses. So, seeing noticeable results could take time. That doesn't mean it won't happen; you just need to be consistent and patient while waiting for the scale to move. Don't expect to see immediate weight loss results the second you start eating healthy.


You'll Gain it All Back

An old weight-loss saying states the quicker you lose weight, the quicker you will gain it back. That's not always the case. Sure, when you lose a few pounds quickly due to water weight, that can easily come back on. But true weight loss is different for everybody. Some people lose weight fast with even simple changes and can keep it off if they are consistent. Don't think you're doomed if you have a particularly successful week (or two). Find out more ways to keep it off with our list of 20 Ways to Lose Weight Forever.


It's Better to Lose Weight Slowly

Conventional wisdom states that slow and steady wins the race, especially when it comes to weight loss. This isn't necessarily true. In a 2014 study, Australian researchers studied two groups of dieters: one on a 12-week rapid weight-loss program, and another on a 36-week gradual plan. After the dieters lost the weight, they were put on the same maintenance plan and both groups fared about the same in terms of regaining the weight. The study concluded that there's no advantage to losing weight slowly over quickly—both are equally effective.


Diet Pills or Surgery Are Your Only Options

Some people turn to dangerous diet pills or invasive surgery in an attempt for a "quick fix." The truth is, these methods can be risky and don't always translate tintoresults. Diet pills are at best ineffective and at worst harmful for your health: weight-loss pills like phentermine are typically stimulants and associated with such risks as disrupting your heart rhythm, raising your blood pressure, and even seizures. Weight-loss surgery, including gastric bypass or gastric sleeve, can be incredibly successful, but not everyone is a good candidate. And since they're still surgery, these procedures come with serious health risks like infection, blood clots, and lung or breathing problems. Plus, most candidates who get bariatric surgery regain the weight.

Bottom line: Unless prescribed or recommended by your doctor, don't rely on diet pills or bariatric surgery to lose weight quickly. You can find similar results with lifestyle modification, such as eating the right foods, drinking plenty of water, and getting some exercise.


It's Possible for Everyone

So you and your friend decided to embark on this weight-loss journey together: You both eat the same foods, get the same amount of exercise, and get the same hours of shut-eye each night. Yet she has lost 10 pounds in one week while you are struggling to get the scale to budge. It sucks, but it's totally normal. Again, so much goes into weight loss beyond calories in and calories out. Since everybody is different—with different metabolisms, hormones, and muscle mass—some people will find more success with certain diets while others won't. You could have one of those bodies that just takes more time to lose weight, and that's totally fine.


Cutting Gluten Guarantees Weight Loss

There are many reasons to cut gluten from your diet. If you have celiac disease, it should definitely go. If you're struggling with your thyroid or think you may have hypothyroidism, it may be worth giving a gluten-free lifestyle a try. But if your only reason for axing wheat from your diet is weight loss, you might as well keep stacking your sandwiches on your favorite sliced bread. Registered dietitian Isabel Smith tells us in 28 Weight Loss Rules You Can Cheat On that going gluten-free does not equal weight loss. "Instead, work on cutting out processed foods like sugary cereal and crackers. A diet rich in vegetables and free of processed fare can aid weight loss more effectively than simply trading in a gluten-filled food for gluten-free varieties." In other words, keep the gluten and add more fiber-rich veggies, and you're golden.


Tossing the Yolk Will Help You Slim Down

Egg whites are lower in calories than their yellow counterparts, but it's a common misconception that you should skip the yolk entirely. In fact, cutting it out too often is a bad idea, because without it you're missing some of the key fat-fighting nutrients such as choline.If you're counting calories, your best bet is to eat one yolk for every 2 to 3 eggs you consume. That way you can keep ordering those egg white omelets but also reap the benefits of these breakfast staples.


Drinking Alcohol Will Derail Your Diet

If you're trying to lose your gut, you definitely shouldn't be going shot for shot with your buddies on the weekends or cracking cold ones like you used to in the good ol' days. But watching your weight does not mean you have to cut alcohol entirely. We recommend sticking to no more than three drinks per week and avoiding calorie bombs like margaritas and sugary cocktails full of waist-widening syrups. Instead, stick to a classic vodka soda or a low-calorie beer like Michelob Ultra. See, we're not total buzzkills! (Pun definitely intended.) We know that drinking has its place, especially when there are surprising benefits in your glass.


Only Intense Workouts are Effective for Shedding Pounds

There's nothing like leaving the gym sweaty, panting, and knowing you'll be sore the next day. You feel fresh and accomplished, and for good reason. But your workout doesn't have to leave you red-faced for it to help you with your weight-loss goals. Working lower-intensity fitness into your weekly routine is just as important as that HIIT class you love because it lowers your body's level of cortisol, the stress hormone responsible for making you hungry and fat. A study in the journal Obesity even linked high levels of cortisol with fluctuating obesity. So make sure you're prioritizing weekly yoga just as much as you are those spin classes.


Zero-Calorie Sodas Are Better For You

Soda itself is the antithesis of weight loss. It's usually loaded with calories and sugar, full of unfamiliar ingredients, and has been shown to fuel metabolic diseases. Still, sometimes you crave the stuff with a burger or at the movies and have to give in. Zero-calorie and diet sodas exist for that reason, but claiming that they are better for you or healthier than regular soda is simply not true. While they may pack less of a punch in the calorie and sugar departments, the substitutes are almost worse. According to a study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, artificial sweeteners have been linked to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Long story short, skip the Coke and stick with one of these 12 Sodas that are Actually Healthy.


Cheat Days Are Okay

When you're on a diet, it's fine to slip up every now and again. Rewarding yourself is actually encouraged. But entire days dedicated to gorging on all the food you've been carefully avoiding can actually stall your weight loss. Instead of scheduling cheat days, stick with cheat meals or small treats that don't derail the progress you've made. Need help navigating the balance? Try letting one of these 10 Cheat Meal Strategies guide you.


Eating at Night Is a No-Go

Many people believe that eating early in the morning will jumpstart your metabolism or that eating late at night will widen your waist because it's already asleep, but this study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that's a false claim. Similar to other food myths, late-night snacking has been connected to weight loss because you're more likely to eat bad foods after hours out of convenience. Whole Foods isn't open past midnight, but that pizza joint down the street probably is. Snacking when the sun goes down is allowed, just make sure you're making healthy choices if you do.


You Must Stay Away From Fats

If being skinny and toned is your goal, staying away from foods that include lots of dietary fat seems to make sense. But not all fats are created equal. While you should definitely skip fast food and greasy atrocities that include tons of saturated or—even worse—trans fats, Isabel Smith, MS, RD, tells us to make sure that foods like nut butters and avocados are part of our daily diet. Healthy fats are "brilliant for brain and skin health, anti-inflammatory, and boost satiety and fuels weight loss. Things like nuts, nut butter, seeds, avocados, healthy oils and fatty fish are really satisfying, so you'll feel less hungry and take in fewer calories after you eat them."

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