Pick up any consumer magazine or health-related website and you’ll almost certainly see an article or two about how to lose weight. The drawback is not all of the weight loss advice you read online or hear from other people is backed by science. Plus, much of the weight loss advice you get isn’t practical or sustainable.
Just look at some of the previous dieting and weight loss fiascos. Remember the cabbage soup diet? Believe it not, one diet fad called the cotton ball diet made its rounds a few years ago. Advocates of this diet advocated soaking cotton balls in orange juice and eating them to reduce hunger. Not only would it not be effective, but it could also be dangerous! In fact, most extreme diet advice doesn’t hold up to scrutiny and is more likely to cause a nutritional deficiency than significant weight loss. Let’s look at some other less than scientific or practical weight loss advice.
Bad Weight Loss Tip #1: Eat a Low-Fat Diet to Lose Weight
Low-fat diets were popular two decades ago, but the popularity of this approach is dwindling. Fat isn’t the enemy! Your body needs a certain amount of dietary fat to make two essential fatty acids: linolenic acid and linoleic acid. Plus, fat aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and is important for brain health and healthy skin.
What about low-fat packaged foods? Manufacturers reduce the fat content of these offerings, so the calorie content is lower, but the lack of fat also makes the product less tasty and the texture less appealing. Therefore, manufacturers add fillers and sugar to boost the taste and texture. Low-fat products are also often high in refined carbohydrates, and that won’t help your waistline. In fact, refined carbohydrates cause insulin spikes that make it easier to gain weight and harder to lose it. Fat, because it slows gastric emptying, also has a satiety factor that make it more satisfying. Therefore, you might feel less satisfied and eat more if a food lacks fat.
Skip the packaged, low-fat products and eat more whole foods in their unaltered state. Choose healthy fat sources, like nuts, seeds, avocado, and wild-caught fish. Reduce the amount of sugar in your diet instead and don’t be fat-phobic.
Bad Weight Loss Tip #2: Exercise and You Won’t Have to Watch Your Diet
Exercise is an ally when it comes to weight control, as it helps prevent weight regain and it helps preserve muscle when you’re dieting. Yet studies show that exercise alone isn’t the best tool for losing weight and even the most consistent exercise plan by itself won’t lead to significant weight loss. One reason exercise alone falls short is because people tend to overestimate the calories they burn during a workout and eat more because they believe they burned off “X” calories. Plus, studies show exercise can have varying effects on appetite. Some types of exercise may increase appetite, for example, swimming.
Watch what you eat and be more active. Exercise will improve your health and body composition but it’s not a license to overindulge. You still need to make smart dietary selections. Be sure you have a balanced workout program too. Aerobic exercise burns more calories, but resistance training builds metabolically active muscle and that helps with weight control long term.
Bad Weight Loss Tip #3: Count Calories Obsessively
Obsessive calorie counting can do more harm than good. In fact, tracking calories can trigger eating disorders for some people. If you focus too much on calories over nutrients, you run the risk of nutritional deficiencies. Food is more than just energy in the form of calories. It’s also a source of vitamins and minerals your body needs to function its best. Food isn’t something to fear, but calorie counting can make it seem like it is. The composition of the calories you take in can have differing effects on hormones that control hunger and metabolism. For example, eating 300 calories of broccoli impacts your body and body weight differently than 300 calories of brownies.
Rather than eating less, focus on making what you eat high quality and nutrient-rich. Choose more nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables and lean protein sources. Skip sugar and refined carbohydrates that offer your body little in terms of nutrition and make what you eat count!
Bad Weight Loss Tip #4: A Ketogenic Diet is the Key to Weight Loss
One of the newest diet fads is a very low-carb ketogenic diet. Ketogenic diets reduce carbs to the point that your body breaks down fat to produce ketone bodies. The purpose of making ketone bodies from fat is to supply the brain with energy. When you first start a ketogenic diet, you usually eat only 20 grams of carbs daily for a few weeks and then switch to 50 grams of carbs during the maintenance phase. To make up the difference you consume large quantities of fat and moderate protein.
Does it work? Weight loss is faster initially with a ketogenic diet, but some of the weight loss is due to loss of fluid and glycogen from your muscles. Most studies show that the weight loss isn’t significantly greater after a year on a ketogenic diet than it is with a more balanced, weight loss diet that’s higher in carbs. Plus, ketogenic diets can have side effects. Some people experience flu-like symptoms during the week on such a carb-restricted diet. This usually lessens after a few weeks, but some people don’t feel their best even after their body adapts. Plus, we don’t yet know what the long-term health effects are of a ketogenic diet.
Focus on upgrading the quality of the carbohydrates you eat rather than drastically reducing them. Skip the refined carbs and sugar and choose more fiber-rich sources of carbohydrates from sources such as non-starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Bad Weight Loss Tip #5: Detox Can Help You Lose Weight
Detox diets are designed to “cleanse” the body and help with weight loss. These diet plans are often restrictive and involve drinking only liquids or sipping a special dietary concoction that is supposed to remove impurities from your body. People who use this approach are often gratified by the initial weight loss, but the weight they shed is often fluid and glycogen. Plus, if you buy a commercial detox product, you don’t know whether the ingredients are safe. Your liver and kidneys are your best detox organs. Keeping them healthy is the key to removing impurities that a detox cleanses supposedly do.
Skip the detox plans and eat a balanced, healthy nutrient-rich diet. If you eat healthy most of the time it supports the health of your liver and kidneys, and they help your body detox naturally.
The Bottom Line?
Ignore bad diet advice and tips! As tantalizing as it might seem, there’s no fast track to weight loss.
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 110, Issue 3, September 2019, Pages 540-541, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqz070.
- HealthLine.com. “4 Ways the Cotton Ball Diet Could Kill You”
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss”
- ClinicalCorrelations.org. “Diet vs. Exercise: Which is Superior for Weight Loss?”