There is an overwhelming amount of information and advice online about how to lose weight. Combine that with millions of products and services available to help you drop those extra pounds, including fad diets, pills, shakes, exercise equipment, and more. Unfortunately, not all such products and methods are effective or safe. In fact, some work against your efforts to lose weight. The same goes for weight loss wisdom. Much of it is not supported by science. In fact, some popular weight loss advice is downright bad. Here are some to be aware of.
Bad Weight Loss Tip #1: Don’t Eat Carbohydrates
Low-carb diets, including extremely low-carb ketogenic diets, are skyrocketing in popularity. In theory, restricting carbohydrates will cause your liver and muscle glycogen stores to decrease, forcing your body to use fat as fuel. But such an approach is impractical and unsustainable and doesn’t lead to more weight loss long-term than a more balanced diet.
You may lose more weight initially on a low-carb diet, but much of the weight loss is water weight. Plus, your body produces ketones to use as a substitute fuel source for glucose, and you can experience side effects like ketone breath. Some people even experience flu-like symptoms when they first adopt a very low-carb diet.
Another issue with low-carbohydrate diets is that they lack essential vitamins and minerals. Unprocessed carbohydrates contain many vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium. These vitamins are abundant in fruits and vegetables. Very low-carb diets limit fruits and vegetables except for leafy greens and small amounts of berries. How balanced is that?
Bad Weight Loss Tip #2: Run as Often as You Can
Another piece of weight-loss advice is doing hours of cardiovascular exercise each week, like running. Cardio exercise in moderation can help you lose weight, but you’ll get even more benefits if you add strength training to your fitness routine. Strength training helps you maintain a healthy body composition by preserving muscle mass when you lose weight. Otherwise, you could lose more muscle than fat. When you strength train, focus on compound exercises that work more than one muscle group at a time, like deadlifts, squats, lunges, dips, and push-ups for the most benefits. Compound movements burn more calories than exercises that work only a single muscle group and will improve your physique more than running.
Bad Weight Loss Tip #3: Eat Every 3 Hours to Keep Your Metabolism from Slowing
“Eating every three hours” is the latest iteration of an old idea: you can lose weight by eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. Added to this is the disproved idea that your body burns significantly more calories when digesting food, so eating more often forces your body to burn more calories as it must digest more often. The idea is if you eat more frequently, you burn more calories than when you eat less often.
The problem with this theory is that science does not back it. Research shows there’s no metabolic advantage in spreading out your calories over a day and the extra calories you burn digesting more meals is small. In fact, some studies suggest eating frequent meals makes it harder to lose weight because you end up eating more at each meal. So why do we keep hearing about “grazing”? It’s an idea that needs to be discarded forever.
Bad Weight Loss Tip #4: Go Low Fat or Fat-Free
For several decades, low-fat or fat-free foods were heavily promoted. The thinking behind it was that if you ate less fat, you’ll lose weight faster and maintain a healthy weight easier.
Since then, we have learned that fat-free diets can be harmful, because they replace fat calories with simple carbs and/or sugar, leading to weight gain, diabetes, and other health problems. Studies have shown that eating healthy fats may prove beneficial for your heart and overall health if they’re not accompanied by an excess of sugars and carbohydrates.
The food industry has figured out how to make low-fat or fat-free foods taste good by adding sugar and carbohydrates. Not only does this mean you’ll end up eating more calories from these sweetened foods, but the added sugar may also increase your appetite and cause you to gain even more weight.
If you’ve ever been on a diet, you’ve probably heard your doctor, nutritionist, or trainer tell you to eat low fat. But not all fats are created equal, and some fats help people lose weight by increasing satiety. Plus, eliminating all fat from your diet is unhealthy and can lead to nutrient deficiencies. You need fat, for example, to absorb fat-soluble nutrients.
If you’re hungry all the time, try adding good fats such as avocado, nuts, and seeds to your plate. Cook with olive or avocado oil with its heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. These good fats will satisfy your hunger, keep you feeling full for hours, and help you lose weight.
Bad Weight Loss Tip #5: Eat Whatever You Want if You Don’t Consume Too Many Calories
Telling people to eat whatever they want, if they don’t consume too many calories, is bad advice for obvious reasons. A food’s composition affects factors like insulin sensitivity and metabolism that influence appetite and body weight. Eating food high in sugar or ultra-processed carbohydrates will cause insulin surges that increase your body’s tendency to store fat. It’ll also lead to blood sugar fluctuations that cause fatigue and hunger.
Researchers are discovering that sugar is addictive for some people, so you’re feeding an addiction when you abide by the idea of eating what you want, as long as you don’t consume too many calories. Diet quality matters.
The Bottom Line
Don’t fall for every piece of diet and weight loss advice you get. The best diet isn’t a diet; it’s making nutrient-dense food choices and eating them mindfully. Combine that with exercise, quality sleep, and stress management, and you have a recipe for weight loss success.
- Masood W, Annamaraju P, Uppaluri KR. Ketogenic Diet. [Updated 2021 Aug 22]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/
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