Health & Fitness

The Truth Behind 5 Common Dieting Myths

So what really works for weight loss – and what really doesn't?

For generations women have searched for the best ways to keep trim – from the waspish waists of the 50s through to the Jane Fonda workouts of the 80s.

But since the 90s, while weight loss tips, diet programmes and exercise classes have increased, our weight has also increased, waistlines expanded and health deteriorated.

We are bombarded daily with new – often contradictory – advice to get our bodies in shape. So, which ‘words of wisdom’ handed down over the decades can we still believe?

TLL talks to Dr Sally Norton, health and weight loss consultant surgeon, who debunks some of the most common myths.

Dieting is the best way to lose weight – FALSE

Unfortunately, research shows that dieting is highly unlikely to lead to long-term weight loss, with over 85% of people regaining all the weight they have lost, and more, by a year after the diet.

This can lead to harmful yo-yo dieting; instead, make a few changes to your lifestyle and eating habits that you can keep up for good.

You need a good breakfast – FALSE

A recent study confirmed that whether or not you have a good breakfast makes no difference to weight loss. Listen to your body – if you are having proper nutritious food, your body will tell you when it needs fuelling. If you focus on a bit of protein and avoid sugar and processed carbs then whether you breakfast on a quick snack or a feast is entirely up to you.

Eat regular snacks throughout the day – FALSE

Dieting folklore says that eating little and often reduces hunger and encourages you to burn more energy; however, our bodies weren’t built for constant snacking – particularly on the sort of food we eat nowadays.

You are better off trying to go without food for a few hours at a time – often we eat not from hunger, just from habit … we can ignore ‘hunger’ for a while without keeling over! Recent research revealed that women who ate two meals, or five of the same calorie content, showed no difference in the amount of energy they burnt off. Plus, eating more frequent meals can produce more signs of inflammation in the body (increasing risk of disease) than eating less frequently.

Exercise doesn’t really help weight loss – FALSE

Exercise does not lead to weight loss – if you believe an hour of exercise only burns off 200 calories’ worth of a 400-calorie doughnut.

But losing weight is about much more than just making sure that energy out is more than energy in …

Exercise also builds up muscle – which burns more energy in the longer term. If we are more muscular, we are more toned, have better posture and thus look slimmer. Looking good makes us feel better about ourselves, and if we feel fit and healthy we are more likely to make healthier choices, which promotes weight loss – a win-win situation!

Also, exercise, particularly in the cold, can increase the ‘fat-burning’ brown fat, more commonly found in people with a healthy weight; while aerobic exercise reduces the risk of developing tummy fat and metabolic syndrome (diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease).

What’s more, just getting some fresh air makes most of us feel happier and tops up our Vitamin D!

We should be stocking up on low-fat foods to lose weight – FALSE

Many fats are healthy in moderation – and yet we are tempted by low-fat yoghurts, ‘slimming’ ready-meals and processed spreads bulked up with sugar, salt or chemical nasties that provide little or no nutrition.

Butter, cheese, full-fat yoghurt, other dairy and animal fats and coconut oil are natural and seldom processed, unlike many low-fat alternatives.

Rather than low-fat, it is the low-carb high-fat diet that seems to be most successful – though long-term weight loss is no better with this diet than with any others that can’t be made part of your day-to-day life.

So try and focus on real food – avoiding anything processed wherever possible. You will automatically reduce your refined carbs, eat natural fats and proteins, bulk up with fruit and veg, and dramatically cut down your sugar intake. A great tip for lasting weight loss!

Share this post:

Receive our editor's picks weekly to your inbox