It’s easy to run into ridiculous weight loss myths on social media, where any person who once got a C in biology GCSE can call themselves a nutrition expert. But misconceptions about healthy weight management abound offline, too — making it tough to know what’s real and what’s not. And that’s a problem (and potentially dangerous) when you’re starting out on a weight loss journey.
To help you know fact from fiction, we decided to debunk five of the most prevalent weight loss myths. We’re backing up what we know from studies and science-backed recommendations so that you don’t have to do the research yourself. Hopefully this makes losing weight a little bit easier.
Myth #1: You have to stay hungry to lose weight
Generally, experts recommend that people trying to lose weight operate at a calorie deficit, meaning that they eat fewer calories than they burn through exercise. However, you don’t have to extremely restrict your calories to see results. In fact, extreme calorie restriction can actually slow your metabolism, cause muscle loss, and disrupt your gut microbiome. It also puts you at risk of weight cycling, meaning that you lose the weight and then gain it back once you stop the diet. (And weight cycling can have a huge impact on your heart health.) By not eating enough food, you’re also making it harder to give your body the energy and nutrients it needs to function properly.
Most experts recommend losing one to two pounds per week at most for truly sustainable weight loss. You can achieve this by cutting about 500 calories from your daily food intake. (So if you’re currently eating about 2,000 calories per day, you’d now eat 1500 per day.) Ease into that, and prioritize foods high in fibre and protein to help you stay fuller and satisfied on fewer calories.
Myth #2: Punishing your body at the gym gets results
Extreme dietary restrictions can backfire, and so too can extreme exercise regimens. Pushing yourself to workout with no rest days doesn’t allow your body to recover and heal itself. This puts you at risk of injury and can mess with your energy levels, mood, and performance. In fact, the harder you are on your body, the harder it will be to perform in the gym (and in life).
Instead, stick with a consistent exercise routine that allows for at least one or two rest days per week. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity plus two days of strength training. And mix up what kind of exercise you do to work different muscles, keep things interesting, and avoid overtraining.
Get Fitness Tips, Recipes and Workouts - for free
Sign up for our newsletter to receive amazing, expert-backed healthy-living advice - delivered straight to your inbox.
Myth #3: You can’t snack and lose weight
Afternoon snacks are one of life’s most delightful pleasures, and you don’t have to give that up just because you’re trying to lose weight. So long as you’re still hitting your calorie counts at the end of the day, there’s absolutely room for healthy snacks on a weight loss plan.
In general, you should look for snacks that are rich in filling fiber and protein, and low in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. This will ensure that the snack will keep you full to prevent overeating, and that it’s rich in nutrients. Try a handful of nuts with cheese or fruit, or sliced veggies dipped in hummus or guacamole.
That said, if you’re constantly hungry and snacks won’t cut it, that could be a sign you’re not eating enough at meal time, or that your meals are unbalanced. Take a look at what you’re putting on your plate to ensure you’re set up for success.
Looking for an on-the-go snack option? Our Protein Balls are packed with protein from peanuts and whey protein to keep you full and satisfied.
Myth #4: “Light” and “low-fat” products are best for weight loss
Diet products often are able to be low-calorie (and thus appealing to people trying to lose weight) by cutting out the fat. However, these products also tend to be higher in sugar than their non-diet counterparts—because if you’re taking out fat, you need to add in something else to make it taste good!
However, science has since learned that fat in food isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Even though it can be more calorie-dense than other macronutrients, fats are essential for digesting fat-soluble vitamins. They also are needed to make certain hormones and support cell function. And decades of research on low-fat diet also have shown that it’s more about the type of fat, not the amount eaten, that matters for weight and health.
The moral of the story: Don’t be afraid of fat, because there are tons of healthy fats out there that help you support your weight and health goals. For example, peanut butter is high in calories, but it is also high in nutrients and therefore can have a place in moderation in any diet.
However, foods made from refined carbohydrates (like white flour) often contain more sugar and less fiber, which can spike your blood sugar levels and don’t keep you as full for long, which might make you overeat. (Unless you pair them with protein- and fiber-rich foods to balance things out.)
But there is not much to complain about when it comes to whole grain products, vegetables, and fruit as carbohydrate suppliers. Complex carbohydrates, along with healthy fats and proteins, are the foundation of a balanced and healthy diet. Prioritize these when eating carbs and you’ll be set up for success.
We at foodspring use only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.