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7 Common Weight Loss Myths ... Busted!

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Updated February 15, 2014

woman at scale

Having relatives with a weight problem doesn't guarantee that you're destined to be overweight, too.

Image: Clipart.com

Think you know your stuff when it comes to losing weight? These pesky myths seem to get the best of many of us. Let's set the record straight before they sabotage your weight-loss success.

The best way to lose weight is to avoid eating carbs.

Not exactly. The best way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories while enjoying a nutritious diet that includes a variety of foods. No one particular food group must be avoided to achieve a healthy weight as long as you keep your caloric intake in check. While it's smart to avoid refined carbohydrates as often as possible, foods like bread, rice, pasta, cereal, and fruit, can all be part of a healthful, balanced diet. Just try to pick complex carbs, such as whole grains and beans, over-processed foods (such as white bread) whenever possible.

Genetics ultimately determine your weight.

While research has shown that biological relatives tend to have a similar body weight, that doesn't seal your fate if your parents or grandparents are obese. Those with a family history of obesity may be more likely to gain weight than those with a slimmer family tree, but that doesn't mean a healthy diet and exercise are less effective for you. No matter what, the most important factors affecting your weight are how many calories you eat and how much physical activity you get. So don't use genetics as an excuse to give up.

It's OK to switch from diet to diet.

Well, you may have to go on (and off) a diet or two before you find the right one. That said, yo-yo dieting -- or, weight cycling (meaning you repeatedly lose and then gain back weight) -- definitely isn't a good idea. Weight cycling may lead to certain health issues, such as gallbladder problems, and it's also likely to cause you to feel depressed. Avoid "crash diets" that cause a sudden weight loss; a slow and steady loss of one to two pounds a week is much healthier and far more likely to be permanent.

Fat is to be avoided.

On the contrary, some fats can actually help you with your weight-loss efforts. Of course, eating too much fat overall is linked to disease risk, such as cancer, but we all actually need a little fat in our diets to be healthy. Fat helps the body to absorb important nutrients and to feel fuller longer, which will help you eat less. Trans fat and saturated fat should be avoided, but unsaturated fats are actually good for you. Enjoy foods like fish, nuts, and olive oil, and a fat "fix" can actually do your weight and your health good.

Skipping meals is a good way to cut calories.

Meal skipping can actually cause you to gain weight since it slows down your metabolism. In fact, meal skippers tend to weigh more than people who eat regular meals. This may be due to meal skippers' tendency to overeat later in the day to compensate for skipping breakfast or lunch. Rather than cutting out entire meals, shave off a few calories from each meal by controlling portions and finding lower-calorie alternatives to the high-calorie foods that you eat most often.

Switching to reduced-fat or fat-free foods is a sure-fire way to lose weight.

Not necessarily. Even if you have a pantry full of fat-free and low-fat foods -- such as salad dressing, crackers, and cookies -- that does not mean you can eat them to your heart's content. As with all other foods, portion control is the key to losing weight with reduced-fat foods. Even though light versions have less fat than their regular counterparts, they often have as many -- or more -- calories (some diet foods contain more sugar than the regular versions). Always read and compare nutrition labels when making selections.

Following a strict diet will speed up your metabolism.

You can't change your metabolism by following a particular diet plan; what will actually cause an increase in your metabolism is exercise. Following a too-strict diet can make exercising more difficult, if not impossible. In order to have energy to exercise, you must give your body the fuel it needs. Food is that fuel, and when you follow a fad diet that provides too few calories, you're simply not filling up your tank -- you will be too weak to exercise effectively and in the end, your metabolism will stall.

Sources:

National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Weight-control Information Network. WIN Publication - Weight loss and Nutrition Myths. 18 Nov 2007.

National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Weight-control Information Network. WIN Publication - Weight Cycling. 18 Nov 2007.

Centers for Disease Control/National Office of Public Health Genomics. Genomics Training Perspectives Knowing Obesity and Genetics. Feb 2002. 18 Nov 2007.

Harvard School of Public Health. Fats & Cholesterol: Nutrition Source, Harvard School of Public Health. 18 Nov 2007.

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