Weight Loss Misconceptions
5 Myths Debunked by a Dietitian
Published November 2021
"Lose 10 pounds in a month!"
"Learn five weight-loss tricks!"
"Shed pounds fast!"
We're so inundated by advertisements for weight loss programs, tips and products that it's easy to lose track of what's real and what's fake on the quest to lose weight.
Northwestern Medicine Bariatric Dietitian Audra Wilson, MS, RD, CSOWM, LDN, CSCS, shares four common misconceptions about weight loss.
Myth No. 1: Once you start, you'll keep losing weight.
"Weight loss takes time," Wilson explains. "You can expect more substantial loss at the beginning of your lifestyle change and then increasing difficulty with weight loss as you get closer to your goal weight."
Some weeks you might not lose any weight at all — and that is perfectly fine. Weight loss can be challenging, frustrating and even a lifelong endeavor. In fact, Wilson says it might be best that your goal is not based solely on a number on the scale.
"Think of the things that you couldn't do before that now come easily, like taking a walk without stopping to rest or climbing the stairs without pain," she says. "The scale may move intermittently, but try to focus on the positive changes that you see and feel in yourself."
Myth No. 2: Obesity is not genetic.
Some people do have genetic syndromes that lead to obesity, such as Prader-Willi Syndrome.
Other people have genes that can be turned on or off depending on their environment, which can also lead to obesity.
"While obesity does have a strong correlation with genetics, those genetics are not necessarily determinants," Wilson says. "You have the ability to positively influence your health in many ways, and a healthy diet and lifestyle can help to prevent chronic disease and improve quality of life."
Myth No. 3: Fad diets work
"Fad diets work for many people — but not for long," Wilson explains. "As soon as you go off of that fad diet, the pounds pile back on."
These diets are rarely sustainable for longer than a few months. They also often have convoluted rules and requirements that can end up costing you extra money.
The tried and true, but not all that exciting, method of eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly is the way to lose weight and keep it off, Wilson says. This needs to come in the form of a lifestyle change.
Myth No. 4: Your diet doesn't matter as long as you just exercise more.
"You can't outrun a bad diet," Wilson explains. "Exercise should create a calorie deficit, and sometimes people feel the need to reward their physical activity with a few extra calories."
Doing this negates the calories burned with exercise and results in no weight loss or even some weight gain.
Additionally, you might not burn as many calories during exercise as you think. Your device or fitness tracker may tell you that you burned 800 calories with a 45-minute workout, but the reality is that you have most likely burned less than that. So, Wilson says to use those numbers as a comparative tool rather than as an exact measurement.
Myth No. 5: You can eat as much healthy food as you want.
If you're eating too much food, it doesn't matter how healthy it is. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important, but it's possible to overeat even the healthiest foods, like vegetables.
"When we are trying to lose weight, reducing calories is key," Wilson says. "Healthy foods, like all foods, contain calories, and eating too much of any nutrient will only result in storage of that excess energy as fat."
Finding a weight loss plan that works for you will take trial and error, and it is key to know the truth about what is happening in your body when you lose weight. If you need help getting started, see a specialist to develop a plan that is best for you and your health.