Health experts debunk the most commonly believed weight loss myths.
1. Don’t lose weight quickly
Many experts have chided that losing weight too fast means you won’t keep off the pounds over time.
“Yet it’s not true,” says David Allison, PhD, director of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).
“In clinical trials, rapid initial weight loss is associated with lower body mass long-term.”
For example, a University of Florida study compared people who lost weight quickly (one and a half pounds a week for the first month), slowly (half a pound a week), and moderately (somewhere between these two amounts).
Participants in the fast–weight-loss group lost more weight overall and were five times more likely to have kept it off 18 months later than those in the slow group.
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2. Slow and steady isn’t the only option
Drastically cutting calories or doing some crazy cayenne-pepper-and-cardboard diet isn’t healthy, of course.
But slow and steady isn’t the only option.
“Some people get more motivated when they lose a lot of weight right off the bat,” Allison says.
Do what works for you.
Just don’t dip below about 1,200 calories a day (men may need more).
3. Always eat breakfast
Researchers discovered scant evidence of trials that have tested whether breakfast helps people lose weight.
The few that did found that skipping it has little or no effect.
A 2002 study of people in the National Weight Control Registry (a database of more than 10,000 people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for a year or more) found that 78 percent of successful dieters regularly have a morning meal.
Experts have interpreted this to mean that breakfast helps the formerly overweight stay slim, but the research doesn’t show that.
“The only way to prove that is to have a bunch of men and women skip breakfast and see if they gain weight,” says David Levitsky, PhD, a professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
But when he and his colleague recently did just that, the results were quite surprising.
They found that people who skipped breakfast wound up eating an average of 450 fewer calories by the end of the day than when they ate breakfast.