Most people think they know what they need to do to lose weight.
But it might surprise you to learn that most of what you think you know will actually make your weight problem worse.
In this blog, we look at the most common weight loss myths and explain why this approach doesn’t work.
Myth #1 – Create a calorie deficit
One of the first things people do when they want to lose weight is create a calorie deficit because the diet industry has told us that to lose weight, we need to burn more calories than we consume. While we do need a calorie deficit to lose weight, the optimal deficit is a lot smaller than you think. Most people don’t understand this and so end up eating less food than their body needs. And on top of that, they usually add in exercise in an effort to burn more calories, believing that the bigger the calorie deficit, the quicker the weight loss.
However, creating large calorie deficits either through under eating, overexercising or both just doesn’t work. It actually has the opposite effect and leads to overeating, increased stress, poor mood, compromised metabolism and weight gain. We explain this in more detail in our blog Why calorie deficit leads to weight gain.
Another reason people gain weight by taking this approach is that they just aren’t eating enough food, which causes them to consume more food (in the form of emotional or binge eating) to compensate. This eating usually occurs in the middle of the afternoon when energy levels slump, or between dinner and bedtime. However, the person trying to lose weight will go to bed believing they haven’t eaten that much because they only think of the small amounts of food they ate during the day, unaware that they consumed more calories through their binge. This is what we refer to as a weight loss ‘blind spot’ and explains why so many people who restrict their food, don’t lose weight and don’t understand why they don’t. You can read more about these in our blog Well known, little understood weight loss blind spots.
Myth #2 — Restrict food
Closely related to calorie deficits is the approach of restricting food. This approach sees people either restricting the amount and type of food they eat, cutting out food groups or even fasting. The problem with this approach is that it inevitably leads to binge eating. For a while, you can use willpower to say ‘no’ to food. Eventually however, your willpower wears thin and you can no longer ‘stay strong’. In the meantime, your body has a physiological response that is designed to prevent you from starving to death. This means that your appetite increases and you start craving food, usually those high in calories.
Eating is like a clock pendulum that swings from side to side. Typical dieting behaviour is to restrict your food in an attempt to control your calorie intake and lose weight. This causes the pendulum to swing hard to one side. But a pendulum can’t swing one way without coming back to the other side, so when this happens, you binge. Because you’ve binged, you end up restricting food even more to make up for the binge, but this causes an even bigger binge and then you’re caught in a vicious circle that not only plays with your emotions, but causes you to consume a lot more calories than you would if you didn’t restrict your food. We explain this in further detail in our blog Why food restriction, food rules and diets are making you overweight.
Myth #3 – Cut out carbs
Carbs seems to be public enemy #1 when it comes to weight loss, which is why so many peope cut them out when going on a diet. However, cutting carbs is not the answer. The way to build a body that burns fat is to feed it optimal nutrition so it can work properly. One of the key food groups that our body needs to work properly are carbohydrates! While you might lose weight by cutting carbs, the weight you lose is likely to be fluid, not fat. In addition, restricting carbs can cause a host of problems that can make it more difficult to lose weight in the long term. You can find out more in our blog Why low-carb or no-carb diets are the problem – NOT the carbs.
Myth #4 — Cutting out food groups
Diets often tell you to cut out particular foods or even complete food groups. But the truth is that whatever you cut out in order to lose weight, you’ll need to continue to cut out to maintain your weight. That means if you cut out alcohol, or ice-cream or chocolate for example, you’ll need to steer clear of these foods forever in order to keep the weight off, because you’ll never learn how to incorporate them into your lifestyle. To find out more about making room for your favourite foods be sure to read our blog Forget diets and food rules: Try this weight loss tip instead. What most people don’t realise is that you can eat all foods, from all food groups and still lose weight and keep it off. We explain this in more detail in our blog The 14 best foods to lose weight.
If you have trouble controlling certain foods, you need to ask yourself why that is, rather than cutting them out completely. For example, if you drink alcohol, look at why you drink. It’s fine to drink in a social setting or to celebrate a special occasion, but the problem is when you drink to relieve stress. In this situation, you need to address what is causing the stress, and then work on reducing and managing that stress, instead of focusing on cutting back alcohol.
Myth #5 – Do a detox
A lot of people try to ‘kick-start’ their weight loss by doing a juice cleanse or a detox. However, these are nothing more than a waste of time and money. Research has shown that none of them are an effective strategy for long-term weight loss. All you’re likely to get for your money are some nasty side effects including dehydration, bloating, nausea, headaches, bad breath and diarrhoea. The other fact that the diet industry fails to tell you is that your body already knows how to detox itself, so fasting or cleansing won’t speed up this process. You can read more in our blog Why juice cleanses and detoxes are a waste of time and money.
Myth #6 – Eat ‘clean’
‘Eating clean’ is another strategy that people employ to lose weight. The premise for eating clean is to eat ‘whole’ or unprocessed foods and avoid foods that don’t fit into that category (e.g. those high in calories). However, clean eating is just another fad diet that will only cause you to have a bad relationship with food. This is because ‘clean’ eating implies that anything not on the ‘clean’ list is ‘dirty’. This can cause you to feel shame and embarrassment around eating, promote secret bingeing, and dieting. It also perpetuates the diet mindset – a mindset that makes it almost impossible to lose weight and keep it off. Further information about the dangers of clean eating can be found in our blog Why eating clean isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Myth #7 – Eat ready-made meals
Swapping their regular food for ready-made meals is also popular among those who want to lose weight. Whether they’re meal replacement shakes and bars, or fresh and frozen pre-made calorie-controlled meals from the supermarket or delivered to your door, none of them will help you lose weight and keep it off.
The main problem with this approach is that you’re not addressing the real reasons you became overweight in the first place — your habits. Unless you address your habits, beliefs and mindsets that are contributing to your weight gain, you’ll never be able to lose weight for good. You’ll also never learn how to cook healthy meals for yourself, or the art of weekly meal prep. One of the key factors in long-term, sustainable weight loss is having the right foods ready and available, and being able to prepare them for yourself. We look at this in more detail in our blog Why ready-made diet meals are your worst enemy when it comes to weight loss.
Myth #8 – Exercise more
Increasing levels of exercise is a very common approach to weight loss, but it’s not a very effective one. That’s because exercise is just 3% of the weight loss equation. The other 97% comes down to working on your habits (including those around food, nutrition, stress and sleep), your mindset and your beliefs. By focusing on the 3% you will continue to go around in circles and never get results. The other problem that often occurs when people ramp up their exercise is they become overwhelmed and quit, or they injure themselves, which means they’re sidelined for weeks. When it comes to exercise for effective weight loss, consistency trumps intensity and in order to be consistent you need to do less exercise than you think, not more. You can read more about this in our blogs How to be consistent with your weight loss and Why 52 imperfect weeks is better than 6 perfect ones when it comes to weight loss.
Myth #9 – Walk 10,000 steps a day
A lot of people set their mind to walk a minimum of 10,000 steps a day thinking this will lead to weight loss. While walking is a great activity and will provide you with many health benefits, a certain number of steps each day won’t help you lose weight. Aiming for 10,000 steps can lead to increased levels of stress, perfectionism and inconsistency (as it’s not always possible to get 10,000 steps each day). Furthermore, spending your time getting up steps only distracts you from the kind of exercise that will have the biggest impact on your weight and body shape (You can discover what that is in our blog Training and exercise: What’s the best workout routine). Plus, if you’re too busy trying to get your steps up, you won’t have time to work on your habits. You can read more about this in our blog Why a 10,000 steps a day challenge is bullshit and what to do
Myth #10 – Focus on cardio
Most people ramp up their cardio exercise in order to burn calories and lose weight but this approach doesn’t work for long-term weight loss. While intense cardio exercise has many benefits and has a role to play in weight loss, the exercise that will yield the best results is focused intense resistance exercise. That’s because around 66% of our metabolism is influenced by muscle mass. Which means that the more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism, and the easier it is for your body to burn fat. Performing resistance exercise is the only way to build muscle and turn your body into one that burns fat. You can read more about that in our blog “I don’t want to get bulky”: 8 reasons why muscle is your friend.
Myth #11 — Thinking you can out-train your bad habits
It’s very common to believe that all you need to do to lose weight is burn calories through food restriction (dieting) and excessive exercise. Many people take this approach, thinking that the harder they go the more weight they’ll be able to lose, and they will be able to avoid addressing their bad habits, or they can address them ‘later’. However, the truth is that in order to lose weight for good you must address your habits first. This explains why so many people exercise and eat well but still have trouble losing weight. You can find out more about habits that lead to weight loss in our blog 7 habits for effective weight loss.
Myth #12 — Needing to get everything perfect
And then there’s the idea that you need to get everything right in order to lose weight. When people go on diets, they try to overhaul many things at once — their food, their alcohol, their exercise, their sleep. All this does is create an overwhelming list of things to work on which becomes too hard. Having the expectation that they must get everything perfect adds to the stress. When they slip up (because they’re human and perfection is impossible), they’re extra hard on themselves which adds to the stress. Or, they have the attitude that they’ve already stuffed up so they may as well stuff up the rest of the day/week and start again tomorrow/next week. The better approach is to focus on being consistent, not perfect. Those who get the best results are the ones who are consistent. Those who give up are the ones you try to be perfect. You can read more about this in our blog Why 52 imperfect weeks is better than 6 perfect ones when it comes to weight loss.
How do you lose weight for good?
When it comes to long-term weight loss the only thing that will yield you long-term results is to address on your habits. You see, the biggest influence over your weight isn’t what you eat, or how much you exercise. It’s why you eat what you do and move how you do. And that comes down to your habits. Your habits are your thoughts, beliefs, mindset and behaviours. The most common habits that hold people back from losing weight are:
- Low self-esteem and low self-worth
- Lack of confidence
- Comparing themselves with others
- People pleasing
- Putting their needs behind other people’s
- Worrying about what others think of them
- Living in fear
- Needing to control everything
All of the habits above will influence what you eat, when you eat, how you eat, as well as your attitude towards exercise. They will also impact your sleep (Good sleep actually helps you lose weight), how you use alcohol, and your stress levels — 3 things that influence your metabolism.
You see, the answers you’re looking for aren’t found in reducing calories, ramping up exercise, or cutting out food groups. They’re found in addressing the habits that influence your actions.
Because once you have habits that support weight loss, you’ll no longer have to work at losing weight. Weight loss will be a natural by-product of your habits. In other words, weight loss will take care of itself.
How we help
Our DATSTM Program is a complete body and lifestyle transformation system that gives you everything you need to finally achieve long-term weight loss, and increase your confidence. We help you address your habits that have led to weight gain, and help you develop habits that will support long-term weight loss. We customise and personalise our program to you, so you can be sure that you’re working on the things that will have the biggest impact on your weight.
The DATS™️ Program gives you the knowledge, systems, tools and skills to help you lose weight and keep it off — even on your worst days.