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5 Weight Loss Myths Debunked: Separating Fact From Fiction

Nearly half of the U.S. population wants to lose weight, yet about 80% will fail. And that’s not due to a lack of trying. A recent survey revealed that the everyday Joe or Jane will try a shocking 162 diets in their lifetime! So, what gives?

Fad diets have created a weight loss rat race, with each one promising to have you in your old jeans in no time. Even though studies show we usually throw in the towel by day 6, dreams of a quick fix cloud our judgment as we continue to search for “The One.”

Unfortunately, this kind of diet culture has created a mountain of misinformation that might be sabotaging your health goals. But fear not! We’re here to bust some of the most common weight loss myths so you can be well-informed and best-equipped to make the right health decisions for you. 

A Disclaimer: Reality Bites 

Before we get into it, first things first. Let’s rip off the most painful band-aid. Ready? Here it is: There is no such thing as a quick-fix weight loss plan that’s also sustainable. I know what you’re thinking; you’ve seen it! What about all those weight-loss commercials with real-life success stories? Or your second cousin twice removed who lost loads of weight on a trendy new diet? Well, studies show they’re either:

A) In the rare percentage of people that actually found success through a fad diet

B) Will almost certainly gain it all back (with interest) within five years

We’ll explain why that is a little more later. But more importantly, we’ll also share evidence-based nutrition and psychology facts rooted in the most up-to-date science so you can set realistic, approachable goals for your physical — and mental — health.

Speaking of your mental health, great news! You don’t have to go to bed hangry ever again.

Woman poking an almost empty plate with a fork.

Myth 1: Eating after 6 p.m. causes weight gain.

Going long periods without eating is known as fasting. That itself isn’t unusual; after all, we’re in a state of fasting while we sleep which we break upon the first meal of the day (hence, break-fast). But the trending diet, intermittent fasting, has popularized fasting for extra long periods, usually around 16 hours. 

The popularity of these diets has reinforced the myth that if you stop eating early in the evening, you’ll enter the state of fasting early, thus losing weight. After all, intermittent fasting has been shown to work if you’re able to stick to it. But you’re not losing weight because feeling extremely hungry makes your body a fat-burning machine. It works because you are eating less overall. Several studies show that calorie restriction diets and intermittent fasting have similar weight loss results.

In other words, it doesn’t matter if you eat your daily allotment of calories in one setting or spread out throughout the day. As long as you are burning more calories than you consume, you’ll lose weight.

Myth 2: Detox teas and supplements can “flush out” toxins and promote weight loss.

Perhaps the most frustrating myth is that a pill or beverage has the power to “detox” and flush fat out of your body. Not only is it a gimmicky cash-grab for influencers, but it can also be dangerous for your health.

Your body’s already equipped with a top-of-the-line detoxification system. Your kidneys filter waste and toxins from the blood and excrete them through urine. Meanwhile, your liver has enzymes that break down toxins and harmful substances, and you excrete those, too. 

Detox products can contain a variety of diuretic and laxative properties. So, while it may seem like you’re losing weight, you’re actually just prematurely getting rid of your body’s waste, which can lead to diarrhea, electrolyte imbalances, and dehydration. 

There’s no quick fix to weight loss. For best results, focus on developing lifestyle habits that you can commit to, like eating with intention and keeping yourself active. 

Woman prepping vegetables.

Myth 3: Skipping meals is an effective way to lose weight.

The myth that skipping meals can lead to weight loss is in the same vein as fasting. The less you eat, the more you lose. The difference is that skipping meals leads to a much larger calorie deficit because you aren’t meant to make those calories up but rather leave them out entirely. 

But wait. Aren’t we supposed to be creating a calorie deficit? Isn’t that the whole key to weight loss? Well, yes and no. 

Most experts agree that to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume. But there are rules around the concept of “calories in, calories out.” 

A pound is roughly 3,500 calories. So if you want to lose a pound of weight a week, you’ll need to create a daily 500 calorie deficit. That’s a healthy, manageable goal for most people. More than that, and you risk self-sabotage. 

Our evolutionary responses still assume that food is scarce. So, if you create too much of a daily deficit, your metabolism slows to conserve energy while your survival instinct to eat overrides your desire to look great in your summer swims. But that’s not all — depriving yourself has some adverse psychological effects as well. 

Once you blow your diet, shame and guilt take over. In response to these negative emotions, many turn to food as a coping mechanism. This is a common cycle that usually marks the end of a diet. But once you go back to your pre-diet eating habits, your slower metabolism can cause you to gain the weight back — and then some.

Woman at desk with one hand on stomach and the other looking at the time on her watch.

Myth 4: Exercise alone is enough for significant weight loss.

A common phrase is, “you can’t outrun a poor diet.” That’s because it’s relatively easier to consume calories than expend them. For example, you’d have to run about 2 miles to burn off the calories consumed by a candy bar. This is oversimplifying, of course, because we continuously burn calories throughout the day (and there’s nothing wrong with the occasional treat!). But it’s important to keep in mind how challenging it can be to rely on exercise alone to keep you in a caloric deficit.

Research shows that our bodies adapt to routine exercises over time, so we eventually burn fewer calories when we perform the same ones over and over. This is another adaptation our body taps into to help us conserve energy and use it more efficiently. These same evolutionary responses do yet another number on us, making it even harder to rely on exercise alone to achieve our goals.

Most of us can relate to feelings of nagging resistance before heading to the gym. Turns out, your brain pulls out all the stops to keep you conserving energy. Research reveals that when you start thinking about physical activity, your brain works harder to keep you sedentary

Here are some things you can do to make exercise a healthy and engaging part of your long-term weight-loss strategy:

 Get a workout buddy. Accountability is a huge motivator. Find someone you trust and commit to a workout schedule with them.

 Mix up your routine. Switching up your routine can help you break through the resistance and see better results. Try different exercises, increase weight, and throw in high-intensity intervals to keep your body from plateauing.

 Find something you enjoy. You don’t have to dread exercising. If you hate to run, go for a walk. If you enjoy a good spa or sauna, go to a gym that has these amenities. 

Remember, exercise is crucial in helping you reach your goals, but it must be combined with a healthy diet.

Woman in warm clothes taking a leisurely stroll in a park like setting.

Myth 5: Cutting out carbs entirely is necessary for weight loss.

Poor carbs. They just don’t get the respect they deserve. Carbohydrates are our bodies’ main energy source. When we eat them, they get broken down into glucose. Glucose is used by our cells, particularly the brain and muscles, and becomes fuel for daily activities and exercise.

Unfortunately, carbs get a bad rap due to low-carb diets like keto. Keto diets work by dramatically lowering carbs and increasing fats to put your body into a state of ketosis. While in ketosis, your body uses stored fat as the primary energy source, so you lose weight quickly. 

The problem with this diet is that it can be extremely hard to pull off, and as soon as you exit ketosis, you may start to gain back the weight you lost. One of the most challenging parts of the keto diet is a severe restriction of carbohydrates, which are important macronutrients.

Carbohydrates can be divided into two main types: simple carbs and complex carbs. Simple carbs, such as those found in sugary foods and beverages, are quickly digested and can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Simple carbs should be consumed in moderation. 

Complex carbs, however, are found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. They take longer to digest and provide a more gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream. The high fiber content in many complex carbs is also known to keep cholesterol levels healthy, support your heart, and promote feelings of fullness.

It’s important to note that while carbohydrates play a vital role in overall health and wellness, they should be balanced with other macronutrients like proteins and fats. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbohydrates make up 45% to 65% of your total daily calories — about 225 to 325 grams of carbs per day for a 2,000-calorie diet.

Carbs are vital to human life. It’s time we relearn to appreciate the role they play in healthful eating.

Food for Thought 

Fad diets don’t work because they’re short-term solutions to long-term issues. 

If you want to improve your overall health and fitness, it’s important to find a diet and exercise plan that you can maintain long-term. Start with small, manageable changes and gradually build from there. The focus should be on creating a healthy relationship with food and fitness. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and don’t deprive yourself of enjoying the foods you love the most. Otherwise, you risk self-sabotage and end up back in the diet cycle. Perfection is a pipe dream – forget it! Progress is where the real magic happens.

A display of Essential elements supplements.

The Essential Element

There are a lot of myths around weight loss, born out of a desire to find a shortcut to weight loss. For many, a 500-calorie deficit is usually enough to lose 1 pound per week for someone who is at a consistent weight. The best way to achieve this is through a combination of diet and exercise.

At Essential elements®, we want to empower you to live your best, healthiest life. That means no gimmicks, no B.S., and no empty promises. Wherever you are on your wellness journey, we’ve created science-backed support to help make reaching your goals a little easier. Whether you need more protein, an energy boost at the gym, or an easier way to stay hydrated, we’ve created an all-star supplement lineup for you. Check them out now!

smiling woman in front of a background image with a weight loss concept