8 popular myths about weight loss and healthspan

Did you know that losing weight can add years to your life? This is not a myth. You can extend your longevity even with just five to ten percent of weight loss. Plus, eating healthy food and exercising can make you feel good, too! We all want fewer health complications, right? 

Being overweight and obese are the roots of many health issues. In fact, even the number of people with these has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With the growing number of overweight and obese people, addressing the popular myths about weight loss can help!

1. Carbs can make you gain weight

With the right quantities, carbohydrates will only lead to weight gain if eaten in huge quantities and with butter, creamy sauces and other unhealthy additives. A carbohydrate refers to a macronutrient that basically supplies your body with glucose. The glucose is then converted into energy for your body and brain.

However, there are healthy and less healthy options for carbs. You must choose the good ones like fruits, brown rice, wholemeal bread, potatoes, whole grains, vegetables and beans. Meanwhile, avoid eating refined grains and sugar, as these can be linked to weight gain. One of the popular types of diet that is effective for weight loss is the low-carb diet. This is for the people who consume an excessive amount of carbs and calories. As long as you eat carbs in a low amount, you can still lose weight [1].

Carbs can make you gain weight

2. Skipping meals and starving can lead to faster weight loss

Another popular myth you may hear is that you should do a crash diet. However, it could be more helpful and the best way to go. Your body can’t sustain and operate without energy and nutrients from your food consumption. It can make you feel sluggish and mentally drained; hence, spreading your daily calories all throughout the day is the best choice. 

On a long-term basis, crash diets often do not give positive results in weight loss. It can even lead to longer-term weight gain problems. With a crash diet, you will be craving more high-fat and high-sugar foods, leading to eating more than you should. In one study, the researchers found that skipping dinner is a critical predictor of weight gain and can be associated with overweight and obesity in men and women [2]. 

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3. Slimming supplements are safe to use for weight loss

The industry selling weight loss pills is huge, and some are not effective and safe to use. Many prescribed and un-prescribed medicines can be recommended to you by health experts if you prefer to go on the safe side. 

Slimming supplements in the market may claim to have dramatic effects, but not every single one of them can make you lose weight. In fact, the effects of slimming supplements are rarely studied. The main reason the effects may work on you is because of the placebo effect. 

Of course, there are effective slimming supplements and lucky you, if you find one, as they may help you lose weight in months, but still, this is rare. 

4. You should not eat snacks

Here’s another myth about losing weight. Eating snacks is not a cardinal sin of dieting. In fact, some people use snacking to help them manage their calorie intake effectively. It generally depends on the type of snack you are eating and for what purpose. Celery as a snack is much more helpful in your diet compared with eating cookies with lots of sugar. Eating a piece of fruit or low-fat yoghurt between meals can reduce food cravings; snacking can help you prevent overeating [3]. 

Snacking can be multifaceted. It has the potential to support or hinder your weight loss efforts, while sometimes, it may have little effect. A 2007 research investigated the role of snacking in weight loss and concluded that there is no significant weight loss among people who eat three meals a day without snacking and people who eat three meals and three snacks every day in one year. Snacking seems to have helped and not helped [4]. 

In another study, the researchers studied the relationship between the frequency of eating and weight loss maintenance. The research participants were previously overweight or obese but had since kept healthy weights. The study compared the eating patterns of people with obesity and people with healthy weights who had never had overweight. It concluded that the participants with healthy weights consumed more snacks than those who had lost weight, while participants with overweight ate the fewest snacks. Generally, eating frequently with three meals and two snacks on a daily basis may be important in weight loss maintenance [5]. 

According to another research, people with obesity are more likely to snack compared with those without it. Hence, healthy snacks are the way to go! There is also a diet called volume eating, where you can eat a whole plate as long as they are high-volume foods. 

5. Low-fat or reduced-fat foods are always a healthy choice

Be mindful of the foods that are labelled as low-fat or reduced-fat. Manufacturers only have to contain no more than a particular amount of fat to tag their products that way legally. Meaning, low-fat or reduced-fat foods contain only less fat than the full-fat version, and that doesn’t automatically consider them a healthy choice for weight loss. You must check the nutritional label to confirm how much fat it contains, as some low-fat foods may also contain high levels of sugar to keep the flavour intact. Hence, it may not be so healthier in the end.

Similar to carbs, fat is not that bad for you, either. Generally, fats help your body absorb essential vitamins like A, D and E. It simply means that in order to have a healthy body, fat is required for you to process vitamins. Moreover, there are two types of fat, namely, saturated and unsaturated. You must consume more of the latter.

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6. Shifting to a radical exercise routine is the only way

It is definitely not true. A successful weight loss journey has to make small changes that you need to stick to for a long time – it is building discipline in your body. Hence, becoming more physically active in your daily routine won’t help that much in the long run. You are only expected to become active for at least 150 minutes which includes brisk walking and cycling in a week. Apparently, overweight people need to exert more effort and do more than that. The idea is for you to burn more calories in the healthiest possible way so you become conscious of your body. 

Plus, shifting to a new radical exercise routine is not sustainable for you. Your mental health will also get affected as you will feel burned out. The key is to progress and not to perfect it step by step. Setting a fixed and consistent exercise schedule is ideal, and you must incorporate it into your everyday lifestyle – you can start from basic routines until you can do the complex ones. 

Shifting to a radical exercise routine is the only way

7. Artificial sweeteners can help with weight loss

In order to lower sugar intakes, many people depend on low- or no-calorie sweeteners, like aspartame. It can potentially reduce the number of calories your body consumes; however, some research has associated artificial or non-nutritive sweeteners with weight gain.

In a 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis, health experts analysed 37 existing studies involving a total of 406,910 participants to study the impact of sweeteners on cardiometabolic health. The authors of the review paper suggested that the observational data reflecting routine intake of non-nutritive sweeteners may be linked with increased Body Mass Index (BMI) and cardiometabolic risk [6]. 

On the other hand, not all conducted research reached the same conclusion. Researchers and health experts still continue to discuss and study the effects of non-nutritive sweeteners on weight loss and metabolic health.

8. All calories are equal

All calories may have the same energy content, but it does not mean that all sources of calories have the same effects on your weight because a variety of foods undergo different metabolic pathways. They can also have vastly different effects on hunger and hormones that are huge factors in your body weight. For instance, a protein calorie is not similar to a fat or carbs calorie. When you replace carbs and fat with protein, you can boost your metabolism and lower your appetite and cravings while optimising some weight – regulating hormones’ functions [7]. 

Additionally, calories found in whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are considered much more filling than calories from refined foods like candy or chocolates. 

Longevity and weight loss

Weight loss is an excellent start to keeping your health on track. Minor setbacks may arise, and it is absolutely fine. Losing weight also means changing your bad eating habits and sedentary lifestyle. It is always for the better; any progress is good for your body. As many health experts say, a weight loss journey is only sometimes linear. 

The benefits of weight loss to health and longevity are well-documented by numerous scientific studies. All the steps followed to achieve weight loss have incredible effects on getting a longer lifespan, including promoting cardiovascular health, improving brain functions and strengthening the immune system. 

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[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17228046/ 
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7832851/ 
[3] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938414001449 
[4] https://www.nature.com/articles/1602860/ 
[5] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0002822311013769 
[6] http://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5515645/ 
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4424378/ 

The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.