Here are the 8 most common or problematic myths and misconceptions related to weight loss identified by Choice, Australia after talking to practising dietitians. In order to set the record straight, the facts are also presented.

1. The less you eat, the more weight you’ll lose

The human body has evolved superbly to conserve as much energy as possible. When starvation is apparent, the metabolism slows down and you’ll have replaced muscle with fat. The net result will be that you’ll gain more weight.

Bottom line: Reduce your daily calorie intake, but steer clear of detox and other drastic weight-loss regimes.

2. Eating five or six small meals a day is better

Eating more frequently helps keep hunger at bay, and also means you’re less likely to overeat at mealtimes. But eating decent-sized meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, without snacking in between will also work.

Bottom line: It doesn’t matter how many times a day you eat – just make sure you don’t consume more energy than your body requires.

3. Carbohydrates are fattening

Not necessarily – although, as with protein, fat or alcohol, too much can be fattening. Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of energy, and the only source of energy for your brain. Avoid highly refined carbohydrates such as sugar and white flour.

Bottom line: Carbohydrates are important in a balanced diet – fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals are nutritious sources.

4. Fat is bad

Fat makes you feel satiated and we need some fat in our diet to absorb nutrients. However, fat is very calorie-dense, and too much promotes weight gain. But choosing low-fat or reduced-fat processed foods won’t necessarily help with weight loss, because the fat may be replaced with sugar for flavour.

Bottom line: Cutting down on saturated and trans fats, while including small amounts of good fats in your diet, provides valuable nutrients, satiety and enjoyment of food.

5. Aerobic exercise is better than resistance training

Aerobic exercise, such as jogging, tends to burn more energy than weight-lifting as you’re doing it. However, resistance or weight training results in greater muscle mass, which boosts your metabolism as muscle burns more energy than fat.

Bottom line: Combine aerobic activity and resistance training.

6. Some foods or drinks promote weight loss

Some foods supposedly help with weight loss due to metabolic effects such as green tea, chilli and caffeine. Again, the overall effect is insignificant. Don’t believe the hype around foods that allegedly stop fat being absorbed, such as lemon juice or grapefruit

Bottom line: There are no magic weight-loss foods or drinks.

7. Cut out all chocolate, ice-cream, biscuits and chips

Depriving yourself of pleasurable foods is often the downfall of weight-loss programs; when you don’t have it, you may crave it even more.

Bottom line: Occasionally eating small amounts of your favourite treats has an important psychological advantage in weight control.

8. You don’t have to cut down on food to lose weight

To lose half a kilogram of fat per week, you’d need to burn an extra 600 calories per day for which about 7-9 km of brisk walking or 6-8 km jogging would be required. Such exertion may make you tired for the rest of the day or sleep longer at night, and may also make you hungrier, so you’ll offset some of the ‘good work’ by eating or resting more than usual.

Bottom line: To lose weight, you need a combination of healthy eating and physical activity – in other words, eat less and exercise more.

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