Scale

Weight Loss Lies

A new study finds that some of the most popular and basic pieces of pound-dropping advice we trust are actually not grounded in science.

There are just some things about weight loss that make good sense. Like, slow and steady weight loss is easier to maintain over time, eating breakfast will help you drop pounds, and setting realistic goals will make you most likely to achieve them. Right? Wrong.

“Many of the common messages about combating obesity have little scientific support and, in some cases, are scientifically refuted,” says Dr. David B. Allison, one of the researchers behind “Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity,” a study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine that’s causing quite a scientific storm. “And regardless of our enthusiasm for proposed programs, we must remember our duty to be unfailingly honest about what the scientific evidence data actually shows.”

After zeroing in on what they found to be the most pervasive unsubstantiated weight-related claims being propagated by the media, government and even the scientific community, the researchers set out to uncover the truth. Here, the top 5 most surprising findings:

The Myth: Setting realistic goals for weight loss will help you stick with it.
The Truth: There is no empirical data showing this correlation. Several studies have actually shown more ambitious goals can actually boost weight loss outcomes.

The Myth: Sex burns major calories—about 100-300 per session.
The Truth: A roll in the hay is about the same as taking a leisurely stroll—more in the ballpark of 14-21 calories depending how long you can go.

The Myth: Significant, rapid weight loss cannot usually be maintained over time. Slow and gradual is the way to go for long-term results.
The Truth: Rapid weight loss early on in clinical trials is actually associated with lower body weights when the trials end—and it can help motivate you to keep going.

The Myth: Regularly eating breakfast can help keep weight down.
The Truth: Two randomized, controlled trials that studied the outcome of eating versus skipping an A.M. meal showed no effect on body weight.

The Myth: Snacking leads to weight gain.
The Truth: Neither controlled trials nor observational studies have shown a consistent relationship between snacking and increased BMI.

Frustrating, right? The war against unwanted pounds is dirty enough. Who needs bogus advice clouding our judgment? As Dr. Allison says, "To quote John Lennon, 'Just give me some truth.'"

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Photography by James Wojcik/Trunk Archive