Weight Loss Myths

Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Reviewed by Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Written by Vanessa Gibbs

Published 05/14/2024

One quick online search or scroll through social media and you’ll find an endless amount of weight loss advice.

But it’s hard to know what’s backed by science and what’s a waste of your time — or worse, what’s downright dangerous.

Below, we separate the fad from fact and bust some common weight loss myths.

Willpower is a hopefully small part of weight loss, but it’s not the only thing at play.

If your weight loss efforts don’t work or you regain some of the weight you’ve lost, it doesn’t mean you lack the willpower to stick to a weight loss plan.

There are so many factors that go into weight loss and many of them you don’t have much control over. They include:

  • Your environment

  • Your genetics

  • Your stress levels

  • Health conditions

  • Medications

These factors can influence your hunger hormones, how your body stores fat, and the foods you crave.

Don’t let this get you down, though. You can still make changes in your life and reach your weight loss goals. You might just need to cut yourself a little slack along the way and reach out for support when needed.

When you’re making healthy lifestyle changes, it’s easy to think you’ll start losing weight and continue to lose weight week after week until you reach your goal.

One unfortunate truth about weight loss is that the journey is rarely a straight line, and there may be some bumps along the road.

While your aim may be to lose one to two pounds a week, you might find you hit a weight loss plateau — when your weight loss stops — or you gain a bit of weight. This is normal.

Our advice? Try not to obsess over the number on the scale and instead focus on sticking to your healthy habits and enjoying the health benefits that come with weight loss — like more energy and a better mood.

Are carbs bad for weight loss? What about fats? Nope, not at all! This might be one of the most pervasive fat loss myths out there.

You’ve no doubt seen the fad diets promoting low-carb or low-fat eating plans. But you don’t need to cut out carbs, fats, or any of your favorite foods for that matter.

These food groups have been demonized when it comes to weight loss, but you shouldn’t cut them out of your diet completely. In fact, you need some carbs and fats to function and they provide essential nutrients.

Go for complex carbohydrates like:

  • Sweet potato

  • Brown rice

  • Oats

  • Whole-wheat bread

Go for healthy fats like:

  • Avocados

  • Olive oil

  • Nuts

  • Seeds

You know that reducing your calorie intake can help you lose weight, so skipping meals is one way to do this, right? Well, no.

Can you lose weight by not eating? Technically, yes. But it’s not going to be healthy or sustainable.

Skipping meals can spike your hunger levels, which might lead to overeating at your next meal. Plus, when you skip meals, your energy levels and mood take a hit, too. We’ve all had that hangry — hungry and angry — feeling when we’ve gone too long without food.

So, should you skip breakfast to lose weight? No. Doing so may dampen your weight loss efforts, and there’s even research that suggests that skipping breakfast is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease mortality.

Your best bet is to fuel your body with regular nutritious meals.

Exercise is great for weight loss, but you don’t need to join a gym to do it.

You can:

  • Go running or cycling outside

  • Go for hike

  • Go for a walk on your lunch break

  • Play fetch with your pet or catch with your kid

  • Join a dance or yoga class

  • Play tennis, badminton, or golf with friends

  • Do strength training exercises at home

Beyond joining a gym, there are weight loss myths about which exercise is best. The truth is you don’t have to stick to one type of physical activity in order to drop weight.

Is cardio the best way to lose weight? It’s one way, but it’s not the only way. Incorporating more movement into your day — whatever that looks like for you — can help you move toward a healthy weight.

Diet and exercise come up a lot in weight loss discussions, but they’re not the only factors at play.

When you’re trying to lose weight, think about sleep and hydration too.

Getting enough sleep can give you the energy and motivation to stick to your healthy lifestyle habits and it’ll also help keep your hunger hormones in check.

Drinking more water can help you feel fuller, and staying hydrated may promote lipolysis, the breakdown of fat for energy in your body.

Plus, prioritizing shut-eye and hydration are important for your overall health and wellness.

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Weight loss treatment that puts you first

Is it bad to eat late at night? It’s not ideal, but there’s no need to panic if you do. One late-night meal or midnight snack isn’t going to derail your weight loss or cause weight gain.

Regularly eating late at night is linked to obesity, though. You might go for unhealthier food choices or not sleep as well when you eat late.

On the flip side, fasting overnight can help with weight loss and weight maintenance. But it’s a common misconception that any food after 8 p.m. or so is a bad idea.

If you’re eating late at night, go for a light and healthy snack, like a piece of fruit or some Greek yogurt. And if you’re always hungry at night, take stock of what you’ve been eating throughout the day to make sure you’re fueling yourself with enough nutrients.

Does turmeric help you lose weight? What about green tea or magnesium? There are so many weight loss supplements out there, it’s common to have questions and wonder whether you should be taking them.

Unfortunately, supplements aren’t the magic pill they’re often sold as. They’re not approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and there’s no guarantee they’re safe or effective.

If you’re considering supplements, there are a few with some science behind them. Check out our guide to weight loss supplements for women.

Do laxatives make you lose weight? If TikTok is anything to go by then you might be thinking yes. No shame. But laxatives are not a safe or effective weight loss method. Plus, they’re not exactly a fun one either.

Laxatives can relieve constipation, so you feel lighter. But if you’re not constipated, laxatives can cause diarrhea, causing you to lose a lot of water.

This may cause weight loss in the short term, by the scale’s measure. But losing water weight isn’t the same as losing fat, and diarrhea can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Another common weight loss question: Does coffee make you gain weight?

The answer: Nope. You don’t need to give up your morning cup of joe if you’re trying to lose weight. In fact, it may play a positive role in your weight loss.

A 2012 study found that about two to four cups of coffee helped people with overweight or obesity eat less at their next meal and throughout the day.

There’s even research showing that drinking up to three cups of coffee a day is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality (death from any cause).

Just be aware of what you’re putting in your coffee. Cream, sugar, or flavored syrups may contribute to weight gain.

And make sure you’re not drinking coffee too close to bedtime, as sleep disruption could also mess with your weight loss efforts.

There are so many myths about weight loss, it’d be easy for us to keep going — and going. But these are the common ones you might have heard from well-meaning family members or seen on social media.

To wrap up, here’s some science-backed advice if you’re looking to lose weight:

  • Eat nutritious foods. You don’t need to cut out entire food groups, skip meals, or buy special supplements. Whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein will fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to lose weight and feel great while doing it.

  • Incorporate more movement into your day. This could involve the gym, but it could also involve playing sports with friends, taking more steps, and standing more throughout the day.

  • Drink more water and get enough sleep. These two pillars of weight loss are often overlooked. Keep a water bottle nearby at all times and prioritize getting enough shut-eye at night.

Remember, weight loss isn’t all about willpower. Genetics, health conditions, medications, and more can affect your weight and make weight loss more difficult. Don’t be hard on yourself if weight loss takes time or you need an extra helping hand along the way.

Weight loss medication can be useful for some to suppress your appetite and curb cravings. But there are a lot of myths around those, too.

Learn about proven, safe, and holistic weight loss programs.

9 Sources

  1. Bouchard, C. (2021). Genetics of obesity: What we have learned over decades of research.
  2. Gavrieli, A, et al. (2012). Effect of different amounts of coffee on dietary intake and appetite of normal-weight and overweight/obese individuals.
  3. Kim, JY. (2020). Optimal diet strategies for weight loss and weight loss maintenance.
  4. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2017). Some myths about nutrition and physical activity.
  5. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2014). Weight-loss and nutrition myths.
  6. National Library of Medicine. (2022). Diet myths and facts.
  7. National Library of Medicine. (2023). Laxative overdose.
  8. Simon, J, et al. (2022). Light to moderate coffee consumption is associated with lower risk of death: a UK Biobank study.
  9. Sun, Y, et al. (2022). Meal skipping and shorter meal intervals are associated with increased risk of all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality among US adults.
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