Weight loss myths
Reviewed by our clinical team
There's never a bad time to start thinking about losing weight and getting more active if you need to. Losing weight can reduce your risk of all sorts of health conditions, from heart disease to strokes, chronic pain and certain cancers.
There are a lots of myths that surround weight loss, so sometimes it can be hard to know which route to go down. You might be tempted to lose weight the quickest way possible, but crash diets aren't recommended as these tend to slow down your metabolism. This then impacts ability to lose weight. Similarly, we wouldn’t encourage banning entire food groups. This can lead to you missing out on essential nutrients you need to keep you healthy.
Losing weight takes time and dedication. You shouldn't try to lose more than 1kg a week. The focus should be on making a few realistic changes to your diet and activity routine.
In this article we're going to look at some of the most popular weight loss myths and whether there's any truth behind them.
Should you cut out carbs?
This is one of those blanket dieting rules that just isn’t accurate. For the most part, foods shouldn’t be ‘banned’ or eliminated completely. Most adults need around 225–325g of carbohydrates a day.
Carbohydrates (carbs) are a really important part of our diet. There are three different types, starchy carbohydrates, fibre and sugars.
Starchy carbs (things like potatoes, bread, pasta and rice – wholegrain varieties where possible) should make up a third of the food we’re eating each day. They’re a great source of energy and contain lots of nutrients we need to keep the body healthy. Starchy carbs often contain fibre which is good for gut health and to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Most of us should reduce our intake of sugars, especially ‘free sugars’ – these are the sugars added to chocolates, cakes and fizzy drinks, but they also occur naturally in honey and juice.
Is eating little and often best?
Meal frequency and timing is a widely discussed topic. Some evidence indicates a link between higher meal frequency and lower disease risk - but experimental trials show conflicting results.
Eating regular meals is really important for helping you stick to a weight management plan and avoid cravings and snacks, which can often end up being high calories. Giving your digestive system time to rest between eating is also important for gut health.
If you find you’re hungry between meals, you might not be eating enough or the right foods.
Some healthy snacks might help – things like protein balls, a small portion of nuts or a piece of fruit.
Is it better to have a big breakfast and small dinner?
Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? It's a hotly debated topic. A large US study analysed the health of 50,000 people and found that those eating breakfast were more likely to have a lower BMI. So, there's something in it - but it still comes down to eating the right foods and the right number of calories.
Having a good breakfast is a great way to set you up for the day. Often breakfast foods are rich in fibre and fruits (e.g., porridge or overnight oats with berries), which are a great source of nutrients for the day. But don’t over do it at breakfast, or else you might eat into your calorie intake for the day, leaving yourself feeling hungry later.
It’s a good idea not to have a huge meal right before going to bed too. That’s because your body doesn’t have time to digest the food properly, and it can also impact how well you sleep.
Should you skip meals?
Eating regular meals helps your body get into a routine and eating at regular intervals helps your body burn calories quicker and stops any temptation to snack.
That said, lots of people do find intermittent fasting is a great way to lose weight. Typically, intermittent fasting involves only eating during an eight-hour window (say 11am-7pm) and then having 16 hours where you fast. In the eight-hour window people might only have two meals, instead of three.
The thinking behind intermittent fasting is that the body starts to use up some of its stores of body fat and sugars in the hours when you’re not eating. The fasting time also give your gut bacteria time to rest and recuperate, which can also be beneficial to your health.
Do you need to eat slowly?
One US study found that eating slowly can lower your risk of obesity. Eating more slowly can help you eat less in the long run. That’s because it takes around 20 minutes for the stomach to let the brain know it’s full. So, if you eat really quickly you might not realise that you would have been full eating a smaller portion.
Another way to tackle that 20-minute delay is to have a smaller portion to begin with and then wait to see if you need to eat more after the 20 minutes has passed.
Are low fat foods best?
Low fat foods can help you reduce your intake of certain fats. For something to be labelled as low fat, reduced fat or lite/light, it has to have 30% less fat than a similar product. However, it’s really important to bear in mind that if something is already high in fat, the lower fat version might still be a high-fat food. Low fat foods aren't necessarily low calories either. So, it's important to always check those food labels closely.
Should you cook with coconut oil?
Coconut oil is often touted as a 'superfood' alternative to other cooking oils but coconut oil actually has a lot more calories than butter.
In addition to this, coconut oil also contains around a third more saturated fat than butter - the same amount as beef dripping. This type of fat is linked to bad cholesterol and therefore can contribute to issues like heart disease and strokes.
Like butter, coconut oil is fine to eat in moderation. But please understand it’s certainly not a weight management aid.
Get help from Online Doctor with weight loss
Reducing your calorie intake, eating a healthy balanced diet and increasing your activity is the best way to lose weight. If you can, try reducing your daily calories by around 500 calories and aim for 150 minutes of exercise a week.