10 Myths About Losing Weight Why Diets and Working Out Aren't Enough

Updated: December 12, 2012

Vic Magary

Share this article

This post is by Vic Magary.

Have you experienced this before?  You're eating right and going to the gym, and maybe you've even lost a few pounds, but overall your weight loss has stalled and you're still feeling sluggish, bloated, and frustrated.

This is an all-too common scenario.  We all know that diet and exercise are necessary to lose weight, but the finer details of nutrition and working out can be shrouded in myth and mystery.

Let's shed some light on the realities of diet and exercise by revealing 10 myths about losing weight.

1. If foods are "healthy", then you can eat all that you want.

I'm not writing this post to debate which is the "best" diet, let's just assume that you are sticking to a nutrition plan of whole natural foods and avoiding any processed junk that comes in a colorful box or wrapper. But here's the thing, even healthy natural foods can be eaten in excess.

The basic math of having to consume less calories than you expend still applies for weight loss even if you are keeping your food shopping limited to the perimeter of the grocery store.  That being said, counting calories can be a drag.  Instead, try the following portion-size guidelines to help keep your diet on track without counting calories:

Animal protein sources such as steak, chicken, pork, and fish:  Keep your portion roughly equal to the size and thickness of your hand, not including the fingers and thumb.  This amounts to about 3 - 6 ounces for most people.

Nuts: Walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, and Brazil nuts can all be nutritious snacks but they are also calorically dense.  Keep the portion size to what fits in the center of your palm without overlapping.  As an example, this is about 6 - 8 almonds for most people.

Vegetables:  For your green vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and asparagus proceed with reckless abandon and eat all that you like.  Great sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, vegetables in general do not need to be restricted.  Now there are a few exceptions to the general rule... carrots, pumpkin, and some of the other more "starchy" vegetables can hinder weight loss when eaten in large portions. Potatoes are a whole different story that will be addressed below.

Starchy foods such as rice and potatoes:  If you are going to eat carbohydrate-dense foods such as rice and potatoes, keep the portion to the size of your tightly clenched fist.  Other high-carb foods should also follow this rule (or be avoided entirely) such as cereal, pasta, beans, and corn.

Fruit:  Fruit can be a tricky one.  I typically recommend limiting fruit to 2 pieces per day or less due to the high sugar content (albiet natural sugar).  Berries and grapefruit are the best choices in my experience.  The "sweeter" fruits such as mango and pineapple have the greatest propensity to hinder weight loss and should be kept to a minimum.

2. Crunches and sit ups will help you lose fat around your abs.

If you really want to see your abs, it is purely a function of reducing body fat.  And reducing body fat is done primarily with diet.   You can punish yourself with thousands of repetitions of ab exercises and you still won’t see even the hint of a six-pack unless you reduce your overall body fat.

If you want the best exercise for six-pack abs, try pushing yourself away from the dinner table.

3. You have to eat every 3 or 4 hours to "stoke your metabolism".

Many people have heard that you should eat 5 or 6 small meals throughout the day to "stoke your metabolism".  As demonstrated by a German study, eating several small meals throughout the day does not affect resting energy expenditure.

In the study, subjects were given either one meal per day or 5 meals per day resulting in the same total number of daily calories.  The study found that the meal frequency did not influence the energy balance of the subjects.

Instead of worrying about trying to eat every few hours, focus on a feeding schedule that you will stick to consistently regardless of the number of meals per day.

4. Sleep is for the weak.

Sleep is crucial for repair and optimum function - it is also crucial for losing fat.  In a study by the University of Chicago, researches found that sleep-deprived subjects had a 55% reduction in fat loss when compared to those getting adequate sleep.

Lack of sleep was also linked to a higher level of the hormone ghrelin.  Higher ghrelin levels have been shown to reduce energy expenditure, stimulate hunger and food intake, and promote retention of fat.

When you are on a quest for weight loss, be sure to get your shut-eye.

5.  You need a low fat diet to lose fat.

Many foods that are high in fat are great additions to your weight loss nutrition plan.  Foods such as walnuts, almonds, avocado, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil are all high in fat but do not need to be avoided to lose weight.

It is the foods containing trans fats that you want to avoid such as chips, crackers, cookies, cakes and other prepackaged foods.

6. Lifting weights will make you gain weight.

People may wrongly assume that lifting weights will make them "bulk up".  This myth comes from the fact that muscle is denser than fat.

When combined with proper diet, free weight training can lead to a shift in body composition of less fat and more muscle.  But as the body-fat percentage goes down, the weight on the scale will also go down for most people, even when building muscle.

This trend will continue until you hit a relatively low body fat percentage.

7. You can do it on your own.

The real "elephant in the room" that no one wants to talk about when it comes to losing weight is that diet and exercise are not the real issues.  The real issue when it comes to weight loss is habit creation.  There are several components to habit creation, but two of the most important are external support and accountability.

Try to find friends, family members, or a training partner that will provide support and encouragement for your weigh loss efforts.  And if you can't find support from someone you already know, there are plenty of free online forums full of people trying to make positive health and diet changes (my favorite is from Nerd Fitness).

Also, be sure to set up some accountability if you do not follow through on your diet and exercise plan.  Make a bet with a friend or family member that if you miss a workout or cheat on your diet that you will give them $50, clean the kitty litter for a month, or something else that you find more "painful" than straying from your plan.  If you've tried over and over again to lose weight on your own without success, maybe it's time to call in the reinforcements.

8. You can out-train a crappy diet.

I know we would all love to be able to erase the ill effects of a large pizza and a six-pack of beer with an intense workout, but it just doesn't work that way.  Diet is hands down the most important component of weight loss success.

I'll go as far as saying that as long as the diet is dialed in, nearly any fitness protocol can work for fat loss.

Forget about killing yourself in the gym as penance for that weekend binge - instead get back on track and focus on your diet.

9. You have to do a certain type of exercise.

I absolutely have my preferred methods of training for weight loss.  I've found that a combination of heavy strength training with high intensity interval training yields excellent fat loss results.

But is it the only way? Or even the best way?

The best way to exercise for weight loss is the way that you will do on a consistent basis.

Instead of worrying about the perfect workout, find an activity that you enjoy and get after it.

10. You need a bunch of supplements.

All you need is real natural food. Regardless of the diet plan that you follow, the need for pills, powders, potions, and shakes for weight loss is a myth.

If you choose to use supplements, make sure they are truly “supplements” to a solid nutrition plan that focuses on real food and not an attempt to make up for poor eating.  Perhaps consider a quality fish oil supplement or multi-vitamin for general health, but protein powders and "fat burning" pills are unnecessary for weight loss.

Get Help With This Free Program

With media and marketing bombarding us with often contradictory weight loss theories and tactics, cutting through the weight loss myths can be confusing.

Do your best to see through the "smoke and mirrors" by keeping in mind that weight loss comes down to eating real food in appropriate quantity, training outside of your comfort zone, allowing for proper recovery, and repeating the process with consistency.

To help guide you through the process, consider the Fat Loss For Free program which includes four different 12-week training programs that you can do from home, a 12-week sample menu, jump start audio program, and 68 instructional videos.  Get it today at no charge by clicking here and entering your email address.

Subscribe to the Expert Enough newsletter.

Get our latest articles sent to your inbox weekly: