Weight Loss & Diet

The Top 10 Myths About Weight Loss: Debunked!

You asked, WW answered. Here are the facts on your most pressing questions about weight loss—including what actually works.
Published September 8, 2017

Chances are you've heard a lot of information about the best ways to lose weight. (Thanks, internet!) The thing is, it can be difficult to separate facts from fiction—a problem when your goal is to create healthy eating habits and acheive sustainable weight loss. Science to the rescue! Read on for the biggest myths about weight loss and the truth about their claims.

Myth 1: There are certain foods, like apple cider vinegar, that can boost your metabolism and help you lose weight

Fact: While you may want to believe there's a magical weight loss potion as accessible as apple cider vinegar, there's not sufficient (or convincing) evidence that links the salad dressing ingredient to body weight or metabolism, according to a 2014 scientific review published in Nutrition Reviews. Although you might have read that certain drinks or foods (like chili peppers) can boost your metabolism, in most cases, you'd need a massive dose to acheive even a minimal effect, according to a 2012 study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Chemistry Senses—and there's no saying whether adding just one thing to your diet would affect the scale.

Myth 2: I can’t lose weight because I’m older

Fact: As you get older, your metabolism does tend to slow down about 1 to 2% percent, according to a Public Health Nutrition study published in 2005. And here's the deal with metabolism: The slower yours churns, the fewer calories your body burns per day. In turn, this may make it harder to lose weight in your 60s than in, say, your 20s—particularly since your body likely needs fewer calories than you did when you were younger. See, age-related metabolic dips often have to do with less muscle mass, which results from easing up on physical activity, wrote researchers of a 2008 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition article on age-related differences in body composition among men. Luckily, the takeaway is actionable: Maintaining your physical activity routine can help you side step a major metabolic dip as you age—and enable weight loss later in life. 

Myth 3: Eating small frequent meals is better for weight loss than eating larger meals spaced farther apart

Fact: There may be a seed of truth here since eating a little something roughly every three hours may help you avoid extreme hunger, which can lead to overeating and interfere with your weight loss efforts. That said, the amount of food you eat over the course of an entire day or week matters more than when you eat or how often. So: Whether you eat the traditional three meals a day, or six (or more!) smaller ones throughout the day, it's best to focus on the big picture and consider which habits you can stick to in the long term.

Myth 4: You need to drink a certain amount of water (hot, iced, with lemon, etc.) to lose weight

Fact: While water impacts your body’s overall functioning, it has no calories and, therefore, does not contribute to weight gain or weight loss. But listen up, soda drinkers: Substituting water for any caloric beverages you normally drink (e.g. sugary colas, juices) will increase weight loss, since it will reduce the amount of calories you consume in a given day, according to a 2016 clinical trial published in the journal, Obesity.

Myth 5: It’s helpful to use at-home cleanses and detoxes

Fact: Not to burst your bubble, but there is no scientific evidence to support the use of over-the-counter or homemade detoxes at home, according to a 2015 review of existing research on detox diets published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. Even though some alleged experts claim that you need to detoxify your body from the build-up of pollutants, excess processed foods, chemicals in your home, etc., the reality is that your liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, and gastrointestinal tract already cleanse and detoxify the body on their own. While certain medical conditions may affect your liver or kidneys' functioning, it's best to see a doctor rather than rely on detox products, which generally have not been approved by the FDA.

Myth 6: You have to be physically active to lose weight

Fact: First things first: You can lose weight without adjusting your activity levels by merely changing what you eat. However, research suggests that adding physical activity can increase your weight loss by 20%, according to a 2015 review of existing studies on long-term weight loss after diet and exercise. If that doesn't motivate you to move, consider this: Multiple studies show that a regular pattern of physical activity is the single best predictor of long-term weight loss maintenance. And don’t forget that there are many other benefits of physical activity, like improving your mood and sleep quality and decreasing your risk for certain diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. That doesn't mean you have to start running marathons (unless that's your thing). You'd do better to find an activity you love to move more and stick with it. 

Myth 7: Smoothies are always a healthy option

Fact: Despite what you might have heard, smoothies may not be the best choice for weight loss. Although smoothies can contain healthy ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, and nonfat Greek yogurt, sipping your food through a straw delivers highly concentrated calories that can be consumed quickly, which doesn't leave your body with much time to register that it’s actually “eaten” something.  It could be because when you drink something, it eliminates the act of chewing which may impact the signals between the belly and brain, according to a 2015 systematic review published in Physiology and Behavior. After all, smoothies are liquids, which your brain doesn't register as solid food. Just imagine eating a whole orange; now think of that orange as juice (about ½ cup). Seems like less "food" doesn’t it?

Myth 8: I am having trouble losing weight because I am not eating enough

Fact: While eating fewer calories than you burn is the key to weight loss, eating insufficient calories can put your body into "starvation mode," i.e., cause it to compensate in a radical way: When you lose weight too quickly, your metabolism may slow down even more than you’d expect from gradual weight loss, which could make it more difficult to lose weight and keep it off. The bottom line is this: Eating less can help you lose weight, but eating too little can make it difficult to keep up weight loss momentum and maintain your results.  

Myth 9: Eating too much fruit can inhibit weight loss

Fact: Fruits and vegetables aren’t magically calorie-free just because they're all-natural or because many of them are on your ZeroPoint™ foods list. While produce is nutritious, satisfying, and tasty—and may help you lose weight if you eat them instead of higher calorie snacks—eating more bananas because they’re “free” could impact your weight loss efforts. Like any habit, let your weight loss be your guide in determining what works for you.

Myth 10: When I reach a certain weight, my weight loss stops because that is the set-point my body wants

Fact: The “set-point theory” states that the amount of fat in our bodies is relatively stable. This theory has been clearly proven in animals, but is less clear in humans. So what do we know for sure? About 50% of body weight is determined by genetics, and the other 50% is determined by food and activity. While you can't do much about your genes, your eating and exercise patterns can have a significant impact on your weight.