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8 Biggest Weight Loss Myths to Ditch in the New Year

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  • There are many myths about weight loss that make losing fat more confusing than it should be.
  • Spencer Nadolsky, obesity expert, and Kara Mockler, nutritionist, debunked the biggest myths.
  • They said you don’t have to do cardio, cut carbs, or stop eating at night.

Weight loss is simple in theory, but not necessarily easy.

With fad diets and so-called experts offering conflicting advice wherever you look, it can be difficult to know what to do if you want to lose weight the healthy way.

We asked an obesity physician and registered dietitian to debunk the biggest weight loss myths to help give people the best chance for long-term success.

1. Weight loss is all about willpower

The Doctor. Spencer Nadolsky, an obesity expert, said that if you rely on willpower alone to lose weight, you probably won’t succeed.

“Our environments and bodies fight with us as we try to lose weight,” he said. “It may take some willpower to get started, but to make it last longer, you’ll have to work on your habits, and some may even need medical intervention like medication or surgery.”

2. You need to cut carbs to lose weight

“This is a common myth perpetuated due to the idea that carbohydrates cause insulin to be released in the body and insulin is a fat-storing hormone,” said Nadolsky.

Weight loss comes down to a sustainable calorie deficit or eating fewer calories than you burn.

“You can absolutely lose weight by eating carbs despite the release of insulin,” Nadolsky said. “There have been painstaking studies looking at this, and it still boils down to a calorie deficit.”

3. You need to exercise a lot to lose weight

It’s understandable that people think that exercise burns calories and therefore should lead to greater weight loss – but Nadolsky said it really doesn’t work that way, mainly because formal exercise makes up so little of our total daily calorie burn. He added that expecting it to be the one that helps you lose a large amount of weight would likely be a disappointment.

“It has to do with how our bodies adapt to appetite and other components of our metabolism,” Nadolsky said. “We ended up losing a lot less than we should have, despite a lot of effort.”

But you still must exercise to improve your health and body composition – strength training will help you maintain muscle while burning fat.

“Don’t stop exercising,” Nadolsky said. “Change expectations.”

4. Eating at night causes weight gain or prevents weight loss

Kara Mockler, a registered dietitian, told Insider that weight loss comes down to total daily calorie intake; it doesn’t matter when you consume the calories.

“If late-night snacking puts you in a calorie surplus, that’s where it gets in the way of weight loss,” Mockler said.

5. Fasting makes you lose more weight

People often fast – through daily eating windows or diets like the 5:2 diet – in an attempt to lose weight, but there’s nothing superior about it other than helping someone maintain a calorie deficit.

“When calorie intake is equalized, fasting no longer promotes weight loss,” said Mockler. “You can allocate your total daily calories however works best for you and still get great results.”

6. Cardio is necessary for weight loss

Cardio has many health benefits, but it’s not necessary for weight loss, Mockler said.

“The biggest factor in terms of weight is how much we eat, and controlling that is the number one priority,” she said. “Adding cardio to your new healthy routine is like the cherry on top.”

7. You must cut out delicious foods

Losing weight doesn’t mean you can never eat the foods you love.

“Learning to incorporate your favorite foods into your diet means you’re more likely to stick with that way of eating over the long term and get better results,” Mockler said.

She said that if you put foods like pizza, cookies, and cake on a pedestal and tell yourself you can’t eat them, you’re more likely to crave them and ultimately overindulge.

“Eat small portions of your favorite treats and eat mindfully,” Mockler said.

8. Sugar prevents weight loss

Sugar may not be nutritious or particularly filling (meaning it’s easy to overeat), but you don’t have to avoid it entirely.

“If our total calories are in check, eating a food that contains sugar won’t impede weight loss,” Mockler said. “Make sure you’re getting enough fiber throughout the day, and don’t feel guilty about having a delicious treat every now and then.”