Fact or fiction?
Tell people you’re trying to lose weight, and you’ll be quickly inundated with tips, tricks and facts from misinformed people who think they have the secret to weight loss. But how do you know what’s true and what’s just well-intentioned malarkey? Here are five weight loss myths that you should ignore.
Do situps to lose belly fat.
When trying to lose weight, many people try to target the fat on their belly by doing situps or other abdominal exercises. Although sit-ups can help strengthen your abs, they unfortunately won’t help shrink your belly. “If you exercise, you can target portions of your body to develop muscle, but you can’t target weight loss,” says Peter LePort, medical director of MemorialCare Center for Obesity at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. “Everyone loses weight differently. Some lose from their face or arms first, others from their thighs. No exercise you do will cause you to lose weight from a specific area.”
Don’t eat before bed.
A midnight snack isn’t necessarily a bad thing, says Liz Weinandy, a registered dietitian with The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. “There’s no good evidence that people should not eat before bed,” she says. “When you look throughout the world, people routinely eat dinner at 9 or 10 at night, and they don’t all have a weight problem.” However, many people tend to eat poorly right before bed, which does pose a problem. “At night, you’re probably grabbing a pint of ice cream over a salad,” Weinandy says. So rather than focus on when you eat it’s more important to focus on what you eat. “It all comes down to calories,” she adds, “You have to take in less than you put out.”
Eat breakfast to lose weight.
This one is not completely black and white, Weinandy says. Many people believe eating breakfast is the key to weight loss, but the evidence is contradictory. While some studies have found that people who eat breakfast weigh less, others have found the opposite. “What we know for certain is that when you go through a fasting period overnight, breaking that fast helps rev up your metabolism,” she says. “For some people, breakfast helps control hunger, but for others, eating breakfast could just be adding more calories into their day.”
Not eating bread isn’t going to magically help you shed weight, Weinandy says, but changing the type you eat can help. Bread is high in calories, and typical white bread doesn’t offer much in the way of nutrition. Rather than stick to the usual processed, refined white breads, she recommends eating whole-grain bread, which is high in fiber. “People think carbs are going right to your hips,” she says. “The issue isn’t the carbs themselves, but the kind we’re eating.”
Fat is bad.
If you want to lose fat, you should avoid eating any fat, right? Wrong. While animal fat and other saturated fats are linked to health problems, monounsaturated fats, like olive oil, have been shown to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. “You have to have certain fats to remain healthy,” LePort says. “A diet like the Mediterranean diet that’s high in good fats can be a great way to lose weight.”
Amir Khan is a Health + Wellness reporter at U.S. News. You can follow him on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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