Leave it to the multibillion-dollar diet and fitness industry to perpetuate the lies that keep it in business. I'm a formerly obese personal trainer who's maintained a healthy weight for more than a decade, and I'm here to smash seven of the most popular weight-loss myths once and for all.
Losing weight is as simple as eating less and exercising more
Riiiiiight... and riding a bike is as simple as falling over less and pedaling more. The idea that losing weight is as simple as burning more calories than you take in disregards the powerful internal forces that many people have to face and conquer to be able to do that. I know from firsthand experience: for most people, losing weight isn't easy, and anyone who says otherwise is either privileged or a dolt.
Fasting doesn't work as a weight-loss method
I don't necessarily advocate it, and if you struggle with eating disorders or other issues surrounding food it could be problematic, but there's no doubt that fasting will lead to weight loss, and pretty quickly. After all, you're not eating. Part of what draws people to fasting is that rapid weight loss tends to invite significant positive feedback, both from their bodies and from the world outside. That feedback can be motivating, helping folks stay on course long enough to reach their goal weight.
Of course, it takes more than positive feedback to maintain weight loss long-term. That's a daily, lifelong journey that requires solid information and serious support.
Contrary to popular belief, thin doesn't equal happy.
Losing weight quickly is unhealthy
Actually, the opposite is often true. Bodies carrying a ton of excess fat have a higher risk of developing a whole menagerie of diseases, potentially fatal, so losing weight quickly can mean immediate, drastic improvements to physical health. When I quickly lost more than half my bodyweight my (bad) cholesterol went down and my blood pressure quickly improved. I also moved swiftly out of pre-diabetic and into not-the-least-bit diabetic. That was nice.
Losing weight will improve or eliminate joint pain
Sadly, this isn't always true. I never had joint pain when I was obese, but I've struggled with knee pain on and off for years at a healthy weight. I've helped scores of women lose weight, many of whom had lower-body joint pain. Some got no relief from their pain even at their goal weight, and only a handful were pain-free post-weight loss. (Sorry! Losing weight can and does make a lot of things better, but it's not the magic bullet many chalk it up to be.)
Losing weight will make you happier
Contrary to popular belief, thin doesn't equal happy. In my case, weighing less was a novel, bubbly wonderland for a while, but depression, anxiety, my suck-ass romantic situation, and my shitty job were all right there waiting for me once the spell wore off. I'm much happier today than I was when I was obese, but it's not because I lost my weight -- it's because I did (and continue to do) the inner work I needed to do so I could treat myself well consistently.
Losing weight is the hardest part
Nope. Losing weight is hard to do, for sure, but compared to the years to be lived post-weight loss, the weight-loss period is usually brief. I've had to hit my goal weight a gaggle of times, because the hardest part is continuing to make healthy, mindful choices in the millions of moments that come after the weight is lost. Because we're self-sabotaging ninjas, most of us revert back to our old habits post-weight loss, and we gain all our weight back and then some. Only those willing to do the work to get a handle on self-sabotage can expect to keep weight off for the long haul.
Losing weight is about discipline
This one's true, but only if the loser doesn't mind regaining the weight they lost, and a little extra besides. Discipline alone doesn't result in healthy, sustainable weight loss. Once you're obese, maintaining a healthy weight in a healthy way for life calls for a colorful concoction of self-reflection, truth-seeking, open-mindedness, willingness, and ongoing support.
Luckily, all of that's available. And when you stop getting sidetracked by the BS surrounding weight loss, you're much more likely to find it.
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.