Are You Still Being Fooled By These Diet Myths?

By Mel Thomassian (RD)

Wouldn’t you agree the diet industry is saturated with unhealthy weight loss misconceptions? This has helped lead to an explosion of behaviors, which do little to encourage good health and well-being in the long run.

I hate the fact that in our day and age for some people “health” equals “fad dieting!”In truth, there’s no quick fix. Being healthy is a constant and ongoing battle. But, rather than listening to the latest lies from the “diet gurus”, perhaps we should be trusting our gut instincts a little more.

Here are 13 of the fattest lies about dieting:

1. You don’t need to exercise to lose weight

Obviously you can lose some weight without exercising, however the best way to lose it and keep it off, is to combine a healthy diet with regular exercise. The simple fact is this, exercise is important regardless of your current weight.

2. Skipping breakfast helps you lose weight

In actual fact, studies indicate that when you cut out breakfast, you’re more likely to take in extra calories later in the day to compensate. And, it’s not good for your metabolic state and mood either.

3. Eating late at night hinders weight loss

At the Dunn Nutrition Centre in Cambridge, volunteers were placed in a whole body calorimeter, which measured calories burned and stored. They were given a large lunch and small evening meal for one test period. Then a small lunch and large evening meal during a second test period. Results revealed the large meal eaten late at night did not make the body store more fat.

So, it’s clearly not when you eat that’s important, but the total amount you consume in a 24-hour period.

4. Certain foods are “good” others are “bad

This one drives me insane! It’s pretty obvious that some foods are better than others, such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts etc. But, don’t try to tell me I can never eat a piece of bread again…that’s just silly! Moderation is the key.

5. Low fat foods are better for you

If a product claims to be “fat free”, more than likely you’ll find the sugar content is skyhigh. Remember, “fat free” doesn’t necessarily mean “low calorie” or “calorie free.” To get a clearer picture of what you’re eating, check the nutrition label carefully.

It’s also worth pointing out that a strictly fat free diet isn’t necessary – you do need some fat in your diet – just try to avoid trans fats where possible, and replace most saturated fats with unsaturated fats found in healthy oils, avocados and nuts etc.

6. Fruit juice is as good as eating whole fruit

My motto is to eat foods as close to their natural form as possible, and fruit juice doesn’t really fall into this easily. Although not inherently bad for you, you’d certainly be much better eating the whole fruit, rather than taking in empty calories from juice.

7. Weight gain is inevitable as you age

Admittedly, metabolic rate does drop with age, but simply eating a little less would fix that. The problem for most people is that activity levels decrease as they age. So, if you want to make sure you don’t gain extra pounds with each passing birthday, increase your activity level and watch your calorie intake.

8. Quick weight loss is best

In truth, slow and sustained weight loss is much better. That way you’re more likely to lose excess fat, not muscle. And, you should be able to maintain your weight loss long-term.

9. Weight gain is highly likely when you quit smoking

While it’s true that some people do gain weight when they stop smoking, this isn’t the case for everyone. Nicotine is said to increase the body’s metabolism, however this effect is small, and isn’t a good enough reason to put off quitting.

10. Losing weight will solve your problems

If you have problems before losing weight, unfortunately they’ll still be there after the pounds are gone. So, what should you do? It’s important that you get real with yourself about the source of your difficulties, then set realistic goals to help you achieve what you want in life.

11. Everyone gains a few pounds over the holidays

It is 100 percent possible to enjoy your holidays and still lose weight, or at least stay at a constant weight. How? By eating in moderation. If you assume you’ll gain weight during the holidays, it’s a bit like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Start out with the right mental attitude instead, and be positive about what you can achieve.

12. It’s my “slow metabolism” which prevents weight loss

Unfortunately, people are becoming increasingly more sedentary, and it seems likely this is a crucial factor in the increasing problems with weight gain.

BBC Health report:

“Scientists have measured the exact amount of calories overweight and healthy weight people burn while sitting or lying quietly. This was done by measuring the amount of oxygen breathed in and the amount of carbon dioxide breathed out.

Results from these studies have consistently shown that overweight people use more energy to keep their bodies working. This is because they have larger bodies with bigger muscles and internal organs.

However, after taking into account differences in body size, lean and obese people have been shown to have similar metabolic rates.”

13. Fattening foods lead to rapid weight gain

In actual fact, real weight gain is a pretty slow process. If you eat a very fatty meal and the scales are saying you’ve gained a few pounds, it’s highly likely this is due to fluid. If you hang in there, and get back to eating healthy again, those few extra pounds will resolve themselves.

What’s the biggest dieting myth you’ve ever heard?


  1. Michael Banashak

    Calories habe NOTHING to do with the causal mechanisms of MATTER loss in a human body. Energy is a very abstract CONCEPT OR PROPERTY ONLY. ENERGY IS NOT ANYTHING ITSELF. LEARN SO E PHYSICS, YOU FOOLS.

  2. BarbellMama

    Also food tastes amazing once you quit.

  3. Carmen

    I quit smoking 20 years ago and did not go to food for satifaction, U can reach out to excerising like I did. By the time I quit 5 months I was 15 pounds lighter and healther by jogging and weight lifting. Much happier person too. I went to the doctors for a yearly check up and he saw a completely new look on my face also. Made me happier

  4. losebellyfat

    These are some good myths to bust. There are a ton of people out there going off the wrong information and being lead down the wrong road.


    Yes someone who is obese can exercise and do not need to fast. Haven’t you seen the guy who was 600 pounds? He used a modified exercise program from the get go. Sure they can’t get out and run a mile the first day but they can start moving. I think this guy did a modified version of squats at first in any case I think a fast could through a body in shock if they are that overweight. I do feel exercise is only 20% of the battle and diet is 80%. A proper weight loss program to lose the weight and moderate exercise to tone.

  5. thirty ways

    You had me at #1. I was sedentary all my life. I scoffed at those hyper people who always seemed to need motion. What is their problem?? Give me a chair and a book any day. But you know what, I never successfully lost weight until I started swimming laps 5 years ago. Now, 30 pounds down, I still have to force myself to do my laps. But, you know what, it works so I do it.

  6. FitJerk - Flawless Fitness Blog

    Want to hear the biggest myth of all. Here it is.

    “I can’t do it”.

    I’ve bashed that one many many times.

  7. Heather

    Fat free mass is the greatest indicator in one’s metabolism, with very few people having significantly different metabolisms given their amount of lean body mass. However, the range of activity in metabolism can vary between 28 and 42 Calories per kilogram of fat free mass in a 24 hour period. This equates to 13 to 19 Calories per pound of fat free mass per day burned at rest – (Pi-Sunye- study reported in the Obesity Research Journal in 2002) I believe part of the differences in the activity are metabolic changes based on WHAT you eat (on a Calorie counting diet, I reduced severely and had trouble losing weight, now with my number of Calories per day increased, no problem with weight.)

    Even still 13-19, the difference of those with the FASTEST metabolisms and the SLOWEST metabolisms (and those are outliers, not the 95% of people who are at he same) in a woman with 100 lb fat free mass is only 600 Calories a day… not much between those who burn the most and those who burn the least, with most people being far closer. Realistically, studies have not supported the claims of people who say they have slow metabolisms… often the more overweight have higher metabolism, partially due to higher lean body mass from carrying around extra weight.

    If you feel you have a slow metabolism, you’re best off trying to build muscle than complaining (because that doesn’t help anything). And beyond that, eating clean– cutting out processed foods… that worked for me.

  8. Fattus

    Sedentary lifestyles actually are making us live longer. We don’t have to hunt, work in factories, farm, fight, etc. as much, which were major causes of injury and death through time.

  9. Ben

    #1 isn’t a myth. You say so in the next sentence.

    Exercise is about being healthy. Losing weight is primarily about eating less — less than you were eating, or less than you would eat, but mostly less than the amount you’d eat and maintain or increase your weight.

    I could exercise 6 hours a day and get fatter.

  10. Spectra

    Uh, hate to burst your little theory, but the truth is that someone with a “slow” metabolism probably only burns about 200 calories a day fewer than someone with a “fast” metabolism. Metabolisms vary, but not to a huge degree; definitely not to the degree that people believe they do. Most members of my family are overweight and they all just say they’re “big boned” and have slow metabolisms. Truth is, none of them exercise and they all eat too much. You can increase your metabolism by building your muscle mass up. My husband used to have a screaming fast metabolism back when he was very active and had a lot of muscle mass. Then he got a desk job and stopped moving around so much and BOOM!, he gained 20 lbs in about 6 months. He never really changed what he ate, but he did lose some muscle mass and so needed fewer calories to maintain his weight.

  11. Shannon

    Same here…if I eat more than 1200 calories a day I balloon up. That includes exercising. I know people that eat like pigs, never watch their calories and don’t exercise and have no problems with weight gain.
    It’s bunk to tell people everyone has the same metabolism. Slow metabolism DOES inhibit weight loss.

  12. Katie

    I don’t see how doing light weight training or something that is much more upper body exercise would be contraindicated. It’s a lot less wear and tear on joints.

  13. Katie

    Once again, there is a difference between five or ten pounds and forty or fifty pounds. Plus, I’ve noticed people’s appetites tend to trend down as they age (this is anecdotal and based on observation, not scientific study), which should compensate for the slowed metabolic rate.

  14. Laura

    Look, I am 49 years old, I lost 70lbs 3 years ago and have kept it off following very basic guidelines .. YOU CAN lose weight over 40 and keep it off with no gimmicks, pills, berries.

    Good Luck to everyone!!

  15. Spectra

    Good post…I agree with most of it, but I must admit that some of them are “myths” that I’ve never heard of as being true, like that skipping breakfast helps you lose weight. I think it’s pretty much been drilled into my head that eating breakfast is good for your weight loss efforts.

    The myth that fat people have slow metabolisms does really bother me, though. Fat people actually usually have a HIGHER BMR than thin people because they have more of a body to maintain. Most people with so-called “high metabolisms” really just have a lot of muscle and a high lean body mass. If you compare say, myself with my friend who doesn’t work out at all, you’d say that I must have a “high metabolism” because even though we weigh the same, I consume a lot more calories than she does because I’m 15% body fat while she is 24% body fat. Muscle utilizes more energy than fat does to maintain itself, so if you want to have a “high metabolism”, start working out and building your muscle mass while losing your fat.

  16. Lucille

    Hey let’s rewrite this article with our opinions which are clearly better than fact! ugh….just let it be or write your own damn blog….comments trying to sound smarter than one another make you all sound like MORONS.

  17. susan

    You can’t tell me that everyone has the same metabolism. There are many really slender people who can’t gain weight even if they try. I have more than one friend who eats about three times the calories I do, yet stays stick skinny (and I exercise three times as much as they do).

  18. Jody - Fit at 51

    I think these are good common sense points to help people. Yes, food is at least 65% of weight loss but exercise & food changes together are proven to help people not only lose weight but keep it off long term. Also, exercise is important for health as well… cardiovascular health & weights fro bone health.

    I was reading this same article on another blog & they were discussing how people think fat & muscle are the same…. That muscle turns to fat if you stop exercising. I have been explaining the truth about this for years & still have to tell people that muscle & fat are not the same! Amazing that people still believe this!

  19. Elle Welch

    A great common sense approach to life style and diet.

    I couldn’t agree more.


  20. Fattus

    good luck with that.

  21. Ann

    The reason we are living longer is because of advancements in medicine and personal hygiene, not because being sedentary is actually better for us.

  22. Gavin

    This is great article written in plain English. I have heard all of these and even used some of these excuses in the past. Ultimately it is up to an individual to take control and assume responsibility for breaking their bad eating habits, ensure a good nutritional diet and do the necessary exercise that the body needs to perform efficiently.

  23. S

    Although I agree that BMI can be problematic as an indicator of health, it’s not quite true that people in the ‘healthy’ range of BMI have a higher mortality rate. (See article: A BMI over 30, generally speaking, means higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, joint problems, and sometimes cancer. Obviously this may not be true for everyone, but it’s true for enough people to be of great concern.

  24. Mike Howard

    While I agree that body weight/BMI is not the only indicator (and for some it’s a poor indicator) to suggest that it doesn’t matter at all is misinformed. Avoiding weight gain as you age isn’t battling God, its battling inactivity and eating-related factors. You can maintain most of your muscle tissue and hence your metabolism through healthy living.

    To say you are gaining weight because of your age is a copout. Your body does go through some age-related changes that make it more difficult, sure – but nobody needs to gain much – if any – weight at all.

    And sorry, I agree with Katie – being a little overweight is very different than being morbidly obese. Nobody under 7 and-a-half feet tall is “naturally” 300 lbs. It is not “healthy” for your joints to be that size.

    So if your message is “don’t worry too much about the scale” I agree to an extent. But “healthy no matter how much you weigh” is misleading.

  25. Losing Weight is a bitch

    In my experience, the two biggest myths are that you can lose weight without exercise, and that overly processed “low fat” foods will aid in weight loss.

    If anything processed foods just put weight on you, no matter what the claim of low fat, no calories etc.

  26. Barry

    Are we really supposed to believe that someone who is hundreds of pounds overweight and gets shin splints from just walking for ten minutes is supposed to be exercising?

    For the morbidly obese, the best approach is to begin with a protein sparing modified fast to get rid of the fat and get them down to a weight where exercise is at least feasible without serious risk of injury.

  27. CraigB -

    I’ve read a number of studies regarding this as well. They essentially suggest that as we age lean body tissue decreases and body fat increases, which decreases our calorie requirements. Fat cells burn less calories than muscle. Many people don’t compensate for this change in metabolism by eating less or exercising more, so the result is that they begin to gain weight. This change begins to take place in the 20’s so starting a strength training program during those years will definitely help to preserve lean body mass and protect metabolic function. If you’ve missed the boat (you’re 30 or older), don’t fret, you can still begin to build it back now. Just don’t put it off any longer. Your body will thank you for it.

  28. Mike

    I think this was a great post. I agree with most of it. Though I suspect smoking a couple of cigs a day would not hurt anyone (ssuming you don’t have an addictive tendency to tabacco.

    The only problem I have is number 8. Quick weight loss is niether good nor bad. Assuming you are eating well and excercising it does not matter if you lose 1-2 pounds a week or 5-6 pounds a week. Each of us is different. To generalize is really dangerous. I tend to lose weight quickly (lucky for me). Others don’t. (unlucky for them). I put on weight quickly (unlucky for me). Others like my brother in law never puts on weight, no matter how much he eats (lucky for him)

    Nice post.

  29. DyNama

    the biggest myths are those concerning BMI. BMI measures mass not fat, so there could be other reasons than fat to explain a higher BMI–sturdier bones or bigger muscles. most studies actually confirm that BMI’s of 18-25 have a slightly higher mortality risk than 25 to 30–it’s true!–but the differences within the range of 18-35 are almost negligible…which includes most of us! our lifestyles of the past 5 decades have been good for us: by any objective measure, we are living longer healthier lives.

  30. Katie

    That’s not what I meant; what I said was that equating the two minimizes the risks to the latter.

  31. DyNama

    but i totally agree that lumping moderately “overweight” with “obese” greatly exaggerates the risks to the former.

  32. DyNama

    if anyone tries to tell you what you are supposed to weigh, he is either sadly mistaken or lying. no one actually knows what is a safe weight. there does not seem to be a weight line over which your health starts to decline. anyone who complains about #7, weight gain as you age, is arguing with god. we are clearly supposed to gain weight as we get older, and there is plenty of evidence it is good for us and offers protection, not risk.

  33. DyNama

    #9, just a cursory put down of this myth is not good enough, and has the agenda of getting people to quit at any cost. nicotine suppresses appetite, and many people stave off hunger by having a smoke instead. when they quit smoking, they need something else to fiddle with instead of cigs and many times it is food. some look in vain for a food to replace the calming effect they used to get from smoking.

  34. Katie

    By “healthy at any size,” do you mean people who are ten or twenty pounds overweight or fifty to one hundred pounds? Because there’s a huge difference and it seems that too many people try to equate what is true for the first group to the second group.

  35. DyNama

    i agree with much of this, except for _the need to lose weight at all!_ there actually is no “obesity crisis”. weight is not a good indicator of health, many heavy people are healthy, you can be healthy at any size, it is dieting that is unhealthy!

    i do object to the notion that we are all the same, that studies on small groups apply the same to everyone, i think we are all different. i also don’t agree that we are all getting more sedentary. much of the “healthy lifestyle” is unproven.

  36. Heather

    #7 – I was reading some studies a while back (don’t have the citation on me but I’m sure I could find) that indicated that MOST of the metabolic slowdown with age is related to loss of lean body mass in individuals who don’t strength train after age 25…. and is thus entirely avoidable.