Myths and Facts in Weight Loss

Many weight-loss products like meal replacement plans, detox teas, fat-burning supplements, and juice cleanse promise to “jump-start weight loss.” However, “jump-starting weight loss’ is more of a buzzword than a necessary or helpful part of a weight-loss journey.

The truth is, you can lose a lot of weight very quickly, but that typically requires very restrictive methods like cutting too many calories or ditching entire food groups. This fad diet route can create further setbacks since it’s hard to maintain long-term. It often leads to yo-yo dieting, which can slow down your metabolism and make it harder to lose weight and keep it off.

Although social media influencers in weight loss often try to sell quick fixes and this takes the focus away from what you need at the beginning of your journey: a solid game plan. I coach my clients that weight loss is less about how aggressively you start and more about how intentionally you build your approach.

Here, I will break down common myths about how to jump-start weight loss and what to do instead for a more sustainable, healthy and empowering slim-down plan.

When I hear ‘jump-start weight loss,’ I hear fad diet wording that may mean a few kilograms lost quickly, and then quickly regained once the regimen is complete. Severe calorie restriction isn’t necessary to lose weight, and it often backfires — leading to more extreme weight fluctuations or yo-yo dieting later on.


WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: SET A REALISTIC CALORIE GOAL AND START A FOOD JOURNAL

I encourage my clients to adopt a long-term mindset for weight loss because there’s no need to lose weight quickly. Instead of reaching for unhealthy weight-loss goals like losing 5 kilograms in five days aim for a healthy pace of up to 1 kilogram per week.

Use an app like MyFitnessPal to determine a daily calorie goal to create a slight calorie deficit (meaning fewer calories consumed than those you burn through day-to-day activities and exercise). Then, consistently track your intake to raise your awareness of the proper portion sizes you need to eat to lose weight.

Many diets I have seen hone in on what you “should” give up — carbs, dessert, dairy and more. They promise if you can just push through it for 30 days, the results will be worth the pain. But having to cut out so much of what you love can make you feel deprived, drive up hunger and cravings, and eventually lead to binge eating and your same previous unhealthy eating habits when the strict regimen is finally over.


WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: ADD HEALTHY FOODS TO YOUR LIFE

The best thing you can do is focus on additions instead of subtractions.

A starting example would be to make grocery shopping for weight loss easier by creating a list of whole, unprocessed foods you enjoy, such as but not limited to:

  • Non-starchy vegetables such as artichoke, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, leafy greens and squash

  • High-quality protein sources like fish, eggs, chicken, turkey, beans and tofu

  • Healthy fats like olive oil, avocado oil, nuts and seeds

  • Complex carbohydrates rich in filling fibre such as fruit, root vegetables and whole grains

When you prioritise healthy foods and drinks and log them in your food journal before you reach for indulgences, you can naturally begin to edge out the not-so-healthy things you’re trying to reduce.

A strange but scary-sounding claim is that a “detox” tea, broth, juice or fast can eliminate built-up toxins in your body and, in turn, enhance your body’s fat-burning capabilities to jump-start weight loss. But there’s no research to back this up. The word ‘detox’ is another buzzword. Your body naturally detoxifies itself through your skin, lungs, kidney and liver, so don’t waste your money on ‘detox teas.’


WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: CLEAN OUT YOUR PANTRY AND FRIDGE

A much easier and more effective “detox” is to clean the foods in your cupboards, fridge and freezer. I notice that I eat what I have around, so reducing the variety of processed foods for snacking is a good option. Further, I put healthy foods front and centre, glass containers of pre-cut veggies in the fridge, and grab-and-go healthy snacks ready to go.

One of the most de-motivating myths is you just need more willpower to start losing weight. But without an action plan, motivation to carry on can disappear pretty fast. A lack of preparation often leads to less healthy decisions regarding food or activity. For example, it’s much easier to chill out on the couch and watch Netflix after work when you don’t have a workout scheduled or the groceries you need to make a wholesome meal.


WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: HAVE A PLAN AND SUPPORT SYSTEM TO KEEP YOURSELF MOTIVATED

Instead of trying to summon willpower from nowhere, make it easier to create new habits and stick with them by having a plan and surrounding yourself with support. When you’re armed with a plan for your Monday through Friday meals and workout routine, that alleviates mental energy later and can make you much more likely to follow through.

Rather than overhauling everything all at once — then getting overwhelmed and quitting — start with one small change to your diet or exercise routine per week. Set and track SMART goals which are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. After you reach one, build on your success with another.

Here are a few examples:

  • Week one: Increase your vegetable intake by 2 cups per day.

  • Week two: Maintain your week one goal and add a 30-minute walk four times a week.

To up your chances of success, get your support system involved, too. Research shows sharing your goals with someone you look up to can increase your motivation, and working out with others can compel you to push harder and longer. If it’s in your budget, you might also consider hiring a fitness coach to help create the most effective plan for you.

High-intensity exercises like HIIT workouts and group fitness classes are often made out to be ideal for weight loss due to evidence that they burn more calories during and after the workout (aka the “afterburn” effect). While this sounds great, you may easily blow the “bonus burn” with about half of a protein bar. It’s also common for people new to these exercises to dramatically lower their non-exercise activity thermogenesis (or calories burned from day-to-day movements like walking, fidgeting and doing chores) by vegging out following a super tough workout.

The reality is that there is no single workout that generates very much fat loss on its own. And while almost everyone likes the idea of high-intensity training, few people can sustain it for very long without the use of supplementation.


WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: CHOOSE FORMS OF MOVEMENT AND EXERCISE YOU CAN SEE YOURSELF DOING FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE

The best approach for sustainable weight loss is reducing the calories you eat and increasing those you burn through a combination of everyday movement (doing the laundry, carrying light packages back to your apartment, playing with your dog) and exercise such as walking, running and strength training — the latter of which can help you build and maintain muscle and improve your metabolism over time.

When you’re starting, it’s all about adherence. If you can stick to it, it will benefit you. If not, it doesn’t matter if ‘everyone else’ seems to love it. I advise looking for workouts that are physically and mentally engaging, so you can develop a skill without beating up your body, socially engaging, so you have a reason to show up and have fun even taking it outdoors for the added benefit of enjoying nature and sunshine, and, most importantly, making it enjoyable.

The possibilities are endless: dancing, hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, longboarding, team sports, Frisbee, slacklining, yoga, rock climbing, swimming, martial arts, skiing, snowboarding or a combination of any of the above.

From what I've seen in the fitness industry, especially weight loss, a vast amount of time and energy is dedicated to ‘hacks,’ ‘tricks’ and ‘secrets’ to put in less and get more. While some of these hyped-up approaches have modest value, they often don’t work unless you’re already nailing the true fundamentals of weight loss. While healthy eating and regular movement are important pillars, managing stress levels and self-care are key, too.


WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: START WITH A STRONG FOUNDATION

Take care of your overall physical and mental health to make losing weight easier. No matter your weight-loss plan, make sure you have the basics covered. Get 7–8 hours of high-quality sleep each night and incorporate stress-management techniques into your life like meditation, breathing exercises and self-care practices.

Finally, be patient with yourself. Sustainable weight loss takes time, even if you’re off to a great start. If you strive for consistency over perfection, your results will follow.

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