We all know that there are no magic bullets when it comes to weight loss. The truth is, it requires substantial mental and physical effort. Bottom Line Personal asked weight-loss expert Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, to dispel some commonly held myths about dieting that could be preventing you from reaching your healthy weight…


Myth #1: Losing weight is just a matter of calories in and calories out. For many years, experts believed that all calories were alike—but that just isn’t true.

Fact: Some calories work harder for you—and promote better nutritional outcomes—than others. Example: The 150 calories in one can of regular soda will not have the same effects on your body and appetite as 150 calories of broccoli, salmon, nuts or quinoa.


Myth #2: You have to drastically restrict what and when you eat to lose weight. Some misguided diet plans focus on certain nutrients, such as protein and fat, at the expense of healthy carbohydrates. Other diets let you eat only certain foods that you might not find palatable or only at certain times of the day. These plans are tough to follow for a long enough time to lose weight.

Fact: The best diet plan contains a healthy balance of protein, carbs and fat, and emphasizes good-for-you foods. But it also lets you indulge, at least occasionally, in the foods that you really enjoy.

Examples: Bread and highly processed snacks often are cited as foods to restrict. That’s because you tend to eat them quickly…they stimulate your appetite…and they don’t leave you feeling full. Better: Prioritize healthy fruits and vegetables in your diet…beneficial fats such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds…and good-for-you proteins including low-fat dairy products, eggs, fish and seafood, and lean poultry.

If you like big portions: Go for water-rich foods that you can eat more of. Example: A cup of grapes takes up more room on your plate than a small box of raisins, so the portion looks and feels more satisfying. Fresh and frozen fruits and veggies and broth-based soups are examples of water-rich foods.


Myth #3: Any diet plan will work—if you just do it. This is partly true. Any plan that has you eating fewer calories than you burn can lead to weight loss. In this way, you even could lose weight eating fast food—but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll keep the weight off long-term because you won’t have changed the unhealthy behaviors that led you to gain weight in the first place, and you won’t be getting the nutrients your body needs to function well.

Fact: You will achieve sustained weight loss only if you’re ready to commit to a new way of eating and living. You have to find a healthy eating plan that plays into your individual preferences and lifestyle. Healthy plans to consider…

Weight Watchers (WW) and Noom are based on solid research and focus on both the physical and mental aspects of the weight-loss journey while helping you adopt a healthy lifestyle.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes whole and plant-based foods such as olive oil and nuts and minimizes added sugars and red meat. Note: Olive oil and nuts are high in calories, but eating controlled portion sizes will make you feel full for a long time. These tasty foods also are good sources of nutrients. One study conducted by University of Barcelona and other institutions in Spain even found that regular consumption of nuts and olive oil can reduce belly fat over a five-year period.

Not ideal: Prepackaged diet plans such as Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem. There is some research to back up the benefits of kickstarting weight loss with one of these diets, but they are unlikely to keep the weight off permanently because they don’t give you the behavioral tools to make necessary changes in your eating habits.

Worst: The low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet has been named the least healthy diet plan of 2022 by US News & World Report in its annual diet ranking because it is so restrictive. Although there are some data to support ketogenic diets, they don’t provide balanced nutrition. Even worse: Some people take them to an extreme and gorge on bacon and other heavily processed foods. If you follow a ketogenic diet, you miss out on the many benefits of carbs, including the fiber in whole grains, which supports your gut bacteria and the health of your immune and digestive systems. Several research studies show that eating whole grains in moderation every day actually can assist with weight loss rather than stymie it. Easy ways to eat more whole grains: Choose brown rice over white rice…whole-grain pasta over white pasta…whole-grain bread over white bread…low-sugar whole-grain cereals over sugary processed cereals.


Myth #4: Willpower is the key to sustained weight loss. This sets you up to feel like a failure if you can’t control your impulse to eat. Your brain perceives certain foods—cookies, candy, cake, potato chips, frozen pizza and other processed foods—as highly rewarding, so they become more enticing, especially when you are tired or stressed out and your willpower is at its weakest. Processed foods require minimal or no preparation, so it is easy to overindulge in them without thinking about it.

Fact: Willpower comes and goes, and the more decisions you have to make—especially during times of stress—the more your willpower gets used up, causing you to make unhealthy decisions. Rather than relying on willpower, take a behavioral/psychological approach to weight loss, and plan what you are going to eat in a variety of potentially problematic settings. Examples: What are you going to have for dinner if a meeting runs late? Which snacks are you going to have to satisfy your hunger pangs? A 2018 report from the US Preventive Services Task Force confirms that people lose more weight by making behavior changes like these than with typical cut-your-calorie diets.


Myth #5: Your doctor is the best source of weight-loss advice.

Fact: Most doctors don’t have the training, tools or time to help their patients lose weight. A 2018 survey of 141 US medical schools conducted by researchers from the Cleveland Clinic and Northwestern University found that programs spend only about 10 hours educating doctors-to-be about obesity, nutrition and behavioral-change techniques for weight loss.

Some doctors are not even good role models themselves. Although physicians are less likely to be obese than non-health-care professionals, nearly 48% of doctors say they are trying to lose weight, according to the 2021 Medscape Physician Lifestyle and Happiness Report. When doctors are overweight, it impacts how they counsel patients about weight loss and whether patients follow their advice.

Better: Turn to a registered dietitian or a group such as WW or Noom to help you stay accountable to your goals. Expect that you will have ups and downs, plateaus and challenges during your weight-loss journey. Start anew each day…when you overeat…and when you make poor food choices.

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