The Secret to Losing Weight: What You Think You Know Is Wrong

They say that people who eat breakfast are thinner. They say that crash diets don’t work. They say weighing yourself daily will help you control your weight.

Before you apply all that wisdom to your weight loss efforts, ask Them to prove it.

A group of scientists has published an article in The New England Journal of Medicine demonstrating the absence of proof for many commonly-held beliefs about weight control, including the three above.

From the New York Times piece on the article, “here is an overview of the obesity myths looked at by the researchers and what is known to be true:”

Small things make a big difference. Walking a mile a day can lead to a loss of more than 50 pounds in five years.
Set a realistic goal to lose a modest amount.
People who are too ambitious will get frustrated and give up.
You have to be mentally ready to diet or you will never succeed.
Slow and steady is the way to lose. If you lose weight too fast you will lose less in the long run.

Ideas not yet proven TRUE OR FALSE
Diet and exercise habits in childhood set the stage for the rest of life.
Add lots of fruits and vegetables to your diet to lose weight or not gain as much.
Yo-yo diets lead to increased death rates.
People who snack gain weight and get fat.
If you add bike paths, jogging trails, sidewalks and parks, people will not be as fat.

Heredity is important but is not destiny.
Exercise helps with weight maintenance.
Weight loss is greater with programs that provide meals.
Some prescription drugs help with weight loss and maintenance.
Weight-loss surgery in appropriate patients can lead to long-term weight loss, less diabetes and a lower death rate.

Who to believe? It does not help that Madelyn Fernstrom, founding director of the University of Pittsburgh Weight Management Center, agreed with the New England Journal of Medicine authors that our beliefs about obesity are “spinning out of control” — and then went and told The Today Show that some of the identified myths are true.

Fernstrom said it is important to eat breakfast. ”If you don’t eat in the morning, you will be too hungry when you finally have a meal.”

She also said that you should weigh yourself, “at least once a week,” though once a day is also good.

Another example: Michelle Obama encourages people to be active; others say that exercise does not lead to weight loss.

Then there is the meta-confusion: should we even be worrying about obesity? While most of the country obsesses about our weight, there are voices saying that being fat isn’t always unhealthy, and others saying it is the pressure to be skinny (which causes the obsessing) that is dangerous.

It’s puzzling why the science in this area isn’t better. With so many wealthy companies touting weight-loss products, there should be many sponsors willing to pay to prove that one or another technique is effective. Perhaps they prefer our confusion: while we keep guessing, we keep paying for diet companies, gyms, trainers, equipment and more. The weight-loss industry has grown fat on our dough and likes it that way.

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Kylie J.
Kylie J.4 years ago

Losing weight may not be easy for some whereas it may be a piece of cake for the others.Basically weight control is best done with the kind of diet you take.Eating right will always help you maintain a healthy weight and also keep at bay the various diseases linked to overeating.So eat right and to add to that a sufficient amount of exercise to maintain that healthy weight.

Sheila D.
Sheila D4 years ago

Those who are inactive may not be fat to look at, but they have little or no muscle tone and may have more fat than they realize. Those who look overweight have many factors to deal with, not the least of which is society telling them how and why they "need" to lose weight. Whole foods are important in maintaining my weight; lots of vegetables, fruits, and very little (if any) processed food (though I love sugar and must be very careful not to overindulge). Each of us is responsible for our own health, and each of us will probably have a slightly different way to achieve that goal. It's easy to give advice, not so easy to ask for help and then follow advice given.

Jade N.
Jade N4 years ago


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

thanks. i eat what I want (for the most prt) and just stay really active. I have never had weight issues

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra4 years ago

Thank you Piper, for Sharing this!

Myriam G.
Myriam G5 years ago

Prescription drugs, weight-loss surgery and "programs that provide meals" are all good things that have proven to be effective !?!?! Good thing the study also stated that "exercise helps", otherwise, I would have had big doubts as to who (or what corporations) have funded it!

Vicky P.
Vicky P5 years ago


Lika S.
Lika P5 years ago

In my case, as well as my son's, it's a genetic condition. And no, it wasn't because I was born to "obese parents". We have a deletion in part of our genetic code, and that causes us to have problems with weight, and also gives us a heightened appetite. This is what we are dealing with, and the income isn't high enough to swap out enough starch & protein for veggies.

Tamara r Pearlman

I've been involved with yoga on and off for much of my life! I am also a vegetarian and contrary to most people's impression of vegetarianism is that we should all be quite thin. I was until my son and I lost our dream home to toxic mold and became chronically ill. One of the side affects has been no hunger pangs. Thus, I have to strategize daily how to get myself to eat during the day to circumvent my body from going into self starvation. I was a size 6 when we emerged from my former home and I am in a size 14 jean to accomodate my gut (wheat or whatever). I am learning what to cut out of my diet (in today's times), proportion control as when I begin eating than I feel the hunger and many more ideas I've learned here on Care2. I do feel that a combination of eating right and excercise is the best way to go!! Don't you?

Cheryl H.
Cheryl H.5 years ago

It's largely dietary, according to the most recent research. Portion control. Limit the sugars/carbs in your diet. Everything in moderation.