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12 Days of Fitness 2016: Day 8 – The 10 Biggest Lies of the Weight Loss Industry

December 18, 2016 0 Comments

(This is Part 8 of a 12 part series to provide you with some useful health and fitness info over the holiday season)

The weight loss industry is big business, grossing nearly $60 billion per year (and still growing). It grows nearly parallel to the increasing obesity levels worldwide. I don’t know about you, but that clearly means to me it’s not working or people just don’t care. I like to think that the $60 billion makes me believe otherwise. Couple that with fellow “colleagues” (I use the term very loosely) in the fitness industry who claim to offer all the outrageous solutions and you have a land of confusion. Both industries are full with false truths, misleading info, scams, and lies. It’s time to start ignoring the propaganda and listen to the truth, although not always as sexy or glamourous and selling boat loads of books and magazines.

Lie #1 – Fast Weight Loss is to be Expected

Popular media and  TV shows like The Biggest Loser reporting dramatic body transformation that make headlines perpetuate the idea that you should be able to lose 5lbs a week, or even 30lbs in a month. This can happen, but is a far cry from the norm. Most people will safely lose between .5-1% of their body mass per week. This will ensure maximal muscle retention while losing body fat. The Truth: Don’t expect to lose 50lbs in a couple of months. Real life transformations take time. The dramatic transformations you see can inspire you to make positive change, but they can also discourage you when you don’t get similar results. Be patient. Strive to make continual progress, however small that progress may be. Want to make a difference? Do your part to stop the lies and feel free to share this article!

Lie #2 – Fitness Magazines and Tabloids

There are some good magazines out there, but I’d say 90% of the ones you see at the checkout registers are plastered with attention-grabbing headlines that are flat out lies. Women’s health and fitness magazines are the worst offenders. Headlines like “get abs by next week”, or “10 exercises to tone your butt in no time”, are put on the cover to sell magazines, usually accompanied by some celebrity who recently lost some weight. The Truth: You are being told what you want to hear so that you will hand over your hard earned money. There is nothing easy and fast about transforming your body and life. Don’t get fooled.

Lie #3 – Weight Loss All Comes Down to Eating Less and Exercising More

If it were only that easy. Tell that to all the people eating 1200 calories per day and doing an hour or more of cardio but can’t lose weight. Unfortunately, that scenario is far too common . Weight loss is a function of negative energy balance over time. However, a negative energy balance isn’t automatically created by eating less and moving more. That’s because your metabolism adapts to large calorie deficits by down-regulating important fat loss hormones and by using the calories you eat more efficiently. You might lose weight quickly for a while, but that is sure to come to an end in time. The Truth: Sustainable weight loss all comes down to eating as many calories as possible that still enables you to lose weight, while exercising safely and effectively with the ultimate goal of improving your health and fitness.

Lie #4 – You Need to Create a 500 Calorie Daily Deficit to Lose 1 Pound

We’ve all heard that there’s approximately 3500 calories in a pound. Based on that, the standard advice is to eat 500 calories per day less to lose 1lb per week. Lucky for us, that math doesn’t always transfer over to the real world. The problem with this advice is it starts people out with lower than needed calories right from the get go, and when their weight loss stalls, they cut another 500 calories from their diet – effectively lowering their calorie intake to close to nothing. The Truth: Even small reductions in food intake can cause significant weight loss. Many times a 100 calorie reduction per day is enough to see your 1lb/week weight loss pace continue forward.

Lie #5 – Eating 5-6 Small Meals a Day is Best for Weight Loss

That’s the standard advice that’s been coached for years. Usually it’s 3 meals and 2-3 snacks. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this advice accept for the fact that a vast majority of the population has a difficult time fitting that many meals into their lifestyle. The good news is that it makes no significant difference whether you get 2000 calories from 5 meals or 2000 calories from 3 meals. At the end of the day you’re still eating 2000 calories and creating the same calorie deficit. The Truth: When deciding on a meal frequency you should choose one that you’re going to be able to stick with for the long term. Eating 6 meals a day is not best for you if it causes you so much stress trying to sneak in a meal that you end up giving up on your eating plan.

Lie #6 – You Can Target Fat Loss in a Certain Area With Exercise

Spot reduction is a myth that never seems to die. Entire fat loss programs are based around the concept of blasting away fat in particular areas (think buns of steel, or one of the hundreds of six pack abs programs). If only it were that easy. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to choose where the fat went on, and we don’t get to choose where it comes off either. The Truth: Fat loss is systemic, not localized. Combining a quality diet that maintains a calorie deficit with a balanced exercise program is the only way to lose fat from all those trouble areas.

Lie #7 – All Food Labeled as Healthy is Healthy

Food marketers have really started to push the legal limits of what’s considered true and what’s not. There has been a huge boom lately in the health food industry. It seems food manufacturers are trying to make a healthy version of every “pleasure” food you can imagine.  A processed food is a processed food, and it doesn’t matter if it’s made with all organic ingredients or not. Sure, it’s nice to not have that artificial crap in it, but the healthy cookie is still packed with sugar and flour, and is void of any real nutrition. The Truth: Food marketers have almost free reign to sell on the fronts of food packaging, but they are much more tightly regulated when it comes to the food label on the back. Look closely at the ingredients section. If the first ingredients are sugar or flour, it’s likely not as healthy as the box claims.

Lie #8 – Use a Protein Powder if You Want to Lose Weight

The protein powder market is huge. Supplement sales total over $11 billion every year, and the biggest portion of that are protein supplements. Don’t get me wrong.  There’s nothing wrong with supplemental protein but it is not  going to help you lose weight if you don’t create an energy deficit. Products claiming to be weight loss powders should come with a big caveat – when used in conjunction with a quality diet and exercise program that maintains an energy deficit. The Truth: There’s no such thing as a weight loss protein powder. Protein powders are supplements. They should not take the place of real foods. While convenient, powders cannot compare to the vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant properties of whole foods. Feel free to use them, but don’t expect weight loss miracles.

Lie #9 – Every Single Weight Loss Commercial

I tried hard to think of a weight loss commercial that wasn’t packed with every marketing trick in the book. I’m sure they’re out there, but I’ve yet to see or hear one. Most of these commercials use gimmicks like lean fitness models demonstrating a product they have never used before. Then, they use words that speak right to your insecurities, followed by hope, and then a call to action to purchase their product at a discount if you act quickly. The Truth: If the product claims to help you lose weight fast and easy, while eating anything you want, without having to exercise, and you’ll be looking skinny like you did in high school, just laugh and give yourself more credit than that –  you’re not a fool.

Lie #10 – You Must Eat “X” Calories/Day to Lose Weight

I’m not exactly sure where these numbers came from: 1200 calories/day for women and 1800 calories/day for men. Supposedly it’s how much we’re supposed to eat to lose weight. Eating 1200 calories leaves you absolutely no room to further cut calories once your weight loss stalls, and it will stall. Pretty soon you’ll be eating under 1000 calories. That’s a recipe for unbearable hunger, nutrient deficiency, a slowing metabolism, and eventually giving up. The Truth: Eating less than 10 times your body weight is rarely needed to achieve weight loss, and most people can eat much more than that if they would just be patient and let their bodies adapt to a higher calorie intake.

See you tomorrow for Day 9 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better


Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day 1 – Why Not Eating Enough Won’t Help You Lose Weight
Day 2 – 5 Ways You’re Self-Sabotaging Your Workouts
Day 3 – 10 Fitness Fibs You Tell Yourself
Day 4 – Never Diet Again!
Day 5 – Benefits of Exercising in Winter – Outdoors!
Day 6 – Understanding Your Metabolism
Day 7 – The Most Addictive (And Least Addictive) Foods

About the Author:

Jeff Harrison is a fitness coach based in Pottstown, PA. He received a BS in Exercise and Sport Science from Penn State University and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist (ACE-AHFS). Jeff's articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as consumer oriented websites and magazines.

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