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Five weight myths you shouldn't buy into

Ah, weight loss. Seems like everyone has a gem to share. With all the books, products, food and flurries of information out there, it’s easy to get confused. Or worse yet, set yourself up for failure. But take heart! Here’s the skinny on some common myths.

Myth #1: That latest diet is new and will work better.

Truth: Nope. What’s new is the packaging. All effective diets do exactly the same thing: reduce calories. No matter how they do it — low carb, low fat, high protein — the basic premise remains: eat fewer calories than you burn.

The bottom line: You make the difference when it comes to success. No diet is sustainable if it doesn’t fit your preferences or commitment. Finding the right fit — and making it a lifestyle change — leads to success. It’s also important to make sure you’re getting the right nutritional balance. Eating all your daily calories in cabbage or steak isn’t going to lead to better health.

Myth #2: Working out will make me lose weight.

Truth: Not necessarily. Make no mistake: Exercise has important health benefits all its own. But that doesn’t always translate to weight loss. The key is to burn more calories than you take in. Studies show that people overestimate the number of calories they burn by as much as four times! For example, you burn an average of 100 calories for every mile you walk at a moderate pace. Most people guessed two or three times that. Those incorrect assumptions can lead to overeating. The result: You still take in more calories than you burn.

The bottom line: Diet and exercise go hand-in-hand. You’re trying to create an ongoing calorie deficit, which means your body burns more calories than you eat. Because different foods support different physical development (bones, muscle, energy), it’s also important to get those calories from the right foods. So think twice before rewarding yourself with a donut for climbing the stairs.

Myth #3: The key to losing weight is eating a lot less.

Truth: This is a dangerous assumption. If you skip meals — or dramatically reduce your calorie intake abruptly — your body may think it’s starving. Survival programming kicks in, which means it’ll hold onto reserves (that’s fat!) for dear life. Your weight loss could slow to a crawl or stop.

The bottom line: Figure out how many calories you should eat to lose one to two pounds a week. Several websites offer calculators to help you find this number. Regardless, experts recommend keeping your calorie intake above 1,200/day — any less and you’ll risk going into starvation mode.

Tip: If you’re enrolled in a GuideStone medical plan, you can log onto www.highmarkbcbs.com and find calorie calculators and other handy weight-loss resources!

Myth #4: I can’t lose weight because I have a slow metabolism.

Truth: Very few people can say this truthfully. While there are medical conditions that slow metabolism and lead to weight gain, they’re not terribly common. In fact, someone who is overweight actually burns more calories than a healthy weight person to maintain their current weight. That means that the overweight person may have a higher metabolism, not a slow one.

The bottom line:  You guessed it: Losing weight is about burning more calories than you consume. That’s why exercise — especially activities that build muscle — is so important for weight loss. Since muscle burns more than 10 times the calories of fat, building muscle mass helps you create a continual calorie deficit by revving up your metabolism at a lower weight.

Myth #5: Dieting to be “thin” is a great way to improve health.

TruthRarely. Most of the time, the notion of “thin” isn’t healthy — physically or psychologically. The cultural pressure to be a certain size is compelling, especially for women. That’s why “healthy” is a better goal than “thin.”

The bottom line: A “healthy” weight depends on several factors, including your height, gender and frame. Someone with a petite frame can healthfully carry less weight than someone the same height with a larger frame. The bottom line is that if you’re carrying excess weight for your height and frame, it’s impacting your health. And if you lose too much, the same is also true. So use balance — not bathing suits — as your overall goal.

GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention welcomes the opportunity to share this general information. However, this article is not intended to be relied upon as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

1"Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein and carbohydrates.” Frank M. Sacks, et al. The New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 360:859-873, Number 9. February 26, 2009.