Ten weight loss myths

Feet on a scale

So much is said about losing weight that it can be hard to sort fact from fiction. Here's the truth about 10 common weight loss myths.

1. A radical exercise regime is the only way to lose weight

Not true. Successful weight loss involves making small changes that you can stick to for a long time. That means being more physically active in your daily routine. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of physical activity – such as fast walking or cycling – every week, and those who are overweight are likely to need more than this to lose weight. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. This can be achieved by eating less, moving more or, best of all, a combination of both. Try the 12-week NHS weight loss plan.

2. Healthier foods are more expensive

It may seem that healthier foods are more expensive than their unhealthier alternatives. However, if you try replacing ingredients with healthier alternatives, you'll probably find your meals will work out costing less. For example, choosing cheaper cuts of meat and mixing it with cheaper alternatives such as beans, pulses and frozen veg will make it go further in casseroles or stir-fries. Learn more about eating well for less.

3. Carbs make you put on weight

Eaten in the right quantities and as part of a balanced diet, carbohydrates will not, on their own (i.e. without butter, creamy sauces, etc. added to them) lead to weight gain. Eat whole grain and wholemeal carbohydrates such as brown rice and wholemeal bread, and potatoes with the skins on to increase your intake of fibre and don't fry starchy foods when trying to lose weight. Learn more in starchy foods.

4. Starving myself is the best way to lose weight

Crash diets are unlikely to result in long-term weight loss. In fact, they can sometimes lead to longer term weight gain. The main problem is that this type of diet is too hard to maintain. You may also be missing out on essential nutrients as crash diets can be limited in the variety of food consumed. Your body will be low on energy, and may cause you to crave high-fat and high-sugar foods. This can lead to eating those foods and more calories than you need, causing weight gain. Learn more about a healthy diet and how to lose weight sensibly.

5. Some foods speed up your metabolism

Metabolism describes all the chemical processes that go on continuously inside the body to keep you alive and your organs functioning normally, such as breathing, repairing cells and digesting food. These processes need energy and the amount of energy required varies between individuals depending on factors such as body size, age, gender and genes.

It is claimed that certain foods and drinks can increase your metabolism by helping the body to burn more calories and aid weight loss. There is little scientific evidence for this. Beware that some of these products may contain high levels of caffeine and sugar. To lose weight you need to burn more calories than you consume. Try these tips to get more active.

6. All slimming pills are safe to use for weight loss

Not all slimming tablets are effective or safe to use to lose weight. There are a number of prescribed medicines available from your GP for weight loss. There are also other un-prescribed, unlicensed weight loss products available on the market which may contain ingredients that are harmful to health. If you are concerned about your weight, consult your GP or another healthcare professional.

7. Foods labelled 'low fat' or 'reduced fat' are always a healthy choice

Be cautious. Foods labelled "low fat" have to contain no more than a specific amount of fat to legally use that label. If a food is labelled as "low-fat" or "reduced fat", it should contain less fat than the full-fat version, but that doesn't automatically make it a healthy choice: Check the label to see how much fat it contains. Some low-fat foods may also contain high levels of sugar. Learn more in Fat: the facts.

8. Cutting out all snacks can help you lose weight

Snacking isn't the problem when trying to lose weight: it's the type of snack. Many people need a snack in-between meals to maintain energy levels, especially if they have an active lifestyle. Choose fruit or vegetables instead of crisps, chocolate and other snacks that are high in sugar, salt and  fat. Try these healthy food swaps

9. Drinking water helps you lose weight

Water does not cause you to lose weight, but it does keep you hydrated and might help you snack less. Water is essential for good health and wellbeing. Sometimes thirst can be mistaken for hunger – if you're thirsty you may snack more. Learn more in water and drinks.

10. Skipping meals is a good way to lose weight

Skipping meals is not a good idea. To lose weight and keep it off, you have to reduce the amount of calories you consume and increase the calories you burn through exercise. But skipping meals altogether can result in tiredness and may mean you miss out on essential nutrients. You will also be more likely to snack on high-fat and high-sugar foods, which could result in weight gain. Check these 12 must-do weight loss steps.


Page last reviewed: 20/09/2015

Next review due: 20/09/2017


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