Five Weight Loss Myths I am Constantly Fighting



I talk to people almost every day who think they can lose weight by exercising. I tell them that is impossible. I explain that it takes almost an hour of brisk walking to burn 100 calories, which equals one apple or a ten second binge on junk food. To lose a pound a week, you need to reduce your calorie intake by about 500 per day – that would be the equivalent of five hours of moderate exercise every day. We’d have to quit our jobs to do that.


The other fallacy I hear all the time is that, somehow, adding “healthy” fruits and vegetables can make a person lose weight. I tell them that adding anything to their daily calorie intake will have the opposite effect. I more or less patiently explain that our job is to figure out what to take away instead of what to add. Maybe substituting a fruit for a Whoopie pie is healthy in other ways, but it has almost nothing to do with weight loss.


A third fallacy is that eating a healthy breakfast will ensure weight loss. To explore this one, I ask: “Are you often hungry?”

So many of my overweight patients deny ever feeling hungry – that gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach and the low blood sugar onfusion and weakness I feel by 9 or 10 am after doing barn chores on an empty stomach (only coffee).

When I hear “I never feel hungry”, I don’t recommend starting a good breakfast habit because that would likely increase a person’s daily calorie intake. But when I hear that a breakfast skipper goes for the doughnuts mid morning due to hunger, I certainly recommend eating breakfast. When I do, I always point out that the typical American cereal and banana breakfast, along with soft drinks, is actually the major reason for our obesity and diabetes epidemics.


The fourth myth is that you somehow have to eat a certain number of meals. That depends on how you feel. If you’re in the habit of eating, say breakfast and supper and have no symptoms if you were to skip lunch, then why eat it, unless you’re trying to put on weight? The problem, again, is when a meal-skipper gets the munchies. We need to avoid that trap.


Number five is all the overweight diabetics who have been told by dieticians and diabetic educators that they must eat a certain amount of calories or carbs or number of meals just because they are diabetics. That is sometimes the case, because some diabetic medications can cause low blood sugar if you skip meals, but it is by no means a universal truth. If you want to lose weight and feel just fine not eating all the meals and snacks those people tell you to consume, why force yourself to do it? Why not listen to your body (instead of your desires or prior indoctrination)?

It is a sad state of affairs that almost everybody knows complicated things like operating their smartphone but are so lost when it comes to knowing what to eat. (We can thank the food/snack industry for that.)

Hans Duvefelt is a Swedish-born rural Family Physician in Maine. This post originally appeared on his blog, A Country Doctor Writes, here.

5 replies »

  1. to lose weight it is about consuming fewer calories,

    eating fruit low in sugars such as pineapple, apples, kiwi,

    If we also do light exercise, an hour of cycling 2-3 days a week helps a lot

  2. “I disagree
    exercising will always burn calories, always.
    a 100 kg man on a mountain bike for one hour burns 800 calories”

    The doc’s point is NOT that exercise does not burn calories, it’s that exercise for weight loss WITHOUT calorie reduction is not an effective or successful way to loose weight. Calorie reduction without exercise does reduce weight.

    You advocate everyone wanting to loose weight do a once per day strenuous 1 hour mountain bike ride – assuming it’s up a mountain?

    Breakfast – 300 – 400 calories, Lunch – 500 – 700 calories, dinner – 500 – 700 calories. A blueberry muffin has about 400 calories. Do the math.

  3. Great advice doc.

    I watched a PBS show called, “The Truth about Exercise”, and clearly exercise is good, but poor at taking off weight.

    My own weight loss came from no breakfast and reduced calorie intake. It’s amazing how much energy is in food.

    I exercise, but not to loose weight.

  4. Exercise won’t help you drop some pounds. Tell that to the 40lbs. I left on the walking trails this past year.