Weight Loss Myths: Are you struggling to lose weight despite doing everything right? Do you feel that no matter how much you do, how little you eat, you quickly gain weight or struggle to take the weight off?
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
Weight Loss Myths: It’s Not Your Fault
Whether you’re overeating, under-eating, over-exercising, or under-exercising… whether you think you’re doing it “all right” or have no control over the fact you know you’re doing it “all wrong” in your weight loss journey: it’s not your fault. Get clear that if you haven’t found the right way to implement and sustain a healthy weight, there are many reasons why.
From an over-saturated health market full of terrible advice, including “diet culture” that promotes quick fixes and yo-yo success, it’s no surprise people have such a difficult time finding their way to healthy and sustainable weight loss.
Some of the most popular diet advice is wrong and perpetuates weight loss resistance. Instead of changing the method, many people try harder, assuming that the problem is them instead of their methods.
Today, we are here to dispel the top weight loss myths to help you get on track to achieving your goals in a balanced, sustainable way and, dare we say, filled with ease.
Weight Loss Myths: 1: Eat Less, Exercise More
Although many people have been told or even seem to understand that calories-in, calories-out is not the truth regarding weight loss; most people still hesitate to let go of this story completely. Why? Because for most people, it’s true… in the short term.
Pursuing weight loss from a “eat less, exercise more” tactic simply does not work in the long run. Many people can lose a handful of pounds, even relatively quickly, with caloric restrictions and pounding the gym. With the initial success, the brain clings to the idea that “this works.”
The problem with short-term success is that when weight loss stalls, and it inevitably always does, the next step generally isn’t to try something new; it’s just to try harder. People think that they must be the problem, that they’re not restricting enough calories, or that they’re not exercising enough. Even fewer calories and more time in the gym eventually take a hormonal toll. The body starts eating muscle for energy, organs begin to shrink, and the immune system is suppressed.1-3
Exercise As the Cherry On Top
Although mindful amounts of the right kind of exercise for you is a fantastic tool for mental health and hormone optimization, it shouldn’t fundamentally be the tool you use for weight loss. It’s more productive to see exercise as the cherry on top, which will help optimize sleep, promote insulin sensitivity, and boost mental health.4-5 Using exercise as a counter-act for the punishment of eating can lead to disordered eating and distorted body image and promote an unhealthy relationship to movement, food, and yourself.
Not all calories are created equal.6 Nutrients impact the body in vastly different ways that influence hormonal health and cellular health. For example, consuming the same amount of calories from whole organic foods appropriately prepared and eaten mindfully does not impact the body in the same way that nutrient-void, highly inflammatory foods do.
Suppose you regularly consume an organic grass-finished steak or the same amount of calories of corn chips deep-fried in vegetable oil made from genetically modified corn. In that case, the results on various health markers and weight will be drastically different. This is because you are what you eat: the nutrients (or lack thereof) you give your body are the building blocks for your body’s operation. With every food you eat, you are either helping heal or creating cellular toxicity and inflammation. You are either helping heal or causing gut dysbiosis and leaky gut. You are either promoting or destroying insulin sensitivity.
Caloric Deprivation VS. Fasting
Note that fasting is a beneficial and healthy tool to incorporate into a weight loss plan. It can help combat insulin resistance, autophagy, and cellular detox, but there is a difference between fasting and starvation.7-8 Fasting should not be used to lower caloric intake or as a “balance” for overindulging. Chronic caloric deprivation takes a detrimental toll on your body, so distinguishing between healthy fasting and simply disordered eating and caloric deprivation is essential.
The significant difference between chronic caloric depreciation and fasting is how long it lasts. Fasting is an isolated period, be it daily intermittent fasting or prolonged water fasting, implemented mindfully, with a specific goal in mind. Depending on where you’re at in your health journey, fasting may even be too drastic a measure. The key is to be honest with yourself about whether your choices are working. If you are fasting and putting on more weight than before, you may have too much metabolic dysfunction to deal with a long-term fast or a tiny daily feeding window.
When in doubt: eat more. Implement diet variation principles that vary your macronutrient load from keto to high-carb days, and eventually add 24-hour water fasts once a week. Listen to your body and realize that if a hyper-restrictive mentality is not working for you, the opposite may be what is needed.
Weight Loss Myths 2: Hormone Replacement Therapies to Fix Hormonal Imbalances
Hormones undoubtedly play one of the most significant roles in helping you lose weight, but what is the best way to deal with such imbalances? Although there is a time and place for everything, hormone replacement therapy is a dangerous game in the long run. When we take bio-identical or synthetic hormones, our body slows down the natural production of that hormone.9 This process offsets another hormone, which has a ripple effect that can result in significant health issues across the board.
What started as a slight supplementation of estrogen or progesterone turns into an increasingly larger dose, which is then met by thyroid hormone supplementation, which also helps a little. But you never feel quite right, either plagued with brain fog, no energy, or stubborn belly fat. This is because the problem is not just a deficiency of that initial hormone; it has to do with the whole system.
Taking hormone replacements is a crutch or a band-aid. Although we may sometimes be in such a devastating state of health that these short-term solutions offer needed salvation, they do not help us long-term.
When a hormone can’t get its message into the cell, this is known as hormone resistance.10 Similar to insulin resistance, the problem is generally not the blood level of the said hormone but rather the fact that the operating mechanism itself is broken.
Long-term solutions to hormone problems require an upstream approach. This means going back all the way to the root to examine why the hormone resistance is occurring in the first place. What is causing the hormones to carry out their functions properly?
The answer will be bio-individual, but some of the primary reasons we have hormone resistance include: 11-13
- Inflammatory neurotoxins
- Endocrine disrupters
- Insulin resistance
- Gut permeability (leaky gut)
- An inflammatory diet, most notably bad fats (like vegetable oils and other PUFAs)
Weight Loss Myths 3: There is One Diet That Fits All
Open any diet book, follow any diet page, or follow any fitness influencer and you’re very likely to hear that their diet is the diet for you. Although this makes for a great marketing tool, it simply does not work that way.
No singular diet is suited for everyone, not most people because metabolic flexibility requires dietary adaptation.14 Like doing one workout for the rest of your life creates a plateau of progress, sticking with one linear way of eating forever (or even a very long time) will stall your results.
Our bodies are made for adaptation; it’s how we evolved as a species. Periods of feasting and periods of famine, depending on our life circumstances, the seasons, and our migratory patterns. With the advent of modern access to unlimited amounts of (often nutrient-void) food, we face a problem we never had in the past: endless choices around the clock.
By sticking to one stagnant way of eating, we are setting ourselves up for a plateau. Cross-training for your diet involves switching it up and keeping your body guessing so that it never adapts to one way of eating. Depending on your state of health and bio-individual needs, you may engage in different kinds of diet variation:
- Weekly variation (with some high-carb, some low-carb, and one day of total fasting per week)
- Monthly variation (with mostly low-carb, a few days of fasting, and one high-carb week per month)
- Seasonal variation (with mostly low-carb seasons, typically winter and spring, followed by higher-carb summer and autumn)
Tailoring these variations to your needs will depend on lifestyle (how much you eat out socially, for example), your current state of health (major hormone issues may require more high-carb feast days to start), or simply your gender (women tend to do better with more carbs leading up to and on their menstrual cycle).
If your method of losing weight worked initially but has stalled or never worked from the start, don’t be hard on yourself. In a world full of financially motivated lousy advice, it can be near impossible to sift through the lies. Three common myths that still exist today include the belief that weight loss equals calories in and calories out, that the best way to balance hormones is with replacement therapy, and that there is one diet that fits all. By understanding these myths, we can start to make better choices for healthy and sustainable weight loss.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based upon the opinions of The Cell Health Team. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended to share knowledge and information from research and experience. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD, for the accuracy of the information provided. Still, we encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and in partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
- Martin, Corby K et al. “Effect of calorie restriction on resting metabolic rate and spontaneous physical activity.” Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.) vol. 15,12 (2007): 2964-73. doi:10.1038/oby.2007.354
- Mitchell, Sharon E et al. “The effects of graded levels of calorie restriction: I. impact of short term calorie and protein restriction on body composition in the C57BL/6 mouse.” Oncotarget vol. 6,18 (2015): 15902-30. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.4142
- “The up- and Downside of Caloric Restriction for Aging and Health.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 14 Mar. 2016, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160314101759.htm.
- Singh, Nalin A., et al. “A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effect of Exercise on Sleep.” Sleep, vol. 20, no. 2, 1997, pp. 95–101., doi:10.1093/sleep/20.2.95.
- Sharma, Ashish et al. “Exercise for mental health.” Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry vol. 8,2 (2006): 106. doi:10.4088/pcc.v08n0208a
- Hollis, James H., and Richard D. Mattes. “Are All Calories Created Equal? Emerging Issues in Weight Management.” Current Diabetes Reports, vol. 5, no. 5, 2005, pp. 374–378., doi:10.1007/s11892-005-0096-y.
- Martinez-Lopez, Nuria, et al. “System-Wide Benefits of Intermeal Fasting by Autophagy.” Cell Metabolism, vol. 26, no. 6, 2017, doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2017.09.020.
- Hoddy, Kristin K et al. “Changes in hunger and fullness in relation to gut peptides before and after 8 weeks of alternate day fasting.” Clinical nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland) vol. 35,6 (2016): 1380-1385. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2016.03.011
- Romm, Aviva. Hormone Intelligence: The Complete Guide To Calming Hormone Chaos And Restoring Your Bodys Natural Blueprint For Well-Being. HarperCollins, 2021.
- “Hormone Resistance.” Hormone Resistance – an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics, www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/hormone-resistance.
- Laessig, S A et al. “Neurotoxic effects of endocrine disruptors.” Current opinion in neurology vol. 12,6 (1999): 745-51. doi:10.1097/00019052-199912000-00015
- Wilcox, Gisela. “Insulin and insulin resistance.” The Clinical biochemist. Reviews vol. 26,2 (2005): 19-39.
- Garcia-Leme, J, and S P Farsky. “Hormonal control of inflammatory responses.” Mediators of inflammation vol. 2,3 (1993): 181-98. doi:10.1155/S0962935193000250
- Smith, Reuben L et al. “Metabolic Flexibility as an Adaptation to Energy Resources and Requirements in Health and Disease.” Endocrine reviews vol. 39,4 (2018): 489-517. doi:10.1210/er.2017-00211