4 Myths Nutritionists Wish People Would Forget

Elizabeth Millard
by Elizabeth Millard
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4 Myths Nutritionists Wish People Would Forget

When it comes to nutrition, advice can feel like a minefield. New research may contradict studies that came out only a few years ago, and then get replaced by fresh insight soon after publication. The fast pace of change in the nutrition world can make it challenging to separate myth from reality.

Here, nutritionists share their insights to help you navigate through a few of the more tenacious misconceptions.

Like so many nutrition beliefs, this one likely sprang up because it worked for some people and so it got repeated — but the truth is much more complicated, says registered dietitian Joy Dubost.

“Unfortunately, there is no magic equation or straightforward formula for losing weight,” she says. “I think this myth has staying power because it allows people to focus on cutting calories with the hope of accomplishing a weight-loss goal in a short amount of time. However, it’s a false hope that promotes unrealistic expectations.”

The relationship between changes in caloric intake and weight loss simply isn’t that linear, she adds. As you increase or decrease your calories per day, your body and its metabolic system adapts to compensate for the change. That doesn’t mean changing your calorie intake has no effect on weight, of course, but Dubost emphasizes that if you’re doing the “500 calorie cut” plan and not seeing results, you’re not alone.

As a phrase, this is a compelling and powerful one, says registered dietitian Maya Feller. The word “clean” conjures up positive associations that border on being virtuous, she says. The problem is it has no standard definition, so it’s being used in multiple ways that make it confusing to follow.

“Seriously, this phrase needs to be taken out of circulation,” says Feller. “It means everything and nothing, all at the same time.”

When her patients talk about wanting to “eat clean,” Feller asks what they mean and says she gets a wide variety of answers. Some people mean they simply want to add more vegetables into their rotation, while others are talking about doing a juice cleanse or never eating refined grains again.

If your intention with “clean eating” is to consume more whole foods and avoid overly processed options, though, then Feller says that’s a sound strategy with good scientific evidence to support its efficacy. Maybe you can just call it something else, like “eating real food.”

“Let’s find a new way of encouraging folks to lean in to embracing whole and minimally processed food on a regular and consistent basis in place of ultra-processed foods,” says Feller.

Yes, this one is still around, despite numerous studies, expert commentaries and news articles debunking it. The message that eating fat leads to being fat is deeply ingrained in people who grew up hearing that about that cause-and-effect relationship all the time.

“So many people believe that the amount of fat, or any fat at all, in a food is the main culprit for weight gain,” says Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, of BZ Nutrition. “In reality, fat does not make you fat.”

We all need a certain amount of fat in our diet to help us absorb vitamins and minerals, boost energy, fight inflammation and aid muscle function. “Fat will actually help improve your workouts and get you to your fitness goals,” she says. “It can also help to fight constipation.”

But, she adds, it is important to keep in mind that not all fats are alike. There are healthy fats that improve good cholesterol and bad ones like trans fats that do the opposite. By switching to a fat-free product, though, Zeitlin says you’re likely to take in much more salt and sugar, since those are added to make up for the flavor loss that comes from ditching fat.


“That added sugar is actually what is contributing to weight gain,” Zeitlin notes. “Healthy fat is what helps satiate so that you don’t overeat or over-snack, avoiding those extra calories and weight gain.”

Here’s another pervasive myth, Zeitlin says. Many people believe that if they eat less throughout the day, they’ll weigh less eventually — this is a variation on the simplistic calorie-cutting formula that doesn’t work either.

“This plan always backfires and never leads to healthy, maintainable weight loss,” says Zeitlin. That’s because when we don’t have enough food during the day, the body’s metabolism slows down to conserve energy, so you’re actually burning fewer calories than you normally would.

“Also, you are guaranteeing that you’ll overeat at your next meal, because you’ll have starved your system,” she adds. Instead of skipping meals, she advises people to eat a combination of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein about every four hours to keep metabolism on track and boost weight-loss or weight-maintenance goals.

About the Author

Elizabeth Millard
Elizabeth Millard
Elizabeth is a freelance journalist specializing in health and fitness. She’s also an organic farmer, yoga teacher, obstacle course aficionado and 5K junkie. Her work has appeared in SELF, Men’s Health, CNN, and other publications.


108 responses to “4 Myths Nutritionists Wish People Would Forget”

  1. Aaron Moayed says:

    Number four is just plain wrong… no wonder MFP was hacked… no quality control!

    Here are studies that debunk your featured blog….

    1.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9155494

    2.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19943985

    I swear ever since UA took over this app has lost its credibility. Just shuffling bad content left and right…

    • Emily says:

      #4 isn’t wrong. I went 9 years without eating breakfast thinking it would help me lose weight and I never lost a pound. I eat 6 small meals a day for 2 years and I’ve lost over 110 pounds.

    • Jack says:

      Aaron. Wait until next year when this article is redone and it’s changed to:

      Myth #4: Skipping Meals Doesn’t Inhibit Weight Loss:
      Dr. Dinkus Mcgee of the science of yesterday says “uneducated doctors thought skipping meals would slow down a metabolism in a matter of hours, but this is nonsense considering studies and even our ancestors clearly show otherwise”.

      I’ve read 2 articles on MFP this week, the other one was claiming whole milk is good for weight loss because “study”. And study was based on loosely correlative data relying on a food questionnaire.

  2. Rose says:

    Great article. Information even from great sources can be conflicting. Key is to follow the main principles of good health: balanced diet, loads of veggies, cut back on processed foods, sleep, exercise, fresh air, love and laughter to name a few.

  3. heili says:

    It’s disheartening to see MFP and Under Armour promoting this kind of unscientific nonsense. I expected better from an athletics company.

  4. Michele Mayes-Gerra says:

    Saying cutting calories to lose weight is a myth…THAT is the myth right there. You have to eat less calories and/or burn more calories to lose weight. Telling people that cutting calories does not work is the kind of garbage that “textbook dietitians” spout. As a diabetic IF I ate grains every four hours I would be shooting up insulin at an insane rate… The myth is in saying everyone should be doing this…. everyone is not the same… Not every person loses weight by eating the same ratios of carbs/proteins/fats. Could we promote articles that do not promote someones opinion on what is a weight loss myth next time.

    • Tae says:

      I think it’s more you can’t just cut calories to loose weight, you need to do other things to improve your lifestyle along with better eating habits.

      • Ravens Starr says:

        I think you confused “losing weight” with “improve your lifestyle”.

      • Frid Kun says:

        I lost 30 pounds while eating mostly fast food. Just cutting portions and avoiding drive throughs worked well enough for me. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

        I understand that it might not work for, probably, majority of people, but it’s behavioral thing, not nutritional.

      • Mathew Andresen says:

        Actually just cutting calories will work for everybody. You can do a simple project to test this out. Just stop eating. Guaranteed to lose weight. Of course most people will have a challenge just cutting calories like this that’s where intermittent fasting low carb excetera can help maintain compliance

    • Caroline M says:

      The point isn’t that cutting calories isn’t important, it’s that calories are not the only factor in contributing to weight loss. First of all, nobody actually knows exactly how many calories they are consuming. An apple may have approximately 95 calories, but some apples are bigger and some are smaller. Packaged food or restaurant counts can legally be off by up to 20% to account for these discrepancies. And how many calories are in a gram of protein or fat or carb? If your answer is 4/9/4, you’re actually wrong. Those are averages, and they are rounded, and certain types of carbohydrates have different numbers of calories. Then there’s the fact that the body has a ton of biological mechanisms in place to maintain homeostasis, namely hormone regulation and production and metabolic shifts. When you give it the right fuel and the right environment, the body will work with you, but if you punish it with an 800-calorie-a-day diet of processed protein bars, you’re going to see a lot of hormonal and metabolic disfunction, your muscle tissue (read: not just fat tissue) will begin to atrophy and you’ll go into starvation mode to preserve vital organ functioning.

      • Frid Kun says:

        that’s why I have food scales. If you’re afraid that labels are lying to you, just put in extra 20% for restaurant orders. Humans evolved to extract nutrients from food efficiently. You would know if you were unable to do so, most of those conditions will seriously impair your life. If you don’t have them, you process food just like 99% of humanity.
        Starvation mode only applies to people with about 10% bodyfat and below.

  5. Ally Meson says:

    There is so much pseudoscience around diet advice that it is difficult to wade through all the “woo” to find out what actually works. The meta-anaysis that forms the base for the SGU article above does that.

    • Ally Meson says:

      Except that someone has removed my initial sentence and link therefore making my commment useless. Thanks, whoever.

  6. EllenC says:

    #4, about metabolism, who are you going to trust, a RD or actual professor and medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Canada.

    #1 is just poor writing and phrasing. CICO works, but results vary depending on the person and lots of other factors. The cut 500 calories a day to lose 1lb a week is just a rough estimate and basic logic of CICO. But this doesn’t make it a myth.

    • Dustin Kunz says:

      1) It does make it a myth when it’s presented as a hard and fast rule… and when it’s presented as a sustainable strategy.

      As the body adapts to the caloric deficit it responds less and less to the stimulus, and eventually it sets a new normal. Weight loss ceases, and many people start to realize they’re hungry or tired b/c they cut calorie dense foods but they’re actually in need of the benefits of those foods. Then they return to eating a little more at a time, their body reads it as excess so it stores it as fat for the next fad diet (which it thinks is a long hunt or search for food), so they’ve gone from ketosis to a catabolic survival state–from converting fat to energy to storing fat for emergency energy.

      The assertion that any of this is “basic logic” is why mathematicians make terrible biologists. The body is a complex system, not a rigid model; many bodies make for incredibly complex possibilities, and each body responds differently, so recalibration is a constant process.

      • Frid Kun says:

        If body could “adapt” to calorie deficits, no one would ever died from famine.

        • Dustin Kunz says:

          What? Shush.

          “Adapting to a caloric decifit” and “adapting to the near or complete absence of calories” aren’t the same thing.

        • Bart says:

          No kidding. The body does adapt! Metabolism will slow down when cutting calories. Body will cut the heat and you will feel cold when dieting, especially if you are trying the ridiculous low fat diet.

  7. Alistair Newbury says:

    I find this sort of article disheartening. True, losing weight is not a simple mathematical formula, but to put forth this kind of discouraging information without telling what will work is not helpful. As one commenter stated, if it’s not a caloric deficit that will cause me to lose weight (regardless of the method I choose!) then tell us what will work. This was an irresponsible blog.

    • Caroline M says:

      As I wrote further up the page, the point isn’t that cutting calories isn’t important, it’s that calories are not the only factor in contributing to weight loss. First of all, nobody actually knows exactly how many calories they are consuming. Everything is an average. We also don’t know exactly what we’re burning…BUT as you’re asking about what will work, I promise I won’t just give you more “disheartening” info. Yes, eating the right number of calories is a REALLY important part of it, (and this doesn’t always mean fewer! There are lots of online quizzes for determining how many calories a day you need. Try that for a week or two, and then adjust up or down from there!) When you give your body the right fuel and the right environment, the body will work with you, but if you punish it with an 800-calorie-a-day diet of processed protein bars, you’re going to see a lot of hormonal and metabolic disfunction, your muscle tissue (read: not just fat tissue) will begin to atrophy and you’ll go into starvation mode to preserve vital organ functioning. Bottom line: don’t punish yourself. Eat the amount of food your body needs (no more than 10-20% fewer calories than you would need to preserve your body weight UNLESS you’re already fairly overweight, so for example I maintain my weight at about 2000 calories, I won’t go below 1600 calories, which is a 20% deficit), and make it real, good, unprocessed food with plenty of fiber, protein, veggies, and whole grains. Exercise to the level that is safe and healthy for you. Make it a lifestyle, and find joy in it, not deprivation. I hope this helps, and best of luck on your journey!

  8. Rebecca Klamert says:

    The point of the article is not that cutting calories to lose weight is a myth but instead that it isn’t a magical formula that 500 calories less a day for a week equals 1 pound weight loss a week. It is much more complicated than that.

    With regard to whole grains, the article isn’t saying everyone should eat them every four hours. Instead it is suggesting small meals every four hours instead of skipping meals. It just mentions whole grains as one option to include in that meal along with vegetables, protein, and fruit. The exact combination of those foods that is best depends on the individual.

    I think this article has great insights and clearly acknowledges that all of us are different and will need to consider any health advice we receive in the context of what we know about our bodies.

    • Frid Kun says:

      The article is very misleading. All you need to do is adjust your calorie goal every two months or something like every 10 pounds lost. Yes, there will be some inaccuracies. Your TDEE might be slightly off, the calories in the foods might be off, water retention, food, waste and other factors might cause weight fluctuation of up to 5 pounds.

      With all of those accounted for, 3500 calories cut will mean 1 pound lost. On average across several weeks. There might be diminishing returns if you cut more than 500 per day on average.

    • Bob Hatcher says:

      Here’s exactly what it says “cutting calories with the hope of accomplishing a weight-loss goal in a short amount of time. However, it’s a false hope that promotes unrealistic expectations.”

      If the author doesn’t think that cutting calories leads to weight loss, then what does?

      • Renae Szmidt says:

        If you are consuming 10,000 calories a day, cutting your calories by 500 calories a day, is NOT going to mean weight loss. Cutting 500 calories, and a 500 calorie deficit are 2 VERY different things.

      • Bart says:

        Lowering carbs and insulin. Lowering calories is a big picture item, but you won’t get anywhere if you treat all calories the same. That is complete and utter bullshit. A calorie is not a calorie! Macros matter! Carbs spike insulin. If insulin is high, it’s imposdible to lose weight until it comes down as insulin is the fat STORAGE hormone. Also, bodies need fat and protein. They do not need carbs per se, and you will get some good carbs from non-starchy vegetables.

  9. Chris says:

    Well, sorry to disagree but I cut my calorie intake and the weight dropped off me. I didn’t do it to a drastic degree and I was exercising with cardio workouts but no more then I had been doing before cutting the calories. Eating less and consuming less calories certainly worked for me.

  10. Heraclitus says:

    Here are some that questions those myths. Not sure if they are specific to me and my physiology. Eight weeks ago I weighed in at 273 pounds. This weekend it was 246. I have tried Paleo, strict calorie counting and several other types of diets and none worked. I even went to the Ferrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping courses. They were challenging and amazing and many people had great results. I did become very fit, no weight loss. My wife lost about a pound a week. What I am currently doing is Intermittent Fasting. I started at 16 hours on with an 8 hour eating window. I am currently at 21-3. Along with that I am using the Ketogenic diet. Very low carb, high fat (the good ones including MCT oil) with no sugar or gluten. Along with that I am mostly successful at getting the Keto macros with an intake of only 1600-1900 calories per day. I work out but keep my cardio around 15-20 when I do it and 30 minutes or less with resistance training. We also strayed heavily from processed items. My cheat day may include breads, a couple beers or even some pasta. Although I still keep the IF part going. I am down four belt notches, have way more energy and focus (yes, I completely skip breakfast) and am wearing clothes I have not been able to even put on for years. In less than 8 weeks. I have been trying for over 8 years to lose weight and if this continues I may get to my pre-SWAT weight of 223 (had that weight all six years on SWAT) by mid June to July.

    • Jenifer Snook says:

      I also do the LCHF diet and intermittent fasting most days and it works well for me. I use it for marathon training. Once your body learns to burn fat, you can exercise for much longer using fat for fuel than you can using carbs. Using the old method of “carb loading” I always gained weight even though I’m training for a marathon. The AHA still encourages low fat, high carb to the detriment of our country. Although this blog does acknowledge that some fats are good. I also agree with their dislike of the phrase “eating clean” which is so annoying. But #1 and #4 are definitely inaccurate. The myth is that you need to eat all the time to keep your metabolism going and that is just plain wrong.

    • Roxanne Roxanne says:

      I am also doing the low carb diet and am having amazing results. I’m 47 and never had a problem losing weight by reducing my caloric intake until I hit 40. Back in November I decided to give low carb life a try and I do not regret it at all. I’m down 2 dresses –
      Congrats on your success as well!

      • pikep2 says:

        Can you tell me how many net carb gms you have per day? I was trying to stay between 20-30 had a really difficult time with that, and after one month losing 7 pounds, I didn’t lose anything for the next month, and I lost my momentum, and quit.

        • pikep2 says:

          I am 5’4, and weigh 190 – want to get back to 145.

          • Dustin Kunz says:

            See my response to EllenC, but the short story is that you body adapts very quickly to a new stimulus, and so if you want to continue weight loss once it adapts you’ll want to confuse it.

            7 lbs in a month is sufficiently drastic that your body worked very quickly to adapt to the change–our bodies are INCREDIBLE machines, designed for survival in even the harshest conditions. Your body is trying to survive–to maintain homeostasis.

            Can you share a little more info: age, sex, level of activity at work and in leisure, and general carbohydrate sources?

        • Rick Yount says:

          To answer your question, I keep my carb intake to less than 20 per day (and that with veggies like spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers and onions and mushrooms sauteed in butter. I aim for 70% or more healthy fats (authentic olive oil — google “fake olive oil” for a list of EVOO to avoid — coconut oil (c8 mct), butter, bacon grease), and 20-30% protein.

          I also use IF most days, either skipping breakfast or drinking a butter/mct coffee. When I am in ketosis and fasting, I have an abundance of energy.

          Do not worry about not losing anything for a month. As Elizabeth’s article says, weight-loss is not straight line. The human metabolic system is highly complicated and there are built-in drives to keep us from “starving” when intake goes down. IF is the best way to reset “normal weight” points (See Obesity Code, Fung).

          After skipping breakfast, I have breakfast for lunch with two scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese, three slices of thick bacon, and a butter/mct coffee. 510 calories. 3.5g carbs, 1.7g fiber (1.8g net carbs). 47.6 g fat. 22.9g protein. Fat is more than double the protein (good thing). This produces a Ketogenic Index of 2.69, which is excellent (any index over 1.0 is good, 1.5 is moderate, 2.0 strong).

          I do not find this routine boring. Variety comes at supper — steak, fish, shrimp, chicken, salad of spinach and kale and broccoli with apple cider vinegar and olive oil dressing (mix with basil or oregano flakes or Mrs. Dash italian seasoning). Or broccoli and cauliflower stir-fry, or cauliflower puree with lots of butter . . . I could go on.

          I also find eliminating grains, especially whole grains, very helpful — I did that four years ago and do not miss the stomach upset and joint pain that comes with a single English muffin or slice of toast (William Davis, Wheat Belly). I recently discovered through a genetic test that I am predisposed to Celiac disease, though I am not Celiac as yet. My wife does not carry that gene, but she does well with far less bread than we used to eat.

          I dropped from 277 to 226 in six months, but have settled in around 235 (230-240) for the last three years. My health and energy have steadily improved, and I am experimenting with ways to take IF more seriously to lower my “normal weight setpoint.”

          Well, I went far longer than I planned. I hope this helps. The article above is very good, but the last point (as others have noted) of not skipping meals is dead wrong. Especially if one wants to encourage brain health and prevent cancer, as nothing encourages normal cell death (apoptosis, a good thing) like IF.

          I’m 70 years old, and very active in the yard and garden.

    • wishnkrols says:

      I have been fortunate to have never been overweight, but after 2 cancer battles, I put on 30 pounds after finishing chemo. All my doctors said that the chemo can seriously damage your metabolism and that since I was not overweight, not to worry about it. I felt vain but, I didn’t like how I looked and cancer took enough from me without taking my wardrobe too! Intermittent fasting is the only method that has given me results. I have lost 20 of the 30 pounds. I anticipate the last 10 will be the hardest, but am finally hopefully that I will be able to get my pre-cancer/chemo body back, for the most part!

    • apoteke says:

      I had a patient(I’m a pharmacist) that was at the point where the Doctor said that the next step was insulin. He decided to do the ketogenic diet. Reluctantly the Dr said ok, but we’ll have to check lipids. After 1year he was off all meds and his lipids were all within normal limits.

    • usa anon says:

      you don’t need a diet — normal eating is 6 am to 6 pm, 12 hours “eating window” and 12 hours fasting (or simply the time you do not eat because most of it is sleep time) — do you really think switching from 12 and 12 to 16 and 8 makes a difference? — control what you eat, good stuff nly and moderate — real food, mostly vegetables, not too much —- USE My Fitness Pal tracker

  11. cbuccini says:

    Eat every few hours… nope! Please look up intermittent fasting

    • Chris Jones says:

      I eat around 300 calories every 3 hours and have lost 45 lbs. So, yep!

      • drdeade says:

        Glad you lost the weight, however… long term use of that will result in physiological aging faster than normal, produce pancreatic stress because insulin is always being produced, increase your likelihood of diabetes because of the above mentioned, and over work your thyroid….. Again glad your successful but now look for balance, perhaps mediterranean, perhaps you can listen to Dr. Longo From USC on mediterranean and 5 day fasting monthly, shown to increase stem cell production or something that is more programmed for longterm. Good luck.

  12. Yolennie says:

    You are guaranteeing that you’ll overeat at your next meal, because you’ll have starved your system, not necessarily true. If you train your body to eat a certain way, you get used to eating one less meal a day.

  13. Joe Hearn says:

    Eat vegetables, fruits & whole gains for health and weight loss. Stop eating the meat, eggs, dairy and added oils & you will lose weight and feel better and likely reverse some artery plaque build up, I have been meat & egg free for 2 years, no dairy or added oils for the past year. Lost 30 lbs, off blood pressure meds, feel better, better circulation in my legs. The basis of my veg diet is starch – potatoes, rice, beans and corn. very satisfying. Eating 500 calories of potatoes is very satisfying to huger issues. Of course, i eat all sorts of other veggies and a lot of fruit. Whole Plant Food! My Bro on same diet and lost lot of weight and off BP meds PLUS no longer type II diabetic! Search youtube for “starch based diet” & you will find the answer..

    • MrsSmiles09 says:

      Yes! So good to see another WFPB follower out there. I eat till I’m stuffed and I never gain a pound. If you eat the right kind of foods, the usual calories in calories out equation doesn’t apply the same way.

      • Joe Hearn says:

        Thank you! Spread the word!
        About 5 years ago, I participated in a controlled weight loss study at a medical university. My metabolism was tested to determine daily calories to lose weight.. The university provided all my meals to equal the calories needed for 1 year!. I ate nothing else. I was blood checked, scanned (CT/MRI/Bone density – yada) , stress tested, etc – 6 ways from Sunday and under controlled/observed exercise 3 days a week for 1 hour (treadmill). I lost 35 lbs! However, I slowly regained the weight. The healthy way is lifestyle change WPFB diet – Eat to Live rather than Live to eat. I sympathize with everyone who find/follow some new fad diet that is always popping up. It’s the food, not how much you eat. To all those struggling with weight & health – Here is is the water – take a drink!

      • Jeff Ash says:

        The calorie equation always applies. The difference for you is you’ve managed to find a way of eating that is easy to eat an appropriate quantity of food for your goals while feeling full and satisfied, all without really giving it a second thought. That’s a great place to be and definitely should be the goal of every one of us! However, the calorie equation is not as simple as some like to claim because our total daily energy expenditure is never fixed and even varies based on the types of foods we eat and is far from exact so it’s easy to give the impression that certain types of diets are impervious to calorie intake/expenditure. But, if you were to submit yourself to carefully controlled conditions where your exact energy expenditure was measured and your exact calorie intake measured, you would see the calorie equation does work. The research literature is quite conclusive on this.

    • Ryan Allen says:

      Ditto. Just eat plant based whole foods. They have everything we need.

      • Bart says:

        Wrong. Plants do not have everything one needs, vegan diet is not particularly healthy. Also, some cultures eat almost nothing but meat. Those people are healthy, science can’t quite explain it, but it’s true.

        • Ryan Allen says:

          Well, the research is actually very clear about this, but culture and society have some built in biases. It took me years to unlearn things I thought I knew about meat, dairy and nutrition. The vegan population is far and away the healthiest, and I am living proof! Don’t believe me – look at professional athletes going vegan. And your comment about meat cultures is wrong. Take the inuits for example – very high rates of atherosclerosis and dementia. Also short life spans. Everything you think you need from meat – where do you think the animals got it in the first place? Why not skip the saturated fat, hormone and cholesterol wrapper and just go plant based?

    • Chris Jones says:

      Another, “only this diet works, because I lost some weight doing it this way”. I’ve lost 45 lbs in less than 6 months and it included meets and eggs and oils and dairy. 5 small meals a day, with lots of protein and fiber (yep, that is important) and I feel full and I could lose another 20 lbs this way if I wanted to be as ridiculously skinny as I was in high school. Instead, I’ll up my calories some and increase my workouts to build more muscle instead of working to lose weight.

      There are lots of diets that work and they aren’t all for everyone.

      • kimmyray says:

        Yup, I eat 4-5 servings (roughly 20g protein each) of animal protein a day, along with fresh or steamed veggies and whole fruit and some starchy carbs like potatoes or squash, minimal grains in my diet anymore because my SO has celiac. Lost over 30lbs with incorporation of weight training (cardio-only workouts caused a plateau). And I get a physical 2x per year through work, and everything (HR, BP, HCL/LDL, etc.) is way better than average parameters. Different strokes for different folks!

      • Joe Hearn says:

        It’s not just weight – the health aspect is more important. Due to the Standard American Diet, SAD. We in the US are obese and sick with diseases. Health care cost are off the chart and everyone is on pills. I have not been able to find that any Whole Plant Foods cause any bad health issues. However, there is plenty of evidence as to what Meat, Eggs, Diary and Oils will do to one’s health.

    • Matthew. says:

      I also consume large amounts of potatoes as well as all vegetables and fruit, I am 53 and I am the same weight I was at 18, 150lb I have followed all the variations of Atkins/keto ect , and hovered around 171 lbs but what I have found to be most satiable and sustainable is high carb low fat, simple, I am not vegan, I like meat and fish occasionally, I definitely consume around 2000 calories a day, but I think the main thing about eating potatoes and veg is it keeps your metabolism running at high speed, the only time weight creeps up is when fat consumption increases, the increase in fat definitely influences the fat storage of the glycogen into the fat cells, so I just keep my fat consumption to a maximum of 15% of my total daily food consumption, HCFL which is completely opposite to the mainstream way of thinking right now.

    • Bart says:

      If that insane 70’s dogma works for you then congrats, you’ve never had a weight problem and you don’t fatten very easily at all.

  14. Todd Coons says:

    This is not entirely true…intermediate fasting works very well for many people which does not involve eating every few hours…i dont eat every few hours and ive lost over 50lbs in a few months and likely would have lost more but i had a rough spot for about a month or two….these articles are not cut and dry…what works for some doesnt work for others…you have to experiment as i did to find what works for ur body!!

  15. Jennifer McNamara Steller says:

    If you do it conscienciously, skipping meals WILL help you lose weight–it’s call intermittent fasting. Anyone interested should google these terms: autophagy, ketosis and intermittent fasting. It is not pseudo science, it won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology. For a quick guide, check out the book Glow15 which consolidates the latest research into an easy-to-follow program. It is a breath of fresh air and acutally works.

    • Bart says:

      ‘Nutritionists’ will eventually catch on. They are starting to realize LCHF even, so eventually they could give up the big agricultural big pharma dogma. They might even start to understand insulin? Maybe in another 20 years or so?

  16. Bob Hatcher says:

    RE: #1 – Please correct me if I am wrong, but physics says that 3500 calories = one pound, right? So, cutting 3500 calories a week should equal one pound of weight loss. I understand that “your mileage may vary” but as a general rule, it’s a fact.

    There is a statement a response that says “calories are not the only factor in contributing to weight loss.” While that may be true it is the most important of all the factors.

    • Curtis Thomas says:

      Different nutrients have different caloric densities. A pound of fat has been said to be about 2000 calories.

      • Bryan says:

        If we use the standard values (based on the old bomb calorimeter measures), one gram of fat is 9 calories. 454 grams (one pound) therefore equates to just over 4000 calories. We know that a pound of body fat is not pure fat — there are blood vessels and connective tissue, etc… — so based on that and observational measures, we adjust to the 3500 calorie rule of thumb. It is not precise, but is broadly applicable and fairly reliable.

    • drdeade says:

      Thanks Bob. The fat can be reduced by other methods and the mathematical may of weightless… doesn’t work most of the time. During the 80s and 70s and even 90s RD’s would prescribe low fat high carb diets that were relegated to 1,200 calories/day. Tragedy was that when used most people would lose weight 2-4lbs in the first two weeks then….. that was it. 🙁 Reason.. Metabolism adapts and we now know that fructose… turns on fat genes so that despite the caloric restriction if the fat gene were turned on the body would continue to store excess carbohydrates and energy as ….. fat.. 🙁 Weight loss is not simple. Different programs do work. Finding a good fit whether it be Ketogenic or L-nutra Fasting and mediterranean protocol both work well. But teaching people how to eat and why and the joy that it can bring by eating enriching foods at the right times, is more challenging in todays society.

    • Bart says:

      Nope, Bob, calories are not even in the ballpark of what’s important. Applying physics to nutrition is pure insanity. Bodies don’t work by “calorie” fires do. Bodies burn fat and carbs. We are hybrids, basically. Calorie concept is true, it just really explains almost nothing. Piss poor advice is telling people to “cut calories” with no regard for what they are consuming, when they are consuming it, or it’s effect on hormones.

  17. Daniel Compton says:

    calories in calories out = weight gain
    *It really is that simple*

  18. Lori says:

    Skipping a meal does not equate to intermittent fasting and therefore just skipping a meal does not help everyone lose weight. In order for skipping a meal to work, there has to be sufficient hours in between eating to constitute fasting, usually at least 16 hours.

  19. AceRoinox says:

    I lived in the low-carb/paleo/ketogenic camp for better than two decades, and was convinced it was gospel. I paid a lot of money last November for an all-day, comprehensive health assessment and a resulting wellness plan that included a new eating plan, and monthly followup with the dietitian. The eating plan is basically the Mediterranean diet (what the article is recommending) implemented using the plate method, with a daily calorie goal based on my specific needs/goals. I use MyFitnessPal to log my food intake, with a goal of losing 1 lb/week. So far, so good.

    I have to say that, because of my past experience and nutrition beliefs, I was skeptical it would work, but committed to try it, since I had paid so much money, and because of the RD’s national prominence in her field. I have not only lost weight as intended, but as measured by % fat lost, lean muscle gain, lower BP, lower LDL, improved energy levels, etc. I am markedly healthier. On top of all that, I am never hungry. Two keys for me: someone to be accountable to (my RD), and changing my philosophy about food from living to eat, to eating to live (healthily).

    My take on the above myths: pretty much true. As for the other posters here, i’m convinced there are at least a hundred different ways to lose weight, but only a couple that are both sustainable, and leave you with an indisputably better lifetime heath outlook.

  20. drdeade says:

    Ok, 28 years as a nutritionist and I am still fascinated how Dietitians cling to the false paradigm. Skipping meals is and should be called intermittent fasting. IMF is excellent despite the ill-logic presented here. Research and data validate IMF when done correctly. Furthermore, higher fat diets are beneficial when the fats are from healthy sources and balanced, more Omega 3s and less Omega 6s. I think that it’s important that people reading my fitness pal, which I think is the best app record on the market for simplicity. The disclaimer should read. Warning: Recommendations made by Dietitians are not unbiased as the national Association receives millions of dollars of funding from Grocery Manufactures Association and Fast Food industries such as McDonalds and Coke.” I think that might make people read the information knowing that it’s not researched based but in fact biased. (Sorry but you can’t refute this.) Finally, after a recent experience reviewing syllabus literature from a Division I College level Human Physiology Course along with a ACSM Nutrition guide I am still appalled that High Carb diets are recommended. They DONT WORK! Animal studies show that High Carb diets will: age the cells faster due to increase glycolysis, promote cancer growth through non-oxidative means, and increase risk of diabetes even amongst healthy active populations! Please, read intelligently and My Fitness Pal please post more research and less dogma. Thank you for your time.

  21. clay white says:

    500 calories below your maintainence calories will cause about a pound to 2 pounds a week of weight loss for 99% of people.

  22. Chris Jones says:

    I’ve lost visceral fat (down to 7%), total fat (down to 18%), increased muscle (38%) and increased water (55%). I look and feel great. That math looks funny, but fat and muscle contain water.

    Again, there are multiple ways to lose weight and get healthier. Preaching your way as the only way isn’t true or helpful.

    • Bryan says:

      “Preaching your way as the only way isn’t true or helpful.”

      Definitely. Probably why the person above took issue with the declaration in the article that skipping meals “never” works, and that eating every 4 hours is the right way.

      • Chris Jones says:

        I can agree with that 🙂

        • Bart says:

          you’re just doing the standard insanity diet. Basically cutting calories and eating all the time, probably working out a lot. That CAN work. It’s not smart, or very sustainable for most people, but you are certainly free to try. Good luck with that long term.

  23. Carole says:

    Many nutritionists are not keeping up with new information. Intermittent fasting such as eating in an 8 hour window and fasting for 16 has proven to keep insulin levels stable. The code is: carbs and sugar= insulin=stored fat. Eating frequent small meals keeps insulin flowing and storing fat.

  24. Bryan says:

    1. This is not a myth, it’s just a mis-statement of a solid rule of thumb. Cutting 500 calories per day will quite reliably lead to roughly a pound-per-week weight loss. But only if you are cutting 500 calories from the amount you need to maintain current weight. That is to say, it needs to be a 500 calorie deficit. If your typical intake is a surplus of 500 (or more) calories, obviously you are not going to lose weight by cutting 500 calories. And of course there is a straightforward formula for weight loss. It’s “consume fewer calories than you burn.” Unfortunately, there are many factors that make it challenging to get even a good approximation of how much we use, and to some extent how much we consume.*

    2. Not really a myth, either. Just too poorly defined to be a useful statement. The alternative suggestion, “Maybe you can just call it something else, like ‘eating real food'” is just as meaningless. “Eating clean” is a term that should go away from general use, though (but if you and your friends/accountability group/whatever have an agreed upon definition, knock yourselves out).

    3. Of course fat is fattening. We’ve known this for a long time. The real myth is that any/all fat is bad. You can have a healthy diet in which most calories come from fat, but even then, if you add a lot of fat to it it can become unhealthy.

    4. Actually, there is a growing body of research around intermittent fasting (and longer fasting) indicating that it is as effective for weight loss as continuous calorie restriction, and may have other benefits. As someone with firsthand knowledge of people being successful with this kind of approach, it makes me almost unreasonably angry that an otherwise (apparently) intelligent person would categorically state that “This plan always backfires and never leads to healthy, maintainable weight loss.” If you want to guarantee that you’re making a false statement, be sure to qualify it with “always” or “never” (bonus points for both).

    *Here’s an actual myth for you: The calorie counts we use for food (nutrition labels and standard databases) accurately reflect the calories we get from food. Food labels have their own issues (rounding down and others), but it turns out that the standard method of determining calories is fairly primitive and doesn’t account at all for how accessible those calories may be to the body.

  25. apoteke says:

    Myth 1 comes from the idea that 1 pound of fat has a certain amount of calories and if you eat that many less calories you will lose 1 pound of fat. The number of calories usually mention is 3500 calories, so the math seems simple. It is not that simple though, it is far more important to change what you eat than the calories you consume(No, I don’t think calories don’t matter)

    Myth 2 – I believe a better answer is to better define eating clean. Many times you will hear about inflammatory foods, or an elimination diet. Most often they talk about eliminating 1. grain, 2. Dairy, 3. Soy 4 eggs. There are other things but starting with these if a good start as these account for most of the food allergies.

  26. Jeff Ash says:

    Thank you for sharing the study links as well. Ironic that an article pointing out “myths” is actually encouraging a different set of myths.

  27. heather bernat says:

    well i eat a health Keto diet with intermittent fasting and I have never felt better. I also eat way more calories then 5 years ago when I was trying to diet. I have a eating window everyday that starts about 1 pm and i eat about 2,000 calories a day. I real don’t count calories anymore (greatest freedom ever) I count net Carbs and sugar. Once a week I will have a small cheat but try carefully not to knock my self out of Ketosis.

  28. Brenda says:

    I read these articles hoping to learn something yet they all end up talking about losing weight. Not everyone needs or wants to lose weight. How about articles on nutrition for building strength and endurance?

  29. Rolf says:

    This article would have been interesting about 8 years ago. This site is light years behind the moon with its tips and I stopped reading it

  30. Janson Heath says:

    The metabolism slows down….lol you’ll be calling it starvation mode next. I suggest you do your research before posting on a major resource like this.

  31. Simon says:

    Has anyone in the history of health and fitness ever said “Skipping meals helps you lose weight” ?

    • Mathew Andresen says:

      Yes it’s it’s called intermittent fasting and it works

      • Simon says:

        ‘skipping meals’ is not intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is purposeful, time-defined abstinence from eating (ie. a day) where the intention is force your body into ketosis; or the condensing of meals into a shorter period of time during the day (skipping no meals in the process). This is not the same as skipping meals ad-hoc to reduce your calorie intake as the author appears to be describing.

        • Mathew Andresen says:

          Intermittent fasting is not related to ketosis. Ketosis comes from keeping carbs out of the diet. It’s very possible to practice intermittent fasting and not be in ketosis.

          If you skip lunch or dinner you are intermittent fasting, agreed that doesn’t work for lunch.

          It would be acceptable to make that meal up in your eating window, but I don’t know anyone that does. Most either do 16:8 and skip breakfast or do one meal a day and skip breakfast and lunch.

          And yes you are reducing your calorie intake usually. That’s why you lose weight,

          • Bart says:

            Wrong. You will be off the carb roller coaster after about 12 hours. Insulin will be very low. Your body is going to be creating ketones by then or you’d die in your sleep. This is why it’s so easy to skip breakfast. (In reality, lunch is breaking your fast, sonlunch is breakfast.)

  32. Alexander Patryk Kucharski says:

    Thank you. Somebody who knows what they are talking about. This entire article is nonsense and click bait basically. Nothing of substance.

  33. Chris Scott says:

    Why oh why are dieticians spouting this dis-empowering misinformation.
    Calorie restriction always leads to weightloss providing people can adhere to a deficit.
    Sort it out Myfitnesspal, ridiculous.

  34. Its good to read such type of useful nutrition related posts. Thanks for sharing this kind of post and clearing the doubts and myths of many people.

  35. peter piper says:

    Elizabeth is a freelance journalist specializing in health and fitness. She’s also an organic farmer, yoga teacher, obstacle course aficionado and 5K junkie. Her work has appeared in SELF, Men’s Health, CNN, and other publications.

    so…. no qualifications… good to know.

  36. Carolyn says:

    What a great article and as a Registered Dietitian I am excited to see that RD’s are the experts giving advice! I do wonder why the title of the article uses the non protected term Nutritionist vs Dietitian which is a medically protected term only able to be used by someone who has gotten their dietetic degree from an accredited university, completed their didactic internship and passed the national standardized test and maintains their licensure by continuing education courses and programs.

    • Bart says:

      If she’s registered, it must mean she knows the pharmaceutical dogma. Eat whatever you want, we can remove your stomach later… I mean, assuming you have insurance. You do have insurance, right? That you’ve been paying through the nose for all your life and never used? What? Just one policy? Oh, there will be a huge copay, of course!

  37. Emily says:

    The nutritionist doesn’t know where these myths come from? Try nutritionists in the past, babe. We were told for a good thirty years by the medical community that all fat was bad, and that simply cutting calories would add up to weight loss. We were also told a lot of other hope in a very stern way…studies show this…the evidence clearly indicates that…until a bunch of new studies throws everything in reverse. For this reason, I take advice from nutritionists with a big grain of salt. No blood pressure pun intended.

  38. Mathew Andresen says:

    Number 4 is complete BS. Intermittent fasting is a great way to lose weight for the long term and goes especially good with a low-carb diet. After 10 plus years I’ve finally got back down to 200 lb and that’s all because of intermittent fasting with low carb. You don’t need to eat all the time you don’t need to have frequent meals

  39. Jon Gaus says:

    The “skipping meals” myth is worth this entire article! Keep these kinds of articles coming, very, very helpful.

  40. Will Postthetruth says:

    Yes. weight loss isn’t “linear,” but mainly because of variations in burn calories. If you burn 600 Cal. per day more than you eat, you will lose 1 lb./wk. of fat IF you are getting enough exercise so you are not burning an even greater weight of protein (muscle mass!) since fat stores 2.25x as much energy in same amount of weight as protein.
    As an IIT graduate degreed Chemist, to me it comes down to Calories in vs Calories out – plus some water weight loss or gain at various times.

    I’ve done the calculator at another site that asks for your exercise regimen, body data, and how much you want to lose in a certain time period where it gives your a Calorie range. That worked for me: I learned if I stayed under 2000 Cal./day I should lose 1/2 lb/week. Of course, there were variations in my diet, some water weight loss (which is how those b.s. diets claim to lose 12 lbs in 4 weeks, etc.) and in my exercise and weight loss varied, but I lost 2-5 lbs/month and went from 294 lbs to 231 lbs (6’3″: 240 lb begin obesity on those BMI charts).

    I’ve fallen off the wagon and gained a little back, but I’m back to 2000 Cal/day or less and am losing again.

    If the 2000 Cal/day didn’t work, I would have gradually cut back until it did.

  41. Mathew Andresen says:

    I disagree that frequent meals helps with feeling full. It is much easier for me to control my calories while doing intermittent fasting

  42. Ferd Berfel says:

    This article is bs. Completely ridiculous. Cutting calories works. Fasting works. Metabolism is a religion. Calorie burning is physics. Exercise and burn more calories than you intake.

  43. David Carson says:

    Isn’t “Myth #1” the cornerstone of the MyFitnessPal app?

  44. Thales Nemo says:

    Not bad a good improvement on the science . The author tripped at the last paragraph! There is absolutely no need for any carbohydrates such as grains, fruits or vegetables in the human diet!

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