Seven Myths About Obesity

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With an epidemic as widespread as obesity, there is bound to be a misconception or two on how to treat it. The New England Journal of Medicine published a list of seven common beliefs about obesity that are not supported by sound scientific evidence.

Small changes = big results

Myth: Cutting some calories or walking a little each day will yield a lot of weight loss over time.

Fact:  That assumes the rate the body burns calories will remain the same as you lose weight, which is not true. As the body loses weight, it uses less energy (calories) to sustain itself. This means the 250 calories you cut when you were 200 pounds will not have the same effect on your body when you’re 150 pounds.

Realistic weight-loss goals

Myth: If you set small weight-loss goals, you are more likely to meet them and lose more weight.

Fact: No reliable study has confirmed this particular mental trick. Some studies have shown the opposite to be true; people who set ambitious weight loss goals are inspired to work harder and end up losing more weight, even if they don’t meet their goal. The key is to set the bar high, but not get frustrated and give up.

Fast loss and gain

Myth: If you lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time you will probably just gain it back.

Fact: There’s no evidence that proves that a large amount of weight loss at the onset of a healthy diet will mean you’ll lose less weight overall, or ultimately gain weight. In fact, recommendations to lose weight at a slow pace might lower your prospects for losing weight, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

Are you ready?

Myth: If you’re not mentally prepared to lose weight, you won’t lose weight.

Fact: Several studies have shown that your level of enthusiasm at the onset of a diet does not predict the ultimate success of weight loss efforts. The mere fact that you’re starting a diet implies that you are at least a little bit ready to lose weight.

Physical education

Myth: More time for physical education in schools will help kids lose weight and avoid obesity.

Fact: This may upset some public health officials, but several studies have shown that physical education does not reduce or prevent childhood obesity. A significant amount of physical exercise would likely produce leaner students, but most schools are not willing to cede half of their school day to gym class.

Breast feeding

Myth: Babies who are breastfed have a lower chance of being obese.

Fact: A World Health Organization report suggested people who were breast fed were less likely to be obese adults. But, it turned out that the study’s methods were problematic and no other study has been able to duplicate the results. Of course, breast milk provides a slew of other benefits to children including a more robust immune system.

Coitus and calories

Myth: A bout of sexual activity burns between 100 and 300 calories.

Fact: Not quite. Metabolic levels obviously differ from person to person, but a man weighing 154 pounds will only burn about 3.5 calories per minute during sex.  Considering sex on average lasts about 6 minutes, that’s only 21 calories.