Are you trying to lose weight? If you want to shed those extra pounds, you may be relying on advice from friends and family. Some of their advice may be helpful, while other advice could be harmful. The Cheat Sheet reached out to health and fitness experts to ask them about the worst weight loss advice they’ve ever received or heard. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Eat less fat
I experimented with a lot of methods for weight loss and dieting in general before getting certified. The worst advice I ever got was to eat less fat. Fat makes you fat, right? Wrong. There is a terrible misconception that eating less fat (of any kind) will make you a healthier, leaner person, and that could not be further from the truth. I found this out the hard way; I reduced fat intake for a few weeks, and here is what happened:
- I got constipated
- I had a constant “foggy” brain
- I had inconsistent energy levels
- I was moody
- I overate carbohydrates
- I did not lose any weight
Keep in mind, I did not have much weight to lose and this was more of an experiment than anything else. I would never suggest anyone do this, ever. I would instead urge people to restrict refined carbohydrates, such as candies, baked goods, breads, pastas, juices, crackers, honey, agave nectar, and syrups.
Alex Haschen, certified personal trainer
2. Don’t eat fruit
The worst weight-loss advice I have heard is that you shouldn’t eat fruit, especially at night, because it contains sugar, which makes you fat. This is a myth I unfortunately have to fight off often with my clients. I focus on educating them that although fruit and table sugar are composed of the same sugars, fructose and glucose, fruit has added benefits that table sugar does not and never will.
For one thing, fruit contains vitamins, minerals, water, and antioxidants — things you won’t find in table sugar. Fruit also contains fiber, which slows down the digestive process of glucose. With fruit, you will not get high spikes of insulin that foods such as candy, cake, and ice cream will give you. With the slower digestive process, this also means that your body has more time to utilize the glucose from the fruit as energy before storing it as fat. Needless to say, it is almost impossible to eat so much fruit to which weight gain will occur.
I tell all of my clients to not be afraid to eat fruit and if they are craving something sweet at night, eating fruit can help satisfy their sweet craving, while simultaneously giving their bodies some added nutrients before bedtime.
Gisela Bouvier, RDN and founder of B Nutrition and Wellness
3. Exercise in a “fat-burning” zone
One of the worst pieces of weight loss advice that I hear repeated over and over, even by many personal trainers, is that people trying to lose weight should exercise at a “fat-burning” zone.
If someone has hours to exercise, very uncommon, then the fat-burning zone can be very effective to help them lose weight. But when time to exercise is the limiting factor, as it is in most cases, the most efficient and effective way to lose fat is to exercise using high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which takes less time, about 30 minutes, and burns nearly twice the total calories.
I advocate HIIT in most of my books, including The Secret of Vigor, because in addition to burning more calories in less time, HIIT helps reduce cortisol levels, which then reduces both appetite and cravings for carbs.
The HIIT walking regimen that I use encompasses a total of 28 minutes (see below) and burns 408 calories, on average in one of our studies, while the same 28 minutes of walking in a fat-burning zone burns only 189 calories.
5 minute warm-up
1 minute easy (can talk) – 1 minute hard (breathless)
2 minutes easy – 2 minutes hard
3 minutes easy – 3 minutes hard
2 minutes easy – 2 minutes hard
1 minute easy – 1 minute hard
Shawn M. Talbott, Ph.D., nutritional biochemist, and author
4. Take supplements
The worst weight-loss advice ever? That’s easy. Supplementation — bad forms of supplementation that cause your heart to race and your skin to tingle. Supplementation that claims to “strip the fat” but that in reality can cause potential long-term harm to one’s body.
Did I follow this advice? Once, years ago. Do I follow it now? No, never. Am I still asked? Sure am. And I cringe at the idea of putting foreign things into my body.
The best advice I can give anyone is to work hard, be consistent, eat balanced, at least 80% of the good stuff each day, not to be too hard on yourself, and realize and know your goals are long term. You didn’t become fat, like I was, overnight, so why exactly do you expect to be thin overnight?
Above all, realize that it’s not just about the weight. It’s also about achieving a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
5. Do a cleanse
Basically any “cleanse” involving just liquid is not a good way to lose weight. Water cleanse? Apple juice cleanse? It’s all nonsense, and it’s better for your health to eat proper nutrition that takes into account your macronutrient and caloric needs. I didn’t follow the advice because a lot of those types of advice are just fads and not based on science. A better method would be to determine your goals, find out your calorie and macronutrient requirements to reach those goals, and make a delicious meal plan to help you reach your goal instead of trying to find a quick fix. Dieting takes time, and you must be patient.
Weight loss is a lifestyle change, not a quick fix. If you think you’re going to diet just until you lose a few pounds, then you’ll quickly gain those pounds back again because weight loss is determined by your calorie input versus output. If you go back to how you normally ate, then you’ll go back to how you normally weighed. If you’re looking for a quick fix that can hurt you in the long run, you shouldn’t risk your health for something as simple as a few pounds.
Remi Silva, Founder of Sunday Meal Prepper
6. Eat less and do a lot of cardio
The worst weight-loss advice I have heard is when people say to eat less and do a lot of cardio. This is bad because when you eat less, your body thinks it is going through a famine, so it slows your metabolism and you wind up burning fewer calories. Also, when you do a lot of cardio, your body becomes very efficient and burns less calories. When doing cardio, your body makes a lot of the stress hormone cortisol, which causes you to break down muscle tissue.
Much better advice would be to do some weight training and high intensity exercise which revs your metabolism. It also helps you build muscle, which causes you to burn more calories. At the same time, you should eat a balanced and sensible diet.
Robert S. Herbst, personal trainer, powerlifter; 18-time World Champion, and member of the AAU Strength Sports Hall of Fame
7. Eat the diet, low-fat, or fat-free versions of foods
Among the worst advice I have heard is to go with diet, low-fat, or fat-free versions of foods (i.e., diet soda). I’m not an advocate for anything that has a low-fat or diet version and I try to steer people away from it all together. The advice I have is to always go for the regular version if you have to go with one at all. That’s because in lieu of the calories or fat that diet foods have to offer, something else needs to be added — and the most common choices are sugar and/or chemicals.
Robyn Lanci, Health Coach
Follow Sheiresa on Twitter @SheiresaNgo
Editor’s note: This story was originally published December 2016.