Special Report

16 Common Myths About Obesity That Need to Go Away

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Myth No. 6: Exercising is better than eating healthy for weight loss

Exercise alone can help with weight loss but only slightly, usually not more than 5 pounds, according to the National Institutes of Health. One possible explanation is that an increase in physical activity often comes with an increased appetite and less concern over what foods are being consumed, making up for the extra calories burned during exercise. Cutting calories through food appears to promote weight loss more effectively than increasing exercise.

Most people probably come across this seemingly arbitrary formula for losing weight: 80% diet and 20% exercise. The key to weight loss is a negative energy balance, and to lose a single pound, a person needs to achieve a 3,500 calorie deficit. Per the 80:20 ratio, a person would need to burn about 700 calories by exercising and cut 2,800 calories through food a week. If you only want to exercise, you’d have to run several miles a day to lose a single pound in a week.

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Myth No. 7: Willpower is enough to lose weight

It’s very common to hear that weight loss is a matter of willingness to stick to a diet or an exercise routine. But, in reality, losing weight is far from being just about willpower, and the experience is unique to every person. Many nutritionists argue that using willpower is one of the least effective methods to lose weight because it focuses on the negative and it gets harder with time.

Obesity is much more about biology than willpower. What works for some people will not work for others. Some people only have to go for a walk every night and skip bread with dinner to lose weight, while others may have to cut dairy and gluten products due to a medical issue and exercise for an hour every day, and even then their weight loss journey could be an uphill battle.

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Myth No. 8: The amount of weight loss is all that matters

Most people who lose weight look simply at the scale and notice just one number — the total amount of weight lost. Whether the weight loss came from muscle, fat, or water is unclear. Most popular weight loss programs claim to reduce body weight in just a few weeks, but a significant amount of the weight lost through these programs actually comes from lean muscle and water, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Therefore, it may be more effective to adopt a comprehensive approach to losing weight that includes macronutrient intake and strength training to preserve lean body mass while losing body fat.

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Myth No.9: Obese people have slower metabolisms

The claim that slim people have faster metabolism is a stubborn myth. Larger bodies actually have higher resting metabolic rates because they need more energy to carry out basic functions.

Body composition is what plays a big role in how fast metabolism is, not weight. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat. People who weigh more tend to have faster metabolism because part of the extra weight is muscle.

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Myth No. 10: Lack of access to fruits and vegetables is behind the obesity epidemic

About 39.6% of Americans are obese, but fewer than 6% of Americans — or about 19 million — live in food deserts. Food deserts are areas where access to affordable, healthy foods like fresh produce is limited or nonexistent because grocery stores are more than 10 miles away in rural areas and more than a mile away in urban areas.

A recent study, published in the PLOS scientific journal, about the role of fresh fruit and vegetables’ affordability, accessibility and availability, on obesity rates found that educational level, rather than access, is more closely associated with variations in body weight and body mass index.

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