Weight-loss fact and fiction

You don't have to look far to find diet advice. It's as close as your Web browser, your local bookstore, or that pop culture magazine you leafed through. But how accurate is the information? Some diet advice is just plain wrong—and some can be dangerous to your health.

Here's a closer look at several of the weight-loss fictions floating around out there, courtesy of the Weight-control Information Network, part of the National Institutes of Health.

A passing fad

Fiction: Fad diets work for permanent weight loss.

Fact: Fad diets aren’t the best way to lose weight and keep it off. Fad diets often promise quick weight loss or tell you to cut certain foods out of your diet. You may lose weight at first on one of these diets. But diets that strictly limit calories or food choices are hard to follow. Most people quickly tire of them, revert to their old way of eating, and regain any lost weight.

Fad diets also are unhealthy because they rarely provide all the nutrients your body needs.

Instead: Focus on gradual weight loss—a half-pound to two pounds a week. The best way to do this is to make healthy food choices, eat moderate portions, and add physical activity to your daily routine.

Missed meals

Fiction: Skipping meals is a good way to lose weight.

Fact: People who skip breakfast and eat fewer times during the day tend to be heavier than people who eat a healthy breakfast. This may be because people who skip meals tend to feel hungrier later and eat more than they normally would at dinner and in the evening.

Instead: Eat small meals throughout the day that include a variety of healthy, low-fat, low-calorie foods.


Fiction: Eating after 8:00 pm causes weight gain.

Fact: It doesn’t matter what time of day you eat. It’s what and how much you eat and how much physical activity you get during the whole day that determine if you gain, lose, or maintain your weight. No matter when you eat, your body will store extra calories as fat.

Instead: If you want to have a snack before bedtime, think first about how many calories you’ve eaten that day. Then consider having a healthy, sleep-promoting snack, such as a glass of skim milk, a piece of fruit, or a cup of plain low-fat or nonfat yogurt.

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