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“I Saw It on TV”…Weight-Loss Myths

from the AICR Newsletter | Fall 2014 | No.125

Sonja Goedkoop

Sonja Goedkoop, MSPH, RDN

Eight types of cancer are associated with extra body weight. With daily media stories about weight loss, it’s important to separate the myths from the facts when getting to a healthy weight.

To help people reduce their risk of cancer, getting to a healthy weight matters. Clinical Dietitian Sonja Goedkoop, MSPH, RDN of the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center, tells AICR she hears many weight loss myths from clients.

Here are a few common ways people hear misleading information:

1. “I heard about it on TV.”

This is the start of many conversations I have with patients. It usually has to do with some supplement (e.g., garcinia cambogia) that “leads to weight loss.”

Bottom Line: There are usually very few studies supporting the weight loss benefits of these supplements, plus a list of potential risks or side effects from taking the supplement and always the caveat that a healthy diet and physical activity are needed for it to work.

2. “Juicing or cleansing will help me lose weight.”

Bottom Line: There is no clear and consistent evidence that juicing actually releases toxins from the body or will help with weight loss. Moreover, by juicing, you are removing most of the fiber from the whole fruit/vegetable and you are left with a non-filling, caloric beverage.

What will make you feel fuller? One glass of juice for 200 calories or an apple, plus a spinach salad with a light dressing topped with a handful of snap peas and cherry tomatoes for a total of 200 calories? I’d say go for the whole fruit/ vegetable combo or make a smoothie to keep the fiber.

3. “I go to the gym.”

Bottom Line: Exercising is only one component of weight loss. Research shows that exercise alone does not lead to weight loss. Decreasing calories does lead to weight loss, even without exercise. However, the greatest weight loss is seen when healthier eating is combined with exercise. Exercise provides its own health benefits, so think of both diet and exercise as essential parts of a healthy lifestyle for cancer prevention and overall health.

4. “I heard on the news that…”

Bottom Line: News stories love to promote the newest study relating to diets and weight loss. But what matters is studies, plural, not any single study. Also, what we often aren’t hearing on the news is if this study applies to the general public, if it was a high quality study and whether other research also supports the claim. Be cautious with what you hear in the media. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

5. “I can’t eat healthy food because my family won’t eat it.”

Bottom Line: Preparing nutritious foods is important for everyone. It is possible to change behaviors for the whole family, especially when healthier food is appealing. For example, instead of serving a plate of plain steamed or roasted vegetables, spruce them up a bit with a handful of nuts and dried cranberries, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese or spritz of lemon juice. If family or friends are not on the same page, involve them in the cooking and shopping to make healthy foods everyone will like. Make one new healthy, plant-based recipe a week – don’t give up!

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