15 unhealthy ways to lose weight

By Naveed Saleh, MD, MS, for MDLinx
Published June 13, 2019

Key Takeaways

Countless weight-loss strategies, diets, potions, and devices have been marketed to the overweight and obese populations. However, despite a plethora of interventions, only an estimated 1% to 3% of dieters end up losing weight and keeping it off.

Let’s take a look at 15 false and unsuccessful approaches to losing weight.

1. Extreme exercise

Successful weight loss involves making small changes that last a lifetime, and extreme amounts of exercise to shed unwanted pounds are untenable. Although people who are overweight or obese probably need to exceed the 150 minutes of exercise per week that is generally recommended for all adults, there’s no reason to go overboard. Simply creating a caloric deficit through a healthy diet in combination with physical activity will give you the best long-term results.

2. Cutting out carbs

When eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet—without butter, cream cheese, and so forth—carbs likely won’t result in weight gain. Furthermore, whole-grain carbs such as brown rice and whole grain bread increase fiber intake while dieting. Just don’t fry starches to lose weight, which can result in weight gain through excess fat and calories, as well as buildup of advanced glycation end products.

3. Drink more water, lose more weight

Water itself doesn’t cause weight loss. However, it does maintain hydration status and can make you feel full, decreasing the desire for snacks. Moreover, sometimes thirst can mask hunger, and when a person is thirsty they may indulge in more snacking.

4. Working out on an empty stomach burns fat

When you work out, your body needs energy. One rumor that has gained traction is that the body burns off fat in these circumstances. Wrong! The body first goes after sugar stored in muscles, which results in muscle breakdown.

5. Certain foods speed up your metabolism

Although unsupported by evidence, some claim that foods high in sugar and caffeine speed up metabolism, thus resulting in weight loss. Others claim that eating spicy foods, like chili peppers and hot sauce, will boost your metabolism so you burn more calories. Don’t be fooled! The only thing you’ll burn is your mouth.

6. You’ll go hungry

Many people think that being on a diet means denying yourself, so that you feel hungry all the time. But being hungry will make you irritable, resentful, and can set you up for failure. How? Because skipping meals often results in a “backlash binge” later in the day, typically with unhealthy food. Instead, eat healthy, smaller meals or snacks every few hours to keep those hunger pangs at bay.

7. Diet pills help

Although there are prescribed medications to help patients lose weight, over-the-counter, ineffective, unlicensed weight loss pills abound. Also, these bogus treatments can contain harmful ingredients.

8. Low-fat and reduced fat foods help with weight loss

With weight loss, total calorie expenditure must exceed calorie consumption. At the expense of fat, many low-fat and reduced-fat foods contain high amounts of high-calorie sugar. Look at the labels to cut back on both fat and sugar.

9. Stop snacking

With weight loss, snacking isn’t the issue…it’s the type of snack. Snacking can help maintain energy levels between meals and is part of a balanced diet. Fruits and veggies make the best snacks, but high-fat, high-carb, high-salt alternatives—like cookies, crackers, and chips—are a no-no.

10. Crash diets

Remember: Slow and steady wins the race. Crash diets, which border on starvation, not only fail to result in long-term weight loss, but can also result in weight gain. The reason is that crash diets are hard to maintain, and the starvation will deplete your energy levels, leading to cravings for high-fat and high-sugar foods. Before you know it, you’re raiding the pantry and gaining weight. Moreover, you put your health at risk with crash diets because they lack essential nutrients.

11. Eating vegan will help you slim down

Although eating a balanced vegan diet can result in weight loss, a vegan diet can also be unhealthy. Remember that there are loads of vegan junk foods, such as chips, candies, and chocolate.

12. Juice cleanses lead to weight loss

A juice cleanse usually involves weaning from solid food and drinking only liquids made from fresh-pressed fruit and vegetables. These diets can last from days to months, resulting in excess sugar intake, which can be converted to fat. Moreover, these high amounts of sugar send blood sugar levels soaring, resulting in a crash in energy levels. This crash leads to food cravings, overeating, and weight gain. Remember that, as part of a balanced diet when losing weight, you need a judicious mix of carbs, fats, and proteins.

13. Skipping meals is a good idea

On the contrary, skipping meals is a terrible idea! If you skip meals, you end up craving more—usually high-fat, high-sugar snacks. Plus, skipping meals also makes you tired and deprives you of essential nutrients.

14. Laxative teas

Laxative teas don’t result in weight loss. Rather they hasten water loss from the bowels, which can result in electrolyte imbalances.

15. Switching to diet soda

Because diet sodas are low in calories or calorie-free, people assume that drinking these beverages will help with weight loss. But experts have learned that artificial sweeteners in diet sodas may actually encourage sugar cravings and sugar dependency, and contribute to weight gain. In some studies, investigators found that consuming high amounts of artificially-sweetened diet sodas were linked to developing metabolic syndrome and abdominal obesity.

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