If you’ve ever tried to lose weight and keep it off, you probably know it’s not as simple or as easy as some people claim.

One reason you may not be making any progress is the amount of misinformation about weight loss circulating our society. From fitness celebrities promoting the latest weight-loss product, to your friends on social media who seem to have joined some type of nutrition cult, everyone seems to have a different answer on the best way to lose weight.

Bon Secours Hampton Road | Surgical Specialist Elizabeth Salzberg, M.D., FACS

Elizabeth Barrett, MD, FACS

Dr. Elizabeth Barrett, MD, FACS, a bariatric surgeon at Bon Secours Surgical Specialists, has heard quite a few myths over the years from the patients who come to her for help.

“There’s so much bad information and so many false promises out there,” Dr. Barrett said. “The truth is losing weight must involve making diet and exercise changes. There’s no free pass.”

To help people understand how successful weight loss truly works, we’ve asked Dr. Barrett to dispel some of the most common myths surrounding weight loss.

Myth: Losing weight is directly tied to what time of day you eat.

Fact: Weight loss is more about what you’re eating, than when you’re eating.

“When you eat after 8 p.m., you’re most likely watching TV and snacking mindlessly on something unhealthy, like cookies or chips,” Dr. Barrett said. “However, eating a salad with grilled chicken after 8 p.m. isn’t going to derail anyone’s diet.”

Myth: Intermittent fasting, such as eating every other day, can boost your metabolism.

Fact: Going an entire day without eating can throw your body into starvation mode. When that happens, your metabolism slows, making weight loss even harder. “You need to provide yourself a steady source of good nutrition,” Dr. Barrett said. “Try to avoid dropping your blood sugar. It’s hard to make good decisions about your diet when you drop your blood sugar level.”

Myth: You can eat whatever you want if you exercise.

Fact: “You can’t outrun your fork,” Dr. Barrett said. “Weight loss starts with good nutrition. You cannot rely on exercise alone to lose weight. You need to fuel your body with nutritious foods in addition to exercising regularly.”

Myth: If something has fruit in it, it’s healthy.

Fact: It’s easy to be fooled by marketing. Fruit roll-ups, fruit juice and fruit snacks are not considered healthy choices for people who need to lose weight. Whole fruits have much fewer calories and far more nutrients than 100-percent fruit juices. If you’re going to quit soda, you shouldn’t start drinking juice instead. Choose plain water.

Myth: Everyone in my family is overweight so I can’t do anything about my weight. It’s genetic.

Fact: While there is a genetic component to being overweight or obese, it won’t prevent you from losing weight. “You don’t have to be a prisoner to that belief,” Dr. Barrett said. “We can break you free. It will be hard, but you can lose weight.”

Myth: Weight-loss surgery is taking the easy way out.

Fact: It’s anything but easy. It’s a lifelong commitment to healthy eating and regular exercise that begins before you have surgery. After surgery, you still must eat healthy foods in moderation and exercise regularly. If you resume unhealthy eating habits and give up exercise, the weight will return.

Here are some additional facts and tips from Dr. Barrett to consider if you’re trying to lose weight:

  • Don’t eat food that comes in boxes and bags. You can avoid many processed foods at the grocery store by shopping its perimeter.
  • Set yourself up for success. We’re in a war against obesity. Know your enemy and don’t bring foods you can’t resist into your home. Your house is your fortress. Make your fortress strong. You’re less likely to eat junk food if it requires driving to the store.
  • It’s not just what you eat, it’s what you drink. Liquid calories are the downfall of everybody’s diet. Juice, sweet tea, lemonade, colas – these types of beverages are loaded with sugar and calories. Remember, diet soda is not better for you than regular soda.
  • If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Meal planning and meal prep are keys to success. Start by making your meal plan for the week. Buy the ingredients for that plan, post it on the fridge and do your meal prep on the weekend. You can keep your food in a sealed container in the fridge ready to go. It makes assembling a healthy meal much easier.
  • Portion control applies to all foods and drinks. Eating the right size serving or portion is extremely important. That goes for healthy foods, too. “You can get obese eating too many apples,” Dr. Barrett said. “And avocados are good for you, but in moderation.”
  • Seek help from your health provider. If you’ve tried to lose weight and haven’t been successful or you have related health problems that are snowballing out of control, talk to your doctor. Studies show very few people who have more than 100 pounds to lose are able to shed the excess weight and keep it off on their own for good. However, you’re more likely to keep off the weight if you work with medical professionals who create a weight-loss program for your individual needs. In some cases, weight-loss surgery may be the best strategy to improve your health.

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