Myths About Obesity: Separating Fact and Fiction

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Ever heard the rumor that having sex burns calories? Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, snacking is bad, or gym class helps kids control weight? These are just a few of several widespread myths about obesity.

Allison said:

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“False and scientifically unsupported beliefs about obesity are pervasive. As health professionals, we should hold ourselves to high standards so that public health statements are based on rigorous science. In instances where the science doesn’t exist, we should conduct rigorous studies to find the answers.”

For instance, research from late last year suggests that skipping breakfast increases our desire for high calorie foods later in the day, due to brain circuits that are more prone to seeking them out while we are fasting.

Seven Myths of Obesity

Myth 1: Small, continued changes in our caloric intake or how many we burn will accumulate to create a larger weight change over the long term.

Myth 2: Realistic goal-setting in obesity treatment is essential. If no goals are met, patients can become frustrated and lose less weight.

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Myth 3: Slowing losing weight is better than shedding the pounds quickly. Quick weight losses are likely to be gained back.

Myth 4: You will only lose weight when you are “ready” to do so. Health-care professionals should measure each patient’s diet readiness.

Myth 5: Childhood gym classes in their current state, play an important role in the prevention of childhood obesity.

Myth 6: Breastfeeding helps prevent future obesity for the breastfed baby.

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Myth 7: One act of sex can burn up to 300 Kcals per person.

Other Weight Loss Presumptions and Facts

The investigators also pinpointed nine research-proven weight-loss facts. For instance, weight-loss programs for kids that involve parents and the child’s home, tend to reach better outcomes than programs that take place just in school or other settings.

Additionally, research has historically shown that genetic factors play a big role in obesity, but “heritability is not destiny.” Lifestyle and environmental changes can trigger just as much weight loss as treatment with weight-loss medications.

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Eating a great deal of fewer calories effectively lowers weight, although it is hard for many to keep this up over the long term. Exercise is important, but only when it is often enough and powerful enough to use up more energy than taken in.

  • One is what experts refer to as the “mere exposure effect” – repeating an idea frequently enough that people start to believe it is true.
  • Another factor is that people find some ideas so desirable that they do not want to let them go, despite evidence against them.
  • And the other is “confirmation bias” – when one seeks out information only to confirm an opinion that is already held.

Allison concludes:

“Fortunately, the scientific method and logical thinking are there to detect erroneous statements, counter bias and increase knowledge. We believe scientists need to seek answers to questions using the strongest experimental designs. As a scientific community, we need to be honest with the public about what we know and don’t know as we evaluate proposed strategies for weight loss or obesity prevention.”

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