I Saw It on TV… Weight-Loss Myths Women Hear

With AICR’s new report showing for the first time that obesity is linked to ovarian cancer, there are now even more reasons for women to maintain a healthy body weight. I’ve already written about challenges women face when it comes to weight loss, and a recent blog by Colby describes some of the many nutrition myths surrounding cancer risk.iStock_000004672120Small

To help women reduce their risk of ovarian cancer, getting to a healthy weight matters. Let’s look at a few of the many weight loss myths I hear daily from women:

1.    “I heard on Dr. Oz…” This is the start of many conversations I have with patients. It is usually followed by some supplement (e.g. garcinia cambogia) that “leads to weight loss.” There are usually few studies supporting the weight loss benefits of these supplements, potential risks or side effects from taking the supplement, and there is 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.” There is no evidence to support that juicing actually releases toxins from the body or will help with weight loss. Moreover, by juicing, you are removing most of the fiber and many antioxidants from the whole fruit/vegetable. You are left with a non-filling, caloric beverage with only some nutrients.

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, also for a total of 200 calories? I’d say go for the whole fruit/vegetable, or make a smoothie to keep the fiber.

3.    “I go to the gym.” 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 changed eating is combined with exercise. It’s important to unlink exercise with weight loss, and rather to think of both diet and exercise as essential parts of a healthy lifestyle, for cancer prevention and overall health.

4.    “I can’t eat healthy because my family won’t eat it.” Making nutritious foods is important for the entire family and shouldn’t be a change you make alone. It IS possible to change behaviors for the whole family, especially when healthier food is appealing. This month is National Nutrition Month, and the theme is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.” Instead of serving a plate of plain steamed vegetables, spruce them up a bit! Try this cauliflower, cabbage and carrot salad (http://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/broccoli-cruciferous.html#recipes) for a tasty twist on cruciferous veggies.

5.    “I heard on the news that…” News stories love to promote the newest study relating to diets and weight loss. The key here is study, not studies. 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 if 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. And try to keep an open mind about behavior changes. If family or friends are not on the same page, involve them in the cooking and shopping to make healthy foods everyone will like.

What myths do you hear from women about weight loss?

Sonja Goedkoop, MSPH, RD, is a clinical dietitian at the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center. She has a passion for promoting a healthy lifestyle and reducing obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity. You can follow her @SonjaGoedkoopRD on twitter.


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