Seven myths about obesity


A whole bunch of obesity experts have just published an article in The New England Journal of Medicine about myths, presumptions and facts about obesity. Surprise: I agree on all points!

Some common dietitian or Weight Watcher claims are found among the myths, i.e. things that have been proven wrong. For example myths #1-3:

  • Myth #1: Small changes in energy intake or expenditure will produce large, long-term weight changes. WRONG. Small changes in lifestyle will only produce small effects on weight.
  • Myth #2: Setting realistic goals is important. WRONG. Setting ambitious goals will produce at least equally good results.
  • Myth#3: An initial rapid weight loss is associated with poorer long-term results. WRONG. Rapid weight loss will produce at least equally good results.

They also debunk various presumptions that are often put forward as facts, but are lacking support, for example the following:

  • Unproven presumption #1: Regularly eating breakfast is protective against obesity.
  • Unproven presumption #3: Eating more fruits and vegetables will result in weight loss.

Dangerous Myths

Let’s hope the myths will die out soon, especially myth #1. Advice to just choose a smaller cookie or to take the stairs instead of the elevator will not make anyone thin. Period. This has been proven wrong.

Advice on “just minor changes” will not only lead to disappointment, but will also contribute to the prejudice against people with weight problems, as the advice incorrectly makes it sound like overweight people would be thin if only they had the slightest willpower.

A lot of “experts” need to stop spreading this common prejudice-creating myth in the media.


All the myths can be read here:

My best weight-loss advice (free)


  1. Sophie
    I have been on a low carb diet (Dukan) since september and I am stunned at how such a drastic change in my diet has only provided small changes. I did lose over 15 lbs in 4 months, but I am shocked at how slow it has been, despite how much my diet changed.

    I cut all fruit, starches, sugar, grains. It was a big change for me. According to this diet I should not eat fat, but I do not avoid fat and eat eggs everyday, sometimes 4.

    There is no way I could have lost that much weight by just "eating reasonably".

    I was slightly overweight (started at 145 lbs on a small frame) and I don't think I am much healthier now, but I sure look better at 130 lbs.

    Losing weight is extremely difficult and requires a lot of discipline. You have to be committed, and be ready to make some serious sacrifices. This said: I love my new carnivore diet and do not feel deprived at all.

  2. Sophie
    However, I disagree with :

    Myth#3: An initial rapid weight loss is associated with poorer long-term results. WRONG. Rapid weight loss will produce at least equally good results.

    I don't think rate of weight loss is in itself important, but if one loses weight rapidly by making changes that they are unwilling or unable to maintain long term, the weight will come back. Success comes from making long-term choices, whether the weight loss is slow or fast, but making long lasting choices is more difficult for some people to make rapidly.

  3. Craig Altman.
    I disagree as losing weightis about changing entrenched habits and replacing them with good ones. Just getting started on this in any small way is a step in the right direction. There is a therapeutic term called partializing which means making small goals to get started on something rather than be overwhelmed.and.small mentally encouraging and will breed more.sucess
    Reply: #4
  4. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD Team Diet Doctor
    Nothing wrong with positive changes, small or large. That's all good.

    The problem is promises that small changes, by themselves, will lead to big results long-term. That advice is either ignorant or not truthful.

  5. Matthew
    FYI There's a new that is claiming that Dr. Eenfeldt cherry picked his research.

    You'll probably have to read the transcript,.
    The narrator sounds like he is anaemic and on a respirator. (kidding, but his reading style does little to help the vegan message) It is 44 video critiques of the paleo diet. Dr. McDougall whole heartedly supports it and has sent out an email flyer advertising it. Videos 37-40 actively critique Dr. Eenfeldts work. I'm sure you could make easy work of these, Dr. Best wishes to you.

  6. Shelly
    I'm all for getting rid of that "calories in, calories out" myth. I HATE that one (especially when it's followed, or preceded, with "It's simple math.")
  7. eddie watts
    i hate the "small changes make a big difference" line.

    and it is so stupid and obviously wrong, when did a small change ever result in a big difference!

    clearly big changes result in big differences

  8. Trina
    Unproven presumption #1: Regularly eating breakfast is protective against obesity.

    Dr. Lustig tells us in Fat Chance that eating breakfast (especially protein) will help. He says it helps reduce ghrelin so we eat less the rest of the day.

    Is he perpetuating this myth too?

    Reply: #9
  9. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD Team Diet Doctor
    The authors don't call that a myth, they just point out that there's no proof for it (i.e. it's a presumtion). I think they're probably right.
  10. I love #7 on their list..

    "A bout of sexual activity burns 100 to 300 kcal for each participant"

    Not sure how anyone else does it... but mine doesn't feel like it's equivalent to running 1-3 miles.

    Reply: #11
  11. Aaron
    It depends on how fast your partner is running! Seriously though, I never believe anything that says you burn "n" number of calories per hour by performing a particular activity. Not every person burns calories at the same rate. Just as different engines have varying fuel requirements, different bodies do too. How did they come up with these numbers in the first place?
  12. Peggy Holloway
    I was under the impression that "humans burn calories" was a myth in and of itself, or at the least a misrepresentation.
  13. Galina L
    Matthew, it is an extremely hard reading and especially listening experience. I gave it a try once , I honestly lasted 20 minutes, I tried to read it now, it is still a pure torture. I am afraid I can't give vegans a benefit of doubt due to my personal experience. Whatever they claim, let them claim.
  14. Wade Henderson
    Also went to the plantpositive site and I am quite open to all points of view on these subjects.

    However I do have to admit that listening to that guy's voice is near impossible.
    Even reading the material is difficult in the first one regarding the Diet Doctor.

    However I glanced at some of the other sections, such as with Taubes and when I have time I will return to those and read a bit.

    Whoever did that sure put in a load of work. I always like to read both sides, though I think some people will do better on one way of eating and some on the other.
    Rather than throw all 70 parts aside, I think one might do well to read one or two when they get a chance.

    Nothing worse than closing one's mind and only accepting what you already think is true.
    I am at this point uncertain as to whether a lifetime of eating low carb or low fat is best.
    However it would seem that initial weight reduction is easier in the short term via low carb.

    I wonder if any or many people lose say 50 or 80 pounds on low carb and then switch to true low fat in the following years for cardio health.

  15. Galina L
    I tried both ways, my health, mood, look and weight were all 100% better on LC. If it is unhealthy somehow, I wouldn't go to the low-fat misery anyway.
  16. FrankG
    I also like to keep an open-mind and read from "all sides"... within reason :-)

    I'm not willing to waste my time or energy on a counterpoint/viewpoint from someone who is simply being argumentative, rude, is agenda-driven (and clearly biased) or who, after being given the benefit of the doubt (and I do try reading from many sources) proves to be unreliable, or not credible.

    I don't read anyone and take what they say on face value anymore... I check their sources back to the primary research, if any exists.

    This is the internet and there have to be some limits.

  17. Your body responds to weight loss attempts as if you life depends on it- very aggressive responses. If you lose 10 % of your body weight your body will respond extremely aggressively by lowering energy expenditure by 25% to 30 %, plus it will simultaneously change hormones, brain function and make you far more hungry and food will be far more appealing in its taste etc.

    This is all recently gained knowledge gathered by the best researchers.

    Shows like "The Biggest Loser" are filled TERRIBLE advice.

    The information of Anthony Colpo and Lyle McDonald is laughably misinformed. I wish the public knew how badly they were being conned. Their books are RIDDLED with misinformation.

  18. The body never adjusts to a weight reduced state. This effect lasts and does not leave.
  19. Dr. Jason Fung
    I'm a little surprised that you agree with this article at all. Consider presumption #5 - "Snacking contributes to weight gain and obesity. Randomized, controlled trials do no support this presumption". However, if you look at the reference, you find that mandatory snacking increases total caloric intake and may contribute to obesity. Its very own reference contradicts its point.

    Also consider some "truths" - "provision and use of meal-replacement products promote greater weight loss" - hardly REAL food. Exactly the highly processed junk we should be getting rid of. Also "Some pharmaceutical agents can help patients achieve clinically meaningful weight loss"

    Hmm.. Solution to obesity - drugs and highly processed meal replacement shakes. And you AGREE with that?

    Let's look at who wrote it:
    Dr. Astrup reports receiving payment for board membership from the Global Dairy Platform, Kraft Foods, Knowledge Institute for Beer, McDonald’s Global Advisory Council, Arena Pharmaceuticals, Basic Research, Novo Nordisk, Pathway Genomics, Jenny Craig, and Vivus; receiving lecture fees from the Global Dairy Platform, Novo Nordisk, Danish Brewers Association, GlaxoSmithKline, Danish Dairy Association, International Dairy Foundation, European Dairy Foundation, and AstraZeneca; owning stock in Mobile Fitness

    Yeah - no doubt he supports drugs and meal replacements. He's a stooge for Big Pharma.

Leave a reply

Reply to comment #0 by

Older posts