The weight loss industry turns over billions each year. It’s continuing to grow with help from popular fitness apps, like Apple’s forthcoming iWatch. We all sort of know in the back of our minds what a healthy lifestyle looks like, but we’re constantly distracted by the media who publish contradictory advice every day.

Then there are the different types of diets, from vegan to paleo to clean eating, each with a scientist to explain why their approach to weight loss is the most effective. The only solution to this swamp of nutritional bamboozlement is an unbiased scientific analysis of the data. In this article you’ll learn the 7 Wacky Weight Loss Lies The Media Keeps Telling so you can focus on what actually works.

1. Calories Don’t Count

Is 1000 calories of tuna the same as 1000 calories of ice-cream? This is the argument of those who believe calories don’t count.

There are two sides to the calories in vs calories out equation. The first part is calories in, everyone understands that part. But it’s the calories out part that confuses a lot of people. The three way we burn calories that we consume are:

  1. Activity.
  2. Basal Metabolic Rate (sustaining life).
  3. Thermic Effect of Food. 

The thermic effect of food isn’t talked about much when people argue calories don’t count. But it’s vital to understand if you take weight loss seriously. Different macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein) require different amounts of energy from the body in order to digest them. Protein has the highest TEF of 30%. That means 30% of the calories from tuna are used in the digestion process compared to a meagre 3% from the TEF of the high-fat ice-cream.

Calories are the most important thing in weight loss but we must take into account not just how we take calories in but how we burn them off.

2. Diet Soda Makes You Fat

The phrase ‘diet soda and weight gain’ gets thousands of google searches every month. There is a popular myth in the media that zero calorie diet soda causes weight gain. This all started when a few studies done on mice showed that when they had aspartame — the sweetener found in diet soda — they gained weight. This would be very disconcerting if we were mice. But human beings have different metabolisms.

The evidence, when scrutinised, shoes that diet soda does not make you fat. As point one explains, the only thing that causes weight gain is a calorie surplus. Which brings us to our next myth…

3. Carbs Are Evil

We’ve all heard of low carb diets, Atkins, and paleo. The theory goes: “Insulin is secreted by carbohydrates, insulin is a storage hormone, therefore carbohydrates make you fat.” What proponents of this argument don’t tend to bring up, however, is that protein — in particular whey protein — secretes a ton of insulin and that’s allowed on a low carb diet.

If you eat a diet consisting entirely of carbohydrates but you’re in a calorie deficit you will not gain weight. It is impossible and goes against the law of thermodynamics. The reason why low carb diets work in the short term is because it makes you increase your protein (which has the highest TEF) and remove a whole macronutrient from your diet. When you suddenly cut out bread and pasta and cereal for the few weeks while you adjust, you’re gong to naturally eat less calories.

4. You Can Lose 20 Pounds Of Fat In 30 Days

You can lose 20 pounds in 30 days, boxers can lose 10 pounds in a single day, but it won’t be fat. In order to lose a pound of fat a week we need a weekly calorie deficit of 3,500. Thats 500 calories under maintenance each day. If you do the math, to lose 20 pounds in 30 days would require a calorie deficit of 2,333 every day. The average daily intake of a grown woman is 2000 calories. So for thirty days a female would have to eat absolutely nothing while going 333 calories worth of cardio. This is impossible.

The before and after photos we see in the media either take longer than the caption proclaims or the after is really before and the model gained weight. Incredible before and after pictures make supplement companies lots of money. Whenever there is a clear product attached to an amazing claim, always keep your wits about you.

5. Drinking Water Speeds Up Weight Loss

Water does not speed up weight loss. It doesn’t affect satiety. It doesn’t keep you full and your body doesn’t mistake it for food. Being dehydrated can lead to poor health and poor health can lead to impaired weight loss in the sense that you can’t workout as hard or sleep as well, but up to a point water doesn’t help at all.

6. ‘Super Foods’ Speed Up Weight Loss

Super foods like blueberries, spinach and sweet potatoes do not speed up weight loss. If you see a claim which says, “Blueberries speed up weight loss”, you have to always ask “by how much?” If eating 1000 blueberries every day increased weight loss by 0.05%, the claim that blueberries speeds up weight loss is true but the practical implications of such a fact is irrelevant in the real world.

Super foods tend to be high in micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These certainly help with keeping good health but they do not speed up weight loss. It is possible to lose weight eating nothing but cheeseburgers if you were in a calories deficit, this isn’t recommended but illustrates the point that calories and macronutrients always come before micronutrient dense super foods if your goal is weight loss.

7. We Can Be Ripped All Year Round

The guys and girls with six-packs in the magazines, for the most part only look like that for the photo shoot. When we diet down to very low levels of body fat our sex-drive disappears, our mood worsens and our performance in the gym suffers. The only people who can stay extremely lean all year round are the genetically gifted (1 in 10,000) and people taking performance enhancing drugs.

Not all people who take steroids have huge muscles. Many take them to lose fat rather than to grow big. It’s important to keep in mind realistic expectations when you imagine your future self, comparing yourself to the genetically superhuman, those on drugs or a mixture of the two is a recipe for disappointment.