There is no shortage of weight loss advice on the internet.
Although some weight loss tips are good, others are useless or downright harmful.
Here are 8 weight loss tips that you should ignore completely.
1. Always Eat Breakfast, Even if Not Hungry
You may have heard that it’s important to eat breakfast in order to boost your metabolism after sleeping all night.
Because of this, many people force themselves to eat in the morning, even if they’re not hungry. However, eating breakfast isn’t necessarily beneficial for losing weight.
In fact, studies have shown that eating or skipping breakfast has very little effect on weight, and that skipping it may even result in slightly more weight loss (1, 2, 3).
In one study, people who skipped breakfast did end up eating 140 calories more at lunch than people who’d eaten a morning meal. However, at the end of the day, their total calorie intake was still 400 calories lower (3).
Skipping breakfast is one form of intermittent fasting, which makes it easier for some people to lose weight and improve health (4).
The idea that eating breakfast is important for weight control may be partly due to a survey of National Weight Control Registry members who had lost weight and kept it off for at least 5 years. Most of these people said they ate breakfast regularly (5).
However, everyone is different and some people clearly do better eating breakfast than others. If you’re not hungry in the morning, then there’s no reason to eat.
If you are hungry, make sure to eat a breakfast high in protein so you’ll be more satisfied and less likely to overeat at lunch (6, 7).
Bottom Line: Eating breakfast in the morning doesn’t help you lose weight. Don’t eat in the morning unless you’re hungry, and eat a protein-rich breakfast if you are hungry.
2. Don’t Weigh Yourself Every Day
Your weight can fluctuate from day to day in response to several factors.
For this reason, people are often advised not to get on the scale every day when trying to lose weight.
While this seems to make sense, the opposite may actually be true.
Researchers have reported that daily weighing doesn’t lead to disordered eating or negative psychological effects such as poor body image (8, 9, 10).
In a six-month study, overweight and obese people who got on the scale every day took in fewer calories and lost an average of 10 lbs (4.5 kg) more than those who weighed themselves less frequently (11).
In another study, researchers looking at the weighing habits of 40 overweight people found that the more frequently participants weighed themselves, the more successful they were at losing weight (12).
It’s important to keep in mind that your weight can fluctuate from one day to the next due to hormonal changes and other factors that influence fluid balance, along with bowel movement frequency. These changes don’t reflect fat loss or gain.
However, weighing daily will provide accountability and confirm that your weight is trending in the right direction.
Bottom Line: Research suggests that frequent weighing actually helps you lose more weight, contrary to popular belief.
3. Do a Juice Cleanse
Juice cleanses, also known as juice fasts, are very popular.
Proponents claim you can lose up to 10 lbs (4.5 kg) in a week and rid your body of toxins.
But there is very little research to support the safety or effectiveness of juice cleanses (13).
In one study, women drank a lemon juice and syrup mixture with less than 500 calories for 7 days (14).
Yet while they lost weight and reduced insulin resistance and inflammatory markers, they also lost an average of 0.6 lbs (0.3 kg) of muscle (14).
Any diet this low in calories will cause weight loss, but it’s unlikely to produce lasting results. A major issue is that a cleanse doesn’t establish the type of healthy eating habits necessary for weight maintenance.
What’s more, these juices tend to be high in sugar but low in protein, which is a bad combination for appetite control and health (15, 16).
As far as detoxifying goes, your liver and other organs perform that function on a daily basis. There is no need for a “cleanse” (17).
Bottom Line: A juice cleanse may cause fast weight loss, but it doesn’t promote the healthy habits necessary to keep the weight off.
4. Don’t Lose Weight Quickly
The conventional advice is to lose weight slowly so you’ll have a better chance of maintaining your lower weight.
While it’s certainly fine to lose weight slowly, the most recent research indicates that faster weight loss in the beginning does not increase the risk of weight regain. In fact, losing weight fast seems to be beneficial for long-term weight loss (18, 19, 20).
One study found that people who lost 1.5 lbs (0.7 kg) per week during the first month were five times as likely to have lost 10% of their body weight within 18 months as those who started off losing weight more slowly (20).
However, some weight loss methods are better than others. Cutting calories to extremely low levels may cause rapid weight loss in the beginning, but is unlikely to be sustainable.
Bottom Line: Losing weight relatively quickly in the initial phase of a diet does not increase the risk of weight regain. It may actually lead to better results in the long-term.
5. Do Lots of Cardio
Cardiovascular exercise, also known as aerobic exercise, is excellent for your heart, stress reduction and overall health (21).
However, don’t depend on it to help you lose weight.
The truth is that the weight loss response to cardiovascular exercise depends greatly on the individual (22, 23).
Some people lose weight in response to cardio, others maintain weight and others gain slightly (24).
The best strategy for getting fit and maintaining muscle mass while losing weight is to combine strength training with cardio (25, 26, 27).
Bottom Line: Intense cardio is healthy, but may not lead to weight loss. You should combine cardio and strength training for best results.
6. Minimize Foods High in Natural Fat
Avoiding all fatty foods when you’re trying to lose weight is a bad idea.
Fat has twice as many calories as protein or carbs, but it’s also very filling and takes long to digest.
Standard low-fat diets, with fat under 30% of calories, generally have a poor track record when it comes to weight loss.
For example, one study with over 48,000 women found that a low-fat diet caused only 1 lb (0.5 kg) of weight loss in 7 years (28).
Foods that are naturally high in fat — such as avocados, nuts and coconut — have also been shown to be beneficial for weight loss (29, 30, 31).
Full-fat dairy products contain a fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) that can reduce body fat and improve insulin sensitivity (32, 33).
By contrast, consuming fat-free or low-fat products in an attempt to cut calories could backfire. Many of these products are loaded with refined sugar.
However, although eating foods naturally high in healthy fat can work in your favor, putting a lot of added fat on your food isn’t a good idea either. Adding too much fat can increase calories to the point where you won’t lose weight.
All this being said, diets that are ultra low in fat (less than 10% of calories) may have some benefits for weight loss.
Bottom Line: Avoiding unprocessed foods that are naturally high in fat is a bad idea. The standard low-fat diet has a poor track record for weight loss.
7. Eat Every 2–3 Hours
You have may heard that it’s best to eat many small meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism up. However, this is a myth.
Studies in people who consumed the same number of calories in two meals versus seven meals found no difference in calories burned between the two groups (34).
Controlled studies have shown that eating many small meals does not result in greater weight loss, compared to eating three or fewer meals per day (35, 36).
What’s more, frequent snacking after weight loss surgery was linked to reduced weight loss 6 months after the procedure (37).
The main problem with snacking or eating several small meals is that you often end up consuming too many calories.
Bottom Line: It is a myth that eating many small meals boosts metabolism compared to eating fewer but larger meals. Increased eating frequency does not help you lose weight.
8. Focus on Calories Only
While a calorie deficit is needed for weight loss, calorie intake is only part of the story.
The type of food you eat has a huge impact on hunger, appetite and the hormones that control your weight.
These can affect your ability to achieve the required calorie deficit.
For instance, eating a 100-calorie pack of pretzels isn’t a good idea because it’s made of refined carbs. These can raise blood sugar levels, cause hunger and lead to overeating (38).
By contrast, getting the same amount of calories from a high-protein food, such as an ounce of cheese, results in hormone changes that lead to increased fullness and a reduction in hunger (39, 40).
In addition, protein has a higher thermic effect than either carbs or fat, meaning it burns more calories during digestion (41, 42).
Studies have demonstrated that calorie intake often spontaneously declines when carbs are restricted and that weight loss is greater on low-carb diets compared to low-fat diets (43, 44, 45).
Finally, even if calories were the only thing that mattered, it’s very difficult to accurately gauge how many you’re eating. One study found that people with obesity underestimated their true caloric intake by 47%, on average (46).
In addition, calorie counts on processed foods are often inaccurate (47).
Bottom Line: Calories are important, but food quality is just as important when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off.
9. Anything Else?
Although everyone is unique and there are differences among individuals, there are certain recommendations for weight loss that simply don’t work for most people.