Dieting Myths I Used to Believe

diet myths

Dieting for me was:

A past time, a constant in my life, a drain on our finances, and constantly frustrating.

During my 10 year struggle with extreme obesity, I tried more diets than I can even remember. I struggled to lose weight and instead ended up gaining weight after the diet ended or I gave up.

I realize that I bought into some common dieting myths that were detrimental to my weight loss efforts.

I thought it might be helpful to those of you on your own journey to take a peek into some of the dieting myths I believed in and debunk each of those myths.

Lettuce is low in calories

Dieting Myth # 1:  A Very Low Calorie Diet Is Always the Best

Reality: Whenever I tried to cut my calories too much, instead of seeing the pounds drop and stay gone, I would lose a few pounds, find it really hard to stick with such a low calorie diet, and then gain weight. Talk about frustrating.

The Reason This Doesn’t Work: Eating too few calories can cause you to initially lose pounds, but it also causes a loss of lean muscle and tissue over time. Also, when you try to subsist on too few calories, you can find yourself very tired, have trouble sleeping, and get so hungry you overeat.

Recommendation: Always ask your doctor about a calorie level, but I ate about 1,500 calories a day when I was losing weight. I consistently lost pound after pound and exercised 30 to 45 minutes each day. Each person is different and your appropriate calorie level might be more or less than mine was.

Eating After Dark

Dieting Myth #2: Eating At Night Caused Me To Get Fat

Reality: As a morbidly obese person, I ate a lot of calories all day long. Morning, afternoon, and night. I often blamed the fact I ate after dinner as a reason for my obesity. I had read articles about nighttime eating causing weight gain and decided in my head that that was my problem. The truth was that nighttime eating did not cause my weight problem. My weight problem was caused by inactivity and eating too many calories overall.

Recommendation: Over and over studies have shown that it’s not when you eat, but what you eat that makes us gain weight. Nighttime eaters tend to be eating out of boredom, habit, and the desire for high fat foods. For me, I ate for all of those reasons and more.  Remember, that although the nutrient value in calories is important, the bottom line is a calorie is a calorie.

fat free label

Dieting Myth #3: Fat Free Foods Caused Weight Loss

Diane’s Reality: Choosing fat-free or low-fat cookies did not help me lose weight. Nor did eating a whole box of reduced fat Cheese Nips. It wasn’t the fat that was my problem, it was the calories. I fell into the myth that because a product was fat-free, it was automatically good for weight loss.

Recommendation: There is nothing wrong with choosing a lower fat food, but be aware that the food manufacturers have to replace the fat with something. That something is often sugar. Thus, the fat content goes down but the sugar goes up. Plus, there is often little difference in the calorie content of the different versions of foods. Always read the label and make your own comparisons based on what you see.

What’s the bottom line for me? These myths stood in my way for successful weight loss.

The reality is that the way to lose weight is by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and dealing with the emotions that contribute to your weight problems. If you miss any of these three components, you may find it hard to lose weight and keep it off.

Myths hold you back. Reality moves you forward.

Care to share any dieting myths you’ve heard of lately? Or any dieting myths you used to believe?  I’d love to hear them.  Diane

34 thoughts on “Dieting Myths I Used to Believe

  1. Tanvee says:

    Hi Diane, I used to believe in all of those listed above but as time passed I realized they did not make sense, like you said eating balanced diet and exercising regularly is the only thing that works 🙂

  2. Mary says:

    I too used to believe these and many more!!!
    I fell into the trap of saying there were foods that caused weight loss and foods that caused weight gain. Then, I’d try and eliminate them or add them to no avail. Dumb of me!

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Not dumb of you at all – very understandable when you are trying hard to lose weight. What’s smart of you is that you recognized what you were doing and are making the changes necessary to succeed!

  3. Mark says:

    I think we all buy into the dieting myths to some extent! I WANTED to believe that certain foods caused weight loss, that eating like a bird would work, etc. But it wasn’t until I realized those myths were just that – myths – that I made some progress. Slow, but still progress.

    Great post!

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      At lot of people do buy into the myths – I know I did. We do want a quick fix and a lot of the myths promise that but rarely deliver.

      Congrats on your progress – there is nothing wrong with slow progress!

  4. Samantha says:


    I love the myths because they take away the reality that it is not about a magical thing we do or believe but it is about this process being easy.

    The process takes real work and not myths like you shared. Great post and a must-read for anyone who is starting their journey or having trouble staying focused.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      The myths are dangerous because they take the focus off the real work of changing our lifestyle and instead keep the focus on trying to “trick” ourselves into losing weight through crazy methods.

  5. Louise says:

    I think that dieting myths are dangerous for the dieter like me who really has a hard time shifting from thinking there is a magic to it to realizing there is no magic. Like Samantha said, it is reality that this is hard work.

    I’m still struggling to get started and appreciate your honesty.

  6. Roxanne says:

    I used to believe I had to exercise for hours a day to lose weight. All that got me was injured and frustrated.

    I loved your book because it was all about real life – including exercise. I’ve now lost 50 pounds and exercise regularly and smartly. Thanks Diane!

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Thanks for the nice words about my book – I appreciate hearing that.

      I have known a lot of people who try to lose weight with exercise alone but find it almost impossible. That amount of exercise is unrealistic for most people.

  7. Susan Kewer says:

    Don’t we all want to believe the myths? I sure do and can totally deceive myself into believing they might just work this one time.

    Of course they don’t. 🙂

    I liked the myth that said that eating cottage cheese with every meal would help you lose weight. That obviously did not work!

  8. Hope K says:

    I used to believe that it was okay to eat a lot of low-fat foods because… they don’t have much (or any) fat, so… that means that they don’t make you fat, right? Wrong! I figured that one out myself when I went on a low-fat diet and actually gained weight instead of losing. Those fat-free foods all full of sugar usually. And sugar spikes my insulin levels, causing havoc in my metabolism.

    I would add to the list juice fasts. What a waste of time and hunger!

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Controlling my fat intake to 30 percent of my calories did help me lose weight but 30 percent is not a low-fat or fat-free diet by any means!

      You are right in that food manufacturers often replace that fat in foods with sugar, which increases cravings and makes us want to overeat! And yes to juice fasts – they are ridiculous and will not help with weight loss.

  9. Janis says:

    I think some of these things work … if you aren’t the sort of person to gain the weight in the first place. Which is no help to you if you are overweight or obese. 🙁

    1) Low-calorie food: If you aren’t motivated by food, you’ll probably interpret this as just steering clear of junk, and it’ll work for you because it will be sustainable. If you are, you’ll probably overdo it and wind up going crazy by the third day.

    2) Not eating at night: You’ll probably just eat normally the rest of the day and, since you’ll be consuming less, it’ll work for you. However, if you are the kind of person who will argue yourself into eating MORE for lunch because you’re not eating past 6pm, then it won’t.

    3) Fat-free food: if you aren’t going to use the fact that the cookies are fat-free as an excuse to eat the entire box, this will work. If you will do that, then it won’t.

    This reminds me of a comment I made a while back that, in order for a habitual overeater to achieve a healthy weight, they will have to do very different things above the neck than someone who is not a habitual overeater. It’s all above the neck in the end.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      You raise a good point about these things working for some people – but for people who struggle with their weight because of pure overeating or emotional eating, they don’t work for very long.

      I agree that dealing with the “above the neck” issues being of vital importance for long term weight management. I’ve met very few people with a substantial amount of weight to lose who don’t have a lot of issues to deal with.

  10. Kim says:

    I used to always do the cut-off eating at night – no matter how hungry I was. I finally realized that some nights even if I didn’t eat dinner till 8 I still had to eat otherwise my morning workouts were awful!

  11. JenB says:

    I think I’ve been naturally suspicious of almost all claims out there … I’ve never tried any “diet” other than just increasing exercise and watching what I eat. While I do know that there are other factors that do influence things, I do think it basically comes down to calories in, calories out. You hear you MUST eat breakfast to jumpstart your metabolism, yet I find if I eat breakfast, that’s just an extra 300+ calories in my day.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I am suspicious by nature but when it came to weight loss I was a bit gullible because I SO wanted it to work – you know?

      I don’t eat breakfast until later in the morning. I count breakfast as anytime before lunch! 🙂

  12. Andrea@WellnessNotes says:

    I used to focus too much on fat-free and low-calorie foods. Once I switched to whole foods and watched my portions, I lost the weight.

    Also, I agree that it doesn’t matter when you eat your calories, but nighttime eating was a huge problem for me because I just couldn’t stop once I started eating at night. I therefore had to change things. I started eating an early dinner and “closed the kitchen” after that. But in the end, it worked, as you point out, because I was eating fewer calories.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Whole foods are definitely helpful because they keep me full and also help with controlling cravings. I remember using Snackwell cookies as a snack but then eating the whole entire box, which was terrible for me.

      I too limited nighttime eating and now never eat at night anymore. It’s a habit that was harmful to me whether than helpful.

  13. Jody - Fit at 56 says:

    So with you!! I was stupid when I was young & ate way too few calories along with too little protein & too little healthy fats. Do NOT avoid the healthy fats! They are calories dense so just be aware.. 🙂 I also have a portion controlled snack at night that never hurt me.. 🙂

  14. Caron says:

    I read every diet book I could get from the library and they all seemed like the answer at the time. I remember when the no fat craze hit thinking “Yes! This is the answer.” Sadly, it wasn’t. At some point, I realized I needed a plan I could live with and not just diet with for a few weeks. So now I eat more real food, exercise more and try to be very consistent. Most of the time it works. 🙂

  15. Jennifer says:

    A myth I used to believe was that you need a personalized nutrition plan, health coach, or fitness membership to lose the weight. Not only was that a myth, but it often ends up being an expensive one! Thanks to people like you, Diane, you can get great information that you need without losing your kids’ college fund.

  16. GiGi Eats Celebrities says:

    I AM THRILLED you no longer believe ANY OF THESE! I am still trying to convince my fat-phobia friends that they need to ADOPT HEALTH FAT into their diets!! They’re starting to by adding one yolk here, a little extra olive oil there, which makes me happy, but they still have long ways to go! 😉

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