5 weight myths and why they're wrong

There are many reasons for people who are overweight to lose weight. Just four of those reasons are to feel healthier, to look better, to feel better and to have more energy.

No matter what the reason, successful weight loss and healthy weight management depend on sensible expectations. If you set realistic goals for yourself, you'll be far more likely to meet them and have a better chance of keeping the weight off once you've lost it.

There are, however, plenty of myths surrounding the topic of weight loss, so read on as we try to put some of these right.

Myth 1: "Eating carbs leads to weight gain, so I should limit them when trying to lose weight"

The reality is very different. Around half of your energy (more if you're particularly active) should come from carbohydrates - the thing to focus on, however, is making sure that these carbohydrates are as unrefined as possible to help keep your blood sugar levels stable and ensure you benefit from the vitamins and minerals that can be lost when carbohydrates are refined.

This means choosing wholegrain versions of foods such as bread, pasta and rice as well as plenty of fruit, vegetables, legumes and pulses and avoiding sugary foods and drinks.

Myth 2: "Lifting weights does not help lose weight"

This isn't true either. Lifting weights or general strength training can help increase the strength of your muscles, which in turn means you are likely to burn off more calories both during exercise and at rest. However, in order to "bulk up" you would need to take part in intense strength training, which wouldn't happen if you were only doing relatively light resistance exercises two or three times a week.

Myth 3: "I need to change the time I eat to lose weight"

A successful weight loss attempt is based around the numbers of calories you eat during the whole day, rather than concentrating on what time you choose to eat. If you are only eating the food you need to, you shouldn't gain any weight whether you eat at 5pm or 10pm.

Myth 4: "My BMI is high, so I need to lose weight"

It should be pointed out that this is accurate in most cases, but it doesn't suit everybody. Your BMI is generally used by doctors to get a basic understanding of your health based on your weight to height ratio. However, some individuals may be classed as "fit and fat" as they have good overall health, including a healthy heart and cholesterol level, but according to their BMI they are advised to lose weight.

It is well known that muscle mass weighs more than fat, so it is unlikely that somebody who had a lot of muscle mass would fit within their normal BMI. This is because BMI doesn't differentiate between fat and muscle. As a result, BMI should never be used on its own to decide if somebody needs to lose weight.

Myth 5: "It doesn't matter how you lose weight - all that matters is it is lost"

Unfortunately, this thinking is something of a trap, and the inevitable result of this is a cycle of weight loss followed by weight gain, which is the concept of yo-yo dieting. This has a number of risks, both to our physical and to our mental health.

Gaining weight after you have lost it is very disheartening. However, the reality here can be that it is the diet that has led to the failure, not the person themself. A truly healthy diet leads to steady and sustainable weight loss over a long period of time, and is designed to fit your tastes as well as your lifestyle.

Getting it right

Successful weight loss and healthy weight management depend on sensible expectations. If you set realistic goals for yourself, you'll be far more likely to meet them and have a better chance of keeping the weight off once you've lost it.

Most overweight people should lose weight gradually. For safe and healthy weight loss, try not to exceed a rate of around one kilogram (two pounds) per week. Sometimes, people with serious health problems associated with obesity may have legitimate reasons for losing weight rapidly. This must be done under medical supervision.

The three pillars of effective weight loss

Start a calorie-reduced but balanced diet : this means basing your diet on plenty of wholegrain carbohydrates together with lean sources of protein, regular healthy fats and at least five daily servings of fruit and vegetables.

At the same time you should minimise your intake of foods high in saturated fats and sugars. It may not produce headlines - but it will reduce waistlines!

It's not miracle science, just common sense, and finding a range of foods that suit your taste and meet these guidelines.

Make time each day for some form of physical activity . Walking is an excellent and convenient option that can usually be worked into a daily routine without too much of a problem.

You could start by taking the stairs at work, walking up or down an escalator, working some walking into your journey to or from work and parking at the far end of the car park instead of cruising around for the closest spot.

It may not sound like much but it all adds up to your 30 minutes a day and you can always start adding in some regular, structured exercise that you enjoy.

Appreciate the benefits of small amounts of weight loss . Take heart - there's plenty of credible scientific evidence that losing five to ten percent of your weight and keeping it off can significantly benefit your health as well as increasing your energy and concentration levels.

When it comes to successful weight loss, slow, steady - and permanent - is by far the best way to go.