Weight Loss Myths and Truths

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1   You should exercise in the 'fat burning zone' (low intensity, long duration) to lose the most weight.

The "fat burning zone" business is very misleading. It’s true that low intensity exercise uses more fat as fuel and that moderate intensity exercise (that you can maintain for 20 minutes or more) burns both fat and glucose. But, you're better off exercising in the aerobic zone as much as you can, because exercising at this higher intensity burns more total calories. You will burn a larger percentage of fat in relation to glucose when you are working at a lower intensity, but you will also burn fewer total calories and less total fat. The relative percentage of fat burned has nothing to do with weight loss—it's the total amount calories burned that counts.

1   Since you need to cut about 500 calories from your diet each day to lose a pound a week, then eating 1,000 fewer calories will result in twice the weight loss.

Strange as it sounds, going too low on calories is a common cause of getting stuck at your current weight despite dieting. Your body is designed to protect you from starvation during times of greatly reduced food availability, and when you eat too little, your body thinks it’s starving. To compensate, your metabolism will slow down considerably, making it very difficult (or impossible) for you to lose weight. In this state, your body will preferentially burn everything but your stored body fat.

Your best bet is to aim for a weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week through combining a moderate calorie reduction with increased calorie expenditure through exercise. If all the info you entered during your program set-up is accurate, the recommended calorie range you received should be what you need to accomplish this healthy rate of weight loss. To learn how your calorie recommendations are determined, check out Calorie Calculations 101.

1   The scale is the most reliable way to measure your progress.

Weight alone doesn’t tell you the whole truth about your progress or fitness level. Forget your preconceptions about the number on the scale. Knowing your weight is good, but not crucial—you want to lose fat, not necessarily weight. If you must weigh yourself, don’t make it a daily habit. Weight tends to fluctuate throughout the day, and from day-to-day, by as much as 5 pounds or so. Most of these regular changes are due to food and water. Read Body Composition Measures Results to learn about measuring your progress without the scale.

1   Women should lift light weights for more repetitions to avoid bulking up.

While on a weight lifting program, the right hormones (testosterone) are necessary in order to bulk up. Women’s testosterone levels are much lower than men’s, so in most cases, they are not capable of building large muscles. In fact, since muscle takes up less room than fat, women tend to lose inches when they strength train. So in addition to the physical benefits (increased metabolism, decreased risk of osteoporosis, increased strength), strength training will help you slim down too! Women, in fact, are more likely to tone up from strength training rather than bulk up. Research shows that women can add up to 30% lean muscle and end up looking thinner, feeling stronger and being firmer. No matter how many repetitions you do, you should be lifting a challenging weight and feel muscle fatigue by the end of each set. Learn how to Add Strength Training for Lean Muscles.

1   NO diet supplements can help you safely lose weight.

These products (diet pills and herbal supplements) are not regulated by the FDA the way that other medications and drugs are. So basically, no one is checking to make sure their claims are true, that the pills contain what they say they do, or that they are actually safe to be taking at all. Remember, even "natural" doesn’t mean safe. Plus, if you lose weight by taking a pill, that weight loss is usually temporary, and not part of a healthy lifestyle change. Read Weight Loss Supplements: Fact or Fiction? to learn more.

1   The best way to get rid of belly fat is by doing more abdominal exercises like crunches.

There is no way to target weight loss to a specific area of the body because your body decides where it wants to put on weight and where it wants to take it off. The midsection is a common "problem" area for many people. The best way to lose fat is through cardiovascular exercise. It is important to do a variety of abdominal exercises (including crunches) to keep your core strong, but until that excess fat is gone, you will not see the muscle definition.

1   Almost anything can count as exercise, as long as you're not sitting still.

At SparkPeople, we're not big fans of calorie calculators that tell people how many calories they burn by doing everyday activities (such as reading, showering, washing dishes, etc.) because these aren't exercise and in no way replace exercise. Plus, these everyday activities are already accounted for in your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and activity level, which are built-in during the set-up of your program. It's great to know that other activities can burn calories, but remember what really counts as cardio (must elevate your heart rate to 60-85% of your max, must last for at least 10 minutes and utilize large muscle groups repetitively). Adding additional activities like gardening and bowling can help you maintain an active lifestyle—just consider this calorie burn "bonus". Adding it into your calories burned counter can be very misleading.

1   If you are doing everything correctly (counting calories, exercising) then you will see results within a week.

While some people lose a lot of weight in the first few weeks, others might not lose any weight for a few weeks. Although this can be frustrating when you’re doing everything right, it’s not a reason to give up. Sometimes it just takes a little while longer to see the results of your hard work reflected on the scale. Many people lose a lot in the first few weeks, and then their weight loss slows down considerably. It’s totally normal to have weeks when you lose more than expected, and weeks when your weight remains the same despite your consistent efforts. Our bodies are very complicated and don’t always cooperate with the estimates of how much we should expect to lose. People rarely lose a consistent amount of weight each week. Debunk this myth and more by reading 6 Weight Loss Mistakes to Avoid.

1   Very slow weight loss is not beneficial in the long run.

The SparkPeople program is set up to help you safely lose between half a pound and two pounds per week. Studies show that individuals who rapidly lose weight are more likely to gain it back, while those who lost weight slowly are more likely to keep it off long term. So if you’ve lost a few pounds this month—excellent! Don’t discount that because you see someone on T.V. losing 15 pounds in two weeks.

1   By adding exercise to your weight loss program, you'll be able to eat more calories and still lose weight.

Remember, to lose weight, you need to create a caloric deficit. You can do this by cutting calories from your diet, by exercising more, or by combining both diet and exercise. Because you need to give you body a proper amount of fuel for energy, nutrients, and to ensure weight loss, it can be hard to cut a large amount of calories by dieting alone. By adding exercise, however, you'll be able to eat more and still meet your goals. Just make sure that you account for all the exercise you do when you set-up your SparkPeople program. This way, you'll get an accurate calorie recommendation for you to lose weight at a healthy rate. To learn how your calorie recommendations are determined—and how exercise fits into that equation—check out Calorie Calculations 101.

1   After a hard workout, you should see weight loss almost immediately.

Cutting calories today (through diet and exercise) will not necessarily show up on the scale at the end of the day or even by tomorrow. Your weight can fluctuate from day-to-day for reasons that have nothing to do with your diet and exercise program. Much of this fluctuation is due to water and food intake. While your scale may show changes throughout the day, fluctuations that could be due to food & water alone are not permanent weight losses or gains. Weighing yourself immediately after wearing a "sweat" suit, getting into a sauna, or finishing an intense workout might (or might not) show a loss on the scale. But that is temporary water loss that will come back after you re-hydrate yourself by drinking. Remember—you’re trying to lose fat, not simply "weight" or water weight.

1   Everything you eat after 7 pm is more likely to be stored as fat.

It's a myth that eating late will make you gain weight. Your body doesn't know what time it is when you eat, and it metabolizes all calories the same way, regardless of the time of day they are eaten. There is no real concern with eating late or close to bedtime, unless you find it disrupts your sleep or makes you feel a sick when you lie down to go to bed.

1   Exercising on an empty stomach, such as first thing in the morning, will help your body burn more fat.

In the morning, your body has gone 8+ hours since eating or drinking anything. Your blood sugar levels are lower at this point, and your body doesn't have adequate fuel to workout optimally. Usually, experts recommend eating something—even if it's just a small snack—within 2 hours before working out. When your body doesn’t have proper fuel in it, many problems can result, the lesser being that your workout performance suffers, and the greater being something like passing out during exercise. Some people say that it will burn fat stores, but overall, the number of calories your burn during a workout (regardless of where they come from) is much more important. Plus, fat burns in the carbohydrate flame. This means if you exercise without eating (such as after "fasting" during sleep) your body does not burn fat efficiently, or sometimes at all.

1   Anything you can do to increase sweating (wearing a sweat suit, sitting in a sauna, exercising) will boost your weight loss.

You may temporarily lose "weight" by forcing your body to sweat a lot, but this is not the weight you want to lose—it's just water, and your body needs water. As soon as you drink water or eat foods again, you'll "regain" the water you sweated out. Your body needs to sweat to cool down its temperature. But your sweat has to be able to evaporate in order to cool you. If it can't (like when you wear a suit or sit in a hot, humid sauna), you can overheat, which can be life-threatening, just like dehydration can be.

1   Your body needs carbohydrates to be able to burn fat.

For fat to be metabolized properly, carbohydrates must be present. The basic message is simple when it comes to selecting the amount and type of carbohydrate foods. Carbohydrates should make up 45% - 65% of the total daily calories in a healthy diet. At least 130 grams of carbohydrate should be included in the diet to prevent ketosis. Whenever possible, replace highly processed/refined grains, cereals, and sugars with minimally processed whole-grain products. For optimal energy and nutrition, learn The Truth about Carbohydrates.

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Nutrition and fitness concepts are foreign to some, and weight loss can be even more complicated. That's where SparkPeople comes in! Check out the "Related Content" links below so that these myths won't ever fool you again. And remember...if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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Member Comments On This Quiz

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11/10/2017 2:43:09 AM

10/15. Not bad. Not bad considering I havent read many of the articles as yet.


7/18/2017 9:28:29 PM

_CYNDY55_'s SparkPage
Interesting Info!


6/16/2017 10:21:03 PM

LPORTER2015's SparkPage
12/15 - Very interesting quiz


4/2/2017 9:42:41 AM

DGRIFFITH51's SparkPage
14/15 for me😋


4/1/2017 9:48:32 AM

NORASPAT's SparkPage
Surprise, surprise 14 0f 15 , I read articles and despite my forgetfulness, I remembered those facts from Spark People. Reading some of these articles help us to know how many MYTHS are out there. Reading the articles will help us to understand the process of weigh loss.

Thanks SPARK PEOPLE.I have to do a few more minutes and reps and STEPS. Pat in Maine.


2/28/2017 12:19:21 AM

HOTFLASH416's SparkPage


1/30/2017 1:54:16 PM

I disagree that there are not pills that help with weight loss, even a multi vitamin helps or what about chromium policinate!


12/8/2016 8:52:40 AM

14/15 ~ That one I missed I disagree with SP on!


9/18/2016 9:54:32 PM

15/15 I am really learning something here


6/21/2016 2:29:18 PM

ISISNIRA's SparkPage
12/15. I guess I am learning something at results transformation center and Sparkspeople


6/4/2016 3:30:37 PM

only a learner


5/28/2016 9:03:20 AM

12-15 Could be better but I will take it.


4/19/2016 3:20:10 PM

KATIE3908's SparkPage
13/15 for me.


4/19/2016 12:04:09 PM

13/15, still room for learning. One of the questions dealt with exercising before eating (bkf). Learned the hard way to not exercise early before eating something. Really sick and dizzy and lasted for a few hours. Ugh!


4/4/2016 9:09:58 PM

DEBMOMY's SparkPage
Learning as i go. 13/15 is not bad! Go Deb

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