It seems that much of our knowledge about obesity consists of myths, misinformation and misunderstanding. At least, that is what a group of scientists reported in their article published in the New England Journal of Medicine. If we are to accept these findings, it is not surprising that our battle against obesity epidemics is not doing so well.
Problem with myths
A group of researchers from the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) reviewed large number of articles published on obesity, both in the scientific and in the popular press, in order to distinguish facts from fiction. They were mostly interested in persistent myths that people believe in spite of the proof of their falseness or no proof of their truth. They found that the beliefs with no scientific support are pervasive and are even influencing policy decisions.
Myths to watch out for
1. Small but continued changes in the number of calories we take and burn can accumulate over time to produce larger weight loss.
Fact: Small changes cannot build-up indefinitely. Changes in our body mass eventually counter out any changes in calorie taking or burning.
2. It is essential that we set realistic goals in any weight loss program, to avoid becoming frustrated and discouraged.
Fact: While this is true for some people, others do better with more challenging goals with faster results.
3. It is better to lose weight slowly than quickly, in order to avoid getting it back.
Fact: People who quickly lost weight are more likely to keep it off for a long time.
4. You have to be ready to lose weight in order to succeed and your doctor should tell you when you are ready.
Fact: Ready or not ready, some people lose weight and others do not. Readiness does not come into it.
5. One sexual intercourse burns up to 300 Kcals per person.
Fact: No, only about one-twentieth of that, about the same as resting on the couch.
Of course, it can be argued that not all sex is the same.
As with so many reviews of this kind, many of the findings are arguable. Whether what we believe is a myth or a fact, if it works for us, and we are losing weight, that is all that matters. We are ready to believe in myths most often because we want to find a shortcut and achieve instant miraculous results. As long as we accept that losing weight is hard work which requires persistence, we will do fine.