Don’t Be “Fooled” By Weight-Loss Myths, Says TOPS

MILWAUKEE, Wisc. – April Fool’s Day may be synonymous with pranks and practical jokes, but members of TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, know better than to be fooled when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle.

Ahmed Kissebah, M.D., Ph.D., director of the General Clinical Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and medical advisor for TOPS, offers the following information to dispel common weight-loss myths, separating fact from fiction.


Myth #1 – Eating grapefruit burns fat.
Dozens of diets based on eating large quantities of grapefruit claim that grapefruit, grapefruit juices, or concentrates in the form of a pill, contain enzymes that help digest fats and then burn them away.  There are no enzymes in grapefruit that are known to increase the speed or the quantity at which the body burns fat.  In fact, there is no food that can cause fat to be burned away.

Adding grapefruit to a weight-control plan can be a good idea, since grapefruit has very few calories and creates a sensation of fullness.  But there is nothing in grapefruit that will suppress appetite or cause calories to be burned faster.  Crash diets that sometimes recommend eating grapefruit and eggs, grapefruit and bacon and eggs, or other high-fat, high-protein foods, could have a serious side effect.  These may cause an increase in blood levels of cholesterol, which can predispose a person to a high risk of heart disease.

Myth #2 – Potatoes are extremely fattening.
Potatoes have no fat and no cholesterol.  They are high in fiber, vitamin C, some forms of vitamin B (niacin), and a good source of complex carbohydrates.  A 5-ounce potato baked in its skin provides about 130 calories, no more calories than a serving of cottage cheese of the same weight, and 20% fewer calories than a serving of brown rice.  Potatoes can, however, become a problem food when fried in oil or covered with butter, sour cream, or melted cheese.  Like other high-carbohydrate foods, such as pasta and bread, it’s not the potato that’s fattening, it’s what you put on it.

Myth #3 – Eating before bedtime will make you gain weight.
It doesn’t make a difference what time a person eats food, assuming that they eat the same foods and maintain the same activity levels during a 24-hour period.  There is no evidence that when food is consumed at night, more calories are stored in the body than when the same foods are eaten during the day.  The calories you eat at night will be burned when needed by the body.  If, however, you eat at night as an add-on to your normal meals, you will gain weight.

Myth #4 – Your stomach will shrink if you eat less food.
When a person eats enormous amounts of food, the stomach can expand.  However, once the stomach empties, it returns to its normal size.  If a person reduces calorie intake for several days, the appetite level drops, but this has nothing to do with the size of the stomach.

The stomach cannot shrink, no matter how little food you eat.  The only way to physically decrease the size of the stomach with the goal of interfering with food consumption is through gastric bypass surgery.  In this procedure, the stomach is reduced to approximately 1/8 of its normal size.  Therefore, the person is compelled to consume smaller meals.

Myth #5 – Chewing celery helps burn calories.
Celery – as well as iceberg lettuce and cucumbers – is nearly calorie-free because of its high water content.  An 8-inch stalk of celery contains only six calories.  Chewing celery or anything else burns about the same amount of calories per minute.  Although celery is very low in calories, chewing it will not cause excess calories to be burned any faster.

Myth #6 – You have to give up all sweets in order to lose weight.
The key to losing weight and keeping it off is to adopt healthy eating and exercise habits that you can stay with for a lifetime, a sensible method that TOPS endorses.  Including reasonable amounts of sweets in a weight-loss plan may help to ensure that the person continues on the sensible plan for the long-term.  Your desired weight goal can then be achieved and maintained.

It’s unrealistic to expect that you will never eat a piece of chocolate or a slice of cake.  A craving for sweets has a chemical basis in the brain.  When a person responds to these cravings by eating a controlled amount, the brain normally responds by releasing increased amounts of the hormone serotonin, which can suppress hunger.  The person feels satisfied and can, therefore, be in control of the amount of sweets consumed.  You also can minimize caloric intake by using food sweetened with artificial sweeteners rather than real sugar, since taste buds can’t distinguish between those and true sugar.

TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the original, nonprofit weight-loss support and wellness education organization, was established more than 62 years ago to champion weight-loss support and success. Founded and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, TOPS promotes successful, affordable weight management with a philosophy that combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness information, and support from others at weekly chapter meetings. TOPS has about 170,000 members in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.
Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, view or call 1-800-932-8677.

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