Debunking the myths of obesity treatment

By Jing Ren

ORLANDO —Weight loss isn’t easy, especially considering that many people would rather watch Netflix with a bowl of snacks than get up off the couch and go for a run.


This image promotes the idea of weight loss. Photo courtesy of faycel fx/

But another major reason that people have a difficult time losing weight is that they don’t know how, said Magdalena Pasarica, associate professor of medicine at University of Central Florida, at this year’s Association of Health Care Journalists Conference in Orlando.


Magdalena Pasarica, an associate professor of medicine at University of Central Florida speaks at this year’s AHCJ Conference in Orlando. Photo by Jing Ren

Obesity is a serious problem in the United States. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 35 percent of American adults – or 79 million people – are obese.

Unfortunately, the rate is still increasing.

Pasarica is among the researchers and physicians trying to better inform the public of the seriousness of obesity.

Pasarica said her research and teaching experience taught her that people don’t really know how to lose weight in a sustainable way.  Misunderstandings about obesity are rampant among the public, she said, and it’s important to help the public debunk myths around nutrition, exercise and behavior.

Pased on Pasarica’s presentation, Unearthed has put together a “true/false quiz” about obesity. Test your knowledge and see if you’re up on the latest research.

Diet myths:

  • False: Low-fat foods are better than low-carbohydrate foods.
  • True: In clinical studies, people lost about the same amount of weight on low-fat diets as on low-carbohydrate diets. What matters is that people should find the diet that is particular good for themselves.
  • False: Using meal replacements, such as shakes and smoothies, is more effective than lifestyle changes, such as exercising more.
  • True: Using meal replacements causes greater weight loss in the first six months, but there is no evidence that shows they have increasing benefit after that.
  • False: Very low-calorie diets, which are defined as less than 800 calories per day, are not good for your health.
  • True: Very low-calorie diets cause greater weight loss compared to behavior intervention alone, such as changing exercise habits, and they are tolerable with few adverse effects.

Physical activity myths:

  • False: Using technology such as wearable trackers or smartphone apps to measure exercise typically improves weight loss.
  • True: Using wearable technology is associated with increased physical activity, but not always with weight loss.

Behavior myths:

  • False: Weighing yourself every day is a bad idea because it causes frustration.
  • True: Mindfulness interventions achieve small weight loss but large improvements in eating behaviors and attitudes. Frequent weighing may not contribute to weight loss but can act as a reminder for people to eat less and exercise more.
  • False: Skipping breakfast leads to weight gain because people eat more later in the day.
  • True: Studies are still inconclusive in terms of the frequency and timing of meals in relationship to weight control.



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