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Five Myths and Facts About Obesity

Obesity rates have risen over the years, and so have the myths and misconceptions about the disease.

obesity myths and facts

There’s still a lot we don’t know about the cause or the best way of managing obesity, but we do know a lot more than we used to. Despite the lack of supporting data, members of the public, mass media, and the government often advocate unsupported beliefs. This only makes the problem worse.

Here Healthline sets the record straight on five common obesity myths.

Myth 1: Obesity Is Caused By Poor Lifestyle Choices

Most obesity programs blame obesity on poor diet choices and lack of physical activity. It’s common to hear that people with obesity are “lazy” or lack motivation.

Fact: Obesity Is Often Multifactorial

While diet and lack of exercise may play a role, there are several other factors that contribute to the increase in obesity.

On top of this, the truth is that most people — even those at a healthy weight — don’t meet the recommended amount of physical activity each day.

For most, obesity isn’t merely the result of making poor choices in life.

Stress, sleep health, hormones, chronic pain, underlying medical conditions, medications, genetics, and multiple other environmental and economic factors also contribute to the rise in obesity.

Myth 2: Weight Loss Will Fix All Your Health Issues

Weight loss involves many systems in the body that are responsible for storing energy. Weight loss can reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other complications. But disruption of the body’s energy systems can also lead to other health issues. These issues associated with weight loss can make it more difficult to sustain the weight loss over time.

Fact: Weight Loss Can Cause Health Issues, Too

Weight loss can improve your overall health, but it’s also associated with psychological stress, hormone disruption, and metabolic complications. Losing weight too fast can increase your risk of muscle loss and lower your metabolism. It can also cause nutrient deficiencies, sleep issues, gallstones, and other complications.

Some people may develop sagging skin and stretch marks as a result of weight loss. Sometimes, weight loss can affect your mental and emotional health as well.

It’s important to talk to your doctor or dietitian to make sure you’re losing weight in a healthy manner.

Your doctor can also refer you to a mental health professional who can help you create a treatment plan for your mental and emotional well-being during your weight loss journey.

Myth 3: Weight Loss Is Simply About “Calories In Vs. Calories Out”

If you’ve tried to lose weight, you’ve probably heard the phrase “calories in vs. calories out.” In other words, to lose weight you simply need to burn more calories (calories out) than you eat (calories in).

Fact: “Calories In Vs. Calories Out” Is Far Too Simplistic

While the importance of calories for weight loss can’t be denied, this type of thinking is far too simplistic. Macronutrients like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates can have diverse effects on your body.

The calories you consume — type and amount — affect the amount of energy you use. The foods you eat can also affect hormones that regulate when and how much you eat. Some foods can cause hormone changes that encourage weight gain.

Other foods can increase your feelings of fullness and increase your metabolic rate. Research suggests that eating less carbs while increasing fat and protein will likely lead to greater weight loss than simply reducing calorie intake.

Another problem with the idea of losing weight based on calorie intake is that it ignores the other health effects of foods. Eating to get the most nutritional benefits is essential for preventing diseases and staying healthy over time.

Myth 4: The Number Of Pounds Lost Is The Most Important Measure Of Success

All too often, weight loss and healthy eating programs focus on the number on the scale. But research suggests that focusing on weight loss as the only measure of success is not only ineffective, but it’s also psychologically damaging.

Focusing only on the scale can lead to cycles of weight loss and gain. It can also lead to heightened stress, disordered eating, self-esteem issues, and an unhealthy obsession with body image.

Fact: Success Should Be Measured By Health, Not Weight Loss

The key to long-term success is to focus on making healthy choices about your diet and exercise, not about the amount of weight you’ve lost.

Growing evidence Trusted Source suggests that shifting the focus of success to weight-neutral outcomes, like blood pressure, diet quality, physical activity, self-esteem, and body image is more effective than using weight loss as a measure of success.

Myth 5: Increasing Access To Affordable Fruits And Vegetables Will Solve The Obesity Epidemic

Some think the obesity epidemic can be solved simply by making fruits and vegetables more affordable and more easily accessible in communities where obesity is prevalent.

Many cities and states have already implemented policies to increase the number of grocery stores and farmer’s markets in so-called “food deserts.” These are places with limited access to fresh, healthy food. Food deserts are commonly found in low-income areas.

Fact: Food preference and lack of education about healthy food may play a bigger role

Research suggests that education and preferences play a stronger role in making healthy food choices – more so than income and accessibility.

Improving people’s diets requires making food accessible and affordable on top of regulating the number of unhealthy food options in a community. Plus, it requires changing people’s knowledge about diet and health.

This approach includes promoting diets rich in fruits and vegetables. It also involves reducing people’s consumption of unhealthy foods.


Obesity is a complex disease. There’s still so much about it that we don’t know. Because of this, people tend to associate it with ideas that simply aren’t true.

Separating the facts from the fiction about obesity will help you better understand the disease. If you live with obesity, knowing the truth can help you get the care you need.

For in depth details refer to the following research work:

·      Chaput J-P. (2014). Widespread misconceptions about obesity.

·       Chiolero A. (2018). Why causality, and not prediction, should guide obesity prevention policy. DOI:

·       Feinman RD, et al. (2004). “A calorie is a calorie” violates the second law of thermodynamics. DOI:

·       Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015). Obesity.

·       Tylka TL, et al. (2014). DOI:

Source: Healthline