Are you ready to get down to the nitty gritty details of how weight loss really works?

As a fitness professional, I’ve heard just about every crazy story out there. There’s always some new fad or magic pill that promises to cure all of your fitness problems, which quite frankly, just isn’t possible. With so many rumors out there, it’s easy to be misinformed or feel confused. That’s why I’m here to set the record straight! There’s no reason to believe in fiction, so let’s separate it from the facts and get you the right info.

Body wraps

Claim: If you wrap your body in this innovative new material, it’ll take inches and pounds off your body in an effortless and magical fashion. It’s instant weight loss!
Verdict: Fiction.
Explanation: Body wraps may make an initial change in your body’s appearance, but it’s just a temporary fix. They don’t actually cause fat loss, just a little water loss and compression. They can even be dangerous, as the combination of compression and heat can cause dehydration (which is how pounds are lost), and those fluids need to be replenished immediately. Not to mention the herbal treatments included in them can often interfere with any existing supplements, foods, prescriptions, or medications you may be taking. So don’t fall for this one, despite any clever marketing!

Low-carb diets

Claim: Carbs are what make you fat. So if you don’t eat carbs, then you’ll lose lots of weight, feel great, and live a wonderful life.
Verdict: Half truth.
Explanation: Low-carb diets can help with weight loss, but extremely low-carb diets will leave you feeling sluggish and low on energy. Plus, there’s no reason to fear carbs as a whole group, ‘cause guess what? Even most vegetables are predominantly carbohydrates (broccoli is 70 percent!), not to mention fruit, whole grains, and dairy, too.

High-protein diets

Claim: If you eat lots of protein, you’ll shed fat, gain muscle mass, and become a lean, unstoppable machine.
Verdict: Half truth.
Explanation: While protein and amino acids are the building blocks needed for you to put on muscle, if you aren’t taking the other necessary steps like strength training and maintaining a caloric surplus, you won’t miraculously put on muscle by simply eating lots of protein. In fact, just as with any food, if you eat too much of it and have a caloric excess, you’ll still be at risk for weight gain. On the other hand, if you restrict your carbs too much, even with adequate protein, your body will still break the protein down for fuel rather than using it for building muscle. The plus side of protein, though, is that of all the macronutrients, protein tends to provide the most satiety for the calories. So say goodbye to that grumbling stomach.

The 7-minute workout

Claim: By working out for only seven minutes with high intensity circuit training, you’ll be able to facilitate weight loss, boost your metabolism, and increase cardiovascular health.
Verdict: Fiction.
Explanation: For the average sized adult, working out hard for seven minutes burns no more than 100–150 calories. Take that number and add in the fact that half the exercises are isometric (wall sit, plank, side plank), and there are rest periods, you can drop that number to 60–100 calories. Now, how is less than 100 calories going to help you lose weight? It isn’t. While it may be beneficial to get up and move, seven minutes of working out is not going to cut it. Try performing the workout three or more times to reach 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise.

Intermittent fasting

Claim: By fasting for a period of time, you’ll decrease your daily caloric intake, and you may lose weight without following any fad diet.
Verdict: Half truth.
Explanation: Intermittent fasting can have a very positive influence on weight loss if done correctly. The biggest reason that intermittent fasting is successful, is that on one day of not eating, or systematically extending your nightly fast, you’re able to establish a significant calorie deficit that elicits weight loss. Intermittent fasting is not going to work if you’re binging, or still making poor food decisions when you do eat. While it can be a helpful tool, it’s not a stand-alone solution and shouldn’t be treated as such. Simply skipping breakfast every day or fasting once a week isn’t going to instantly make you thin.

Teas (skinny teas, green tea extract, etc.)

Claim: If you drink teas, you’ll lose weight, have a suppressed appetite, and get lean by drinking a cup a day (or at every meal).
Verdict: Fiction.
Explanation: Some teas, like peppermint, have some evidence of appetite suppression. But no food has ever been proven to truly increase metabolism, or have any power to “burn fat.” Last I checked, a calorie restriction paired with exercise was the best way to lose extra pounds. So don’t be fooled into thinking a little caffeine with antioxidants is going to make you lose weight.

Garcinia cambogia

Claim: If you take this magic pill, you’ll lose weight, your appetite will be suppressed, and your body won’t be able to store fat.
Verdict: Fiction.
Explanation: In all honesty, the research on this one has not caught up with the trends. Since garcinia cambogia is sold only as a supplement, there are no regulations or governing bodies overseeing the production of the products, which is a bit unnerving. Even if garcinia cambogia may be able to slightly suppress your appetite, it’s still no magic pill, and the benefits are much less extreme than the labels may claim. So for the time being, I would steer clear of this supplement, especially if you’re on any medications.

Carb cycling

Claim: If you cycle between low- and high-carb days, you can cut fat and get ultra lean. All you have to do is count and balance your macronutrients.
Verdict: Half truth.
Explanation: Almost all professionals who compete in bikini, figure, or bodybuilding shows use carb cycling in their show prep. While it can be a very successful technique over a short period of time, carb cycling can be dangerous over extended periods of time. Carbohydrates often help the body hold onto water weight, so when these athletes are trying to drop the last few pounds and look as lean as possible for the show, decreasing carbohydrates is essential. However, for everyday weight loss, it’s not the most effective technique, since it’s not meant for long-term weight loss.

Gluten-free diets

Claim: Humans are not meant to eat gluten, and it’s the cause of weight gain, disease, and a plethora of undesirable symptoms.
Verdict: Fiction. Unless you have celiac disease or a strong gluten intolerance.
Explanation: If you have celiac disease, then yes, gluten will mess with your body in countless different ways. But if not, gluten is nothing more than a protein found in many grains. It’s what gives dough its elasticity, and it’s actually used in a lot of vegan proteins and as a meat substitute.

Daily exercise and caloric restriction

Claim: If you consume less than you burn and exercise on a regular basis (30+ minutes moderate to vigorous activity most days of the week), you’ll lose weight in a sustainable fashion.
Verdict: Fact.
Explanation: While the weight loss may not happen immediately, a moderate caloric deficit of 100–1000 calories per day has been shown to facilitate weight loss. Sure, you can eat tons of healthy food, but like I mentioned earlier, if you eat too much of anything and have a caloric excess, you will not lose weight. The healthiest way to shed the pounds is to pair regular exercise with a caloric deficit. And that’s a fact.

If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. There are no quick fixes, no shortcuts, no magic pills. Even if you aren’t completely on board to switch up all your habits, try making small, simple changes. Start with taking your coffee black, cutting out soda, or eating more vegetables. These small changes can have a huge impact on your health over a long period of time. So find something to start on today, and make a change for the better!

Becca Capell
iFit Head Trainer