09/05/2012 09:07 EDT | Updated 09/05/2012 09:10 EDT

Weight Loss Myths: Bob Harper's Tips To Get In Shape


Feeling motivated to get started losing weight? Not quite so fast. Before we begin, we need to clear the deck of some big myths that might hold you in their sway. These myths are based on old dietary rules, even older nutritional science, and still older ways of thinking. In short, they persist -- even though they don’t work! My guess is that you’ll see your own excuses, rationalizations, and assumptions below.

But do yourself a favour and hear me out; understanding where you’ve been wrong or kidding yourself will help you lose weight for good this time:

Photo gallery Bob Harper's Weight Loss Tips See Gallery

This article was originally published for Crave by Random House.

YOU SAY: “All I have to do is exercise a lot, and the weight will come off.”

I SAY: Well, yes— if you’ve got about five hours to spare every day. That four- mile walk you take every morning? It burns about 350 calories— not even a small bag of fries at McDonald’s. That hour of Pilates or yoga? Ditto— not even equal to a large chai latte at Starbucks.

Believe me, it took a lot to convince me of this. I used to believe I could beat anything off of you in the gym. But exercise alone without diet won’t do it. (And remember, you don’t have all the advantages of my Biggest Loser contestants, who have their own trainers for six hours a day and don’t have to work around the logistics of everyday life while they are on the show.)

Don’t take my word for it. Not long ago a group of Harvard researchers tracked 1,847 overweight men and women, some of whom just exercised, some of whom only dieted. The findings were clear and, for the exercise- deluded, sobering: “Our results show that isolated aerobic exercise is not an effective weight loss therapy in these patients.”

Got that? I mean, can 1,847 people be wrong?

YOU SAY: “I’m not going to weigh myself more than once a week because it will discourage me and then I will slip.”

I SAY: I might once have told you the same thing; the last thing a dieter needs is to be putting him- or herself down all the time for not losing weight fast enough. Or getting depressed when confronted with the enormity of the task.

But that isn’t what happens. It turns out that dieters can take the truth just fine, thank you. I recall one contestant telling me why she weighed herself every day: “Bob, I just need to see something real— a hard fact— and that motivates me. It can be depressing, but I’ve learned that I can take it.” She, like Ben, using my tweets, needed something concrete to go on. Is there any science on the subject? Not tons, but when researchers at the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin looked at 1,200 dieters, they found that “frequent self- weighing seemed to be most beneficial for obese individuals.”

It’s OK to weigh yourself often. You can take it. Not kidding.

YOU SAY: “It’s all calories in, calories out. What else is there to say?”

I SAY: Well, as it turns out: a lot. Sure, you can’t suspend the laws of physics, but you can eat foods that do more for your weight loss than other foods. Until recently there wasn’t a lot of research to support that claim; the idea that some calories were not as fattening as other calories was ridiculed.

But after collecting data about large groups of people over several decades, we’re slowly coming around to a new set of understandings.

The most convincing of these comes from Harvard’s famed Nurses’ Health Study (all women) and Health Professionals Follow- up Study (all men), which have been following 129,000 nurses and health professionals for two decades now. In 2011, the study’s researchers decided to try answering one question: are some foods associated with weight loss even if, over time, we’ve been increasing our intake of them?

The answer stunned a lot of traditionalists. Predictably, increases in fruits and veggies were associated with weight loss, while caloric increases in potato chips were associated with weight gain. The shocker came in the less- intuitive items. Increases in nuts, whole grains, and— usefully for us, as you’ll see later— yogurt were associated with substantial weight loss.

No one is quite sure why, but we can guess: these foods don’t spike your blood sugar and insulin responses the way other foods do, so they don’t make you hungry. Also–and you’ll hear me go on and on about this later— they are not super-sweet or super-salty

foods. They don’t tweak your psyche to expect those unhealthy extreme flavors you’ve been eating for so long. Low-fat and even whole- fat milk turn out to be a lot better than all those “healthy” fruit juices for which you’re shelling out five bucks a pop.

I’ll tell you why later. In the meantime, you can take heart that your future eating habits won’t be as narrow as you might have imagined.

I mean, how wrong could 129,000 nurses be?

YOU SAY: “I’ll just cut out all carbs or fat— it’s that simple.”

I SAY: And completely unrealistic. And, let’s face it, kind of depressing. In fact, experience tells me that if you are following a diet that tells you to eliminate an entire crucial nutrient category— like carbs or fats— then you’re in trouble.

That’s not something you can sustain; you are absolutely going to gain the weight back.

So cutting something out without replacing it— that won’t work. I’ve had trainees tell me over and over, “You know, Bob, I’m Italian American. There’s no way I will cut out lasagna completely.

It’s part of my family and it’s a Sunday tradition. It’s part of who I am.” And I agree. What I am going to show you is how to eat those foods wisely— and I do not always mean itsy-bitsy portions, either!

YOU SAY: “If I don’t eat, I’ll lose weight: it’s that simple.”

I SAY: No. One consistent finding over the years is that, for most people, you’ve got to eat to lose. Part of this is pure metabolism; to strain an old metaphor, you’ve got to get the engine going for the engine to use all the extra fuel that’s hanging around your waist. Also: you’re going to slip if you feel too deprived. And you’ve got to make breakfast the priority meal of the day, avoiding the next bad idea, which is . . .

YOU SAY: “I’ll just pick up something light on the way to work.”

I SAY: Like what? Some yogurt sprinkled with fl ax seed and acai berries? Uh-uh. You know what it’s really going be: a bagel and cream cheese, low-fat cream cheese, of course, which has worked so well for you so far. So just get this out of your head. While the yogurt/flax seed/berries combo would be great, I’m guessing those ingredients are not in your cupboard at the moment, so in this book I’ll give you something new to put in its place: lots of options for a great and satisfying no-hassle breakfast.

Remember, one of the key goals of The Skinny Rules is to put you back in control of your diet. We’ll start with the first and most important meal of the day.

YOU SAY: “It’s always bad to lose a lot of weight quickly.”

I SAY: The fact is, if you are otherwise healthy, a brief period of rapid weight loss while dieting is reasonably safe. Yes, there can be problems, the most troubling being gallstones; but these only happen in about 12 percent of extremely obese patients on very low calorie diets for long periods of time. I’m going to assume that doesn’t describe you. If it does, go easy. But generally, if you take a multivitamin, hydrate, and make sure you get enough protein and potassium, you’ll be fine. And when you look at the scale, you’ll get that added psychological boost to keep going.