Week 10: Incorrect Perceptions about Weight Loss



To recognize why it is difficult to lose weight, Identify unhealthy methods of weight control, Identify the general effects of fad diets and explain associated risks.


Weight loss refers to a reduction of the total body mass, mean loss of fluid, body fat (adipose tissue) or lean mass (muscle). It occurs when the energy intake is less than energy expended.
Dieters plateau after some time because the loss of muscle mass and other adaptation processes reduce the energy needed for metabolism. Metabolism can reduce as much as 15% within 2 weeks of starting a diet. Drastic reduction in food intake also reduces the metabolic energy needs.

Why Weight Loss is Difficult

The following are reasons weight loss seems difficult: Setting very unrealistic and remote weight loss goals, reaching a plateau at some point where the weight remains stable despite sticking to the programs, trying to lose more than two BMI points at a time (more than 5-10%) of current weight. Others include no permanent lifestyle change concerning dietary intake and physical activity, a need to change what made you gain weight.
To achieve weight loss, embrace the methods of losing weight as a lifestyle.

Fad diets

Weight-management industries have been coming up with the most wonderful ideas for “guaranteed success”. Many of these are classified as fad diets by scientists.

According to the British Dietetic Association, a fad diet is the kind of plan where you eat a very restrictive diet with few foods or an unusual combination of foods for a short period of time and often lose weight very quickly. However, most people get fed-up with the restrictions, start eating more, choose less healthy foods and pile the pounds back on.

They are wrong perceptions about weight loss.

Fad diets in history

Fad diets were recorded for the first time in the mid-19th century. A 65-year-old London undertaker with a BMI of 35 was prescribed a diet free from sugar and starch by his doctor. He lost 24kg on lean meat, vegetables, dry toast and soft eggs. He then wrote a book which sold 58,000 copies by the time he died in 1887, similar to modern-day

Dr Atkins diet.

Horace Fletcher, The “Great Masticator” proposed that chewing prevented over-eating and ensures good health. Even liquids were to be chewed in the same way. He lost about 30kg and wrote a book about his “diet”.
A Boston druggist peddled a corset-like “obesity belt”. By the 1930s dieters were being given: Reducing creams, Bath salts, Slendro massage table, Slenderella reducing salons, Vibrating table, Menu adjustments.

In 1968, Life Magazine did a survey on so-called “fat doctors” in the USA using an under-cover “dieter”.

Approximately 7000 practitioners were handling out about 2 billion diet pills every year. The under-cover dieter was actually not overweight, but received a total of 1479 pills from a total of 10 “fat doctors”. Few of them examined her or spoke to her before giving the pills.


Fad diets can cause some health problems because they cut out key foods. They may cause the following:

Weakness and fatigue
Nausea and headaches
Inadequate vitamin and mineral intakes

Fad diets that severely restrict food groups or nutrients may also mean that you miss out on the protective health effects that a balanced eating plan provides.


Learn to recognize fad diets to be empowered to avoid them. Watch out for the following:

  1. Diets that recommend energy intake of less than 1000 calories/day. Minimum amount of energy for eating healthy while trying to lose weight.
  2. Assures you of fast, easy and significant weight losses in a short period of time (more than 1.5kg per week is unacceptable).
  3. When success is guaranteed without any effort, hardships or self-discipline.
  4. When no increase in physical activity/exercise and energy restriction are mentioned.
  5. Emphasis is placed on either increasing, decreasing or leaving out specific foods or food groups. The motivation given is usually that the foods are either bad/toxic or have “magical” qualities to help you lose weight.
  6. When emphasis is placed on not combining certain foods because they cause health and weight problems if combined.
  7. Claims that certain food components or magic formulas (in pill, drop or fluid form) melt away fat in some inexplicable way. Examples include grapefruit, pineapple, apple cider vinegar, kelp and many other diet portions and pills.
  8. Injections with all sorts of wonderful effects.
  9. They are effective initially but cannot be sustained for life. Moreover, they do not address the underlying problem that led to the weight gain and therefore overweight/obesity problem in the first place. Wishful shrinking has made a lot of people rich and the reducers same or bigger than when they started.
    Evaluate your health before starting the program. A healthy weight reduction program involves the following:
  10. Healthy eating
    A balanced eating pattern includes: 50-55% CHO, 15-20% Protein, 30% or less Fat. It also includes varieties of foods from all the food groups. An eating pattern that helps you develop a permanent healthy eating pattern. Consists of three main meals spread throughout the day with healthy snacks in between. Decreases alcohol intake and increases fibre rich foods. It also involves individual energy recommendation never less than 1000 calories.
  11. Physical activity
  12. Behavioral change
  13. Functional thinking and positive self-talk
    Others: Rate of weight loss should never be more than 0.5 to 1.5 kg per week. Consider social acceptability and feasibility of implementation. Total energy intake must be lower than the total energy expenditure to achieve weight loss.


Weight maintenance after weight loss

When people lose weight significantly (more than 2 BMI) over a short period of time, it is usually due to loss of glycogen, muscle mass and water. Continue with the diet plan (balanced diet) but increase energy intake gradually.

Never go back to your pre-diet energy intake as your body is now smaller and needs less food.

Keep food intake records. Weight maintenance is impossible without exercise. Inform the people in your environment to support your attempts at maintaining your weight.


Weight loss is not magic. Don’t follow fad diets. A healthy weight reduction program involves: Balanced eating pattern, a lifestyle that includes a permanent healthy eating pattern, physical activities and exercise, behavioral change, functional thinking and positive self-talk.