Mainstream weight loss advice: Fact or fiction?

mainstream weightloss advice

Today I look at mainstream weight loss advice. Is what the media is saying valid? Let’s see.

This is going to be fun. Weight loss advice from the big guys.

I typed in “how to lose weight” in the search bar of my web browser. The first thing that Google gave me was an article from Reader’s Digest. It’s 40 tips to lose weight. I haven’t even read it yet. I will, however, tell you that you are about to get an honest assessment from me on the validity of their 40 points.

I told you that this was going to be fun. What is the mainstream media telling us? 25.7 thousand people shared this article. It was the #1 article returned on Google. It must be correct.

Yeah, whatever, I’ll be the judge of that. As a matter of fact I will give each tip a grade. F means it sucks and is stupid. A+ means it’s valid and you should do it. As a side note I will tell you with 100% transparency that I haven’t even read the article yet. I am flying blind.

Here we go.

1. Write down what you eat for one week and you will lose weight. 

This sounds like a lot of work. Does it work? Yeah, to a degree. What this does is it holds you accountable. You will automatically start making better choices if you write things down. Your mind has an amazing capacity to figure out right from wrong when looking at a piece of paper.

GRADE: C -. I would give this one a higher grade BUT it’s too much work for most people. Will it work if you do it? Probably. Will you do it? Probably not. More than likely you will quit after 2 days and you will feel defeated.

2. Add 10 percent to the amount of daily calories you think you’re eating.

This is stupid and way too much work. Why would you do this? The encouragement here is that you need to eat less calories which is not the case in most cases.

GRADE: F. It’s is stupid idea. Don’t do it.

3. Get an online weight loss buddy to lose more weight.

Sure. Why not? This can’t hurt BUT your “buddy” can’t be someone like you. Your “buddy” needs to be some sort of coach. If you find a “buddy” that needs to lose weight, chances are pretty good that one of you is going to drag the other one down. Sorry. This is the truth.  The Reader’s Digest suggestion is to find someone like you (It’s not super clear but this is what I think it means). I’m rolling with that so this one doesn’t get a good grade either.

GRADE: D-. It may help because if you make the effort to find someone then MAYBE they are committed. Probably not.

4. Get a mantra.

What kind of mantra? The grade for this one would be much higher of the suggested mantra was in the future tense. They suggest, “I can lose weight” and “I will go for a walk today.” Those are stupid. How about, “I am feeling amazing and empowered when I look in the mirror each and every day.”

The “I can…” mantra is disempowering. Be bold. Don’t be a pussy.

GRADE: C. (Switch this to an A+ if they can give you some more bold mantras.)

5. After breakfast, stick to water.

Great plan. It would be more sound if it didn’t say it’s OK to drink orange juice at breakfast. I will give RD the benefit of the doubt with this one. They are right. If you are going to have orange juice then breakfast is the ideal time. Although I suggest that people stay away from juice altogether.

GRADE: A.

6. Eat three fewer bites of your meal, (<– this comma is a grammar error made by the editors at Reader’s Digest. Makes me feel a little better….) 

This is stupid. Just stupid.

GRADE: F.

7. Watch one less hour of TV.

Not sure how that will help you lose weight but it is good advice. The assumption is that less TV equates to less snacking. Sure, works for me. Good advice.

GRADE: A.

8. Wash something thoroughly once a week.

And this helps you lose weight how? This is like the “park the car at the back of the parking lot” advise. It’s sound but there are more important things to worry about. The fact this is #8 makes me think that think list is not going to be very helpful.

I’m holding out hope that something useful comes soon.

GRADE: B+. (While it’s not great “weight loss” advice it’s not a bad idea so go with it!)

9. Wait until your stomach rumbles before you reach for food.

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Wait? What. This one has to be a joke. Is it April 1st? Are we still teaching people that you need to starve yourself to lose weight. This is STUPID. Is there a grade lower than F? No wonder our country is overweight. This article was shared 25,000+ times. Yikes.

OK, people this is wrong. Don’t ever be hungry. This causes you to make bad food choices, (you crave sugary foods) and to overeat. BAD ADVICE.

GRADE: F———– (Minus to infinity)

10. Sniff a banana, an apple, or a peppermint when you feel hungry.

I just lost hope in our country. (Remember that I didn’t read ahead on this list so my comments are as I read these.)

Really, sniff a banana?

That is literally the stupidest thing that I have EVER read. LITERALLY.

My God.

GRADE: F minus to infinity PLUS one. (Not possible I know, but you get the point.)

11. Stare at the color blue.

If you were film my reactions to these ways to “lose weight” you would pee your pants with laughter. I literally looked around my office to see if I was on an episode of “Punked”. I don’t even know what to say to this one.

GRADE: F. It’s dumb and doesn’t even deserve my thought process. Next…

12. Eat in front of mirrors and you’ll lose weight.

Ladies and gentlemen…welcome to the twilight zone.

GRADE: F. Don’t do this. It’s demeaning and stupid. 25,700 people shared this. The world just got dumber. I can’t believe there are 28 more of these.

13. Spend 10 minutes a day walking up and down stairs.

THANK GOD. Back on track. I’ll take this one. This is actually VERY good advice. Not sure that RD can recover from the last few ridiculous suggestions but this one is a step in the right direction.

GRADE: A+

14. Walk five minutes for at least every two hours. (2 of 14 so far have grammar errors. WTF)

I am going to give the editors the benefit of the doubt and assume they meants “Walk for at least 5 minutes every 2 hours”. Again, great advice.

GRADE: A+

15. You’ll lose weight and fat if you walk 45 minutes a day, not 30.

Three is a row. Kudos on this one. Walking 45 minute per day is better than 30. Fantastic math. Looks like your math is better than your grammar.

GRADE: A+

16. Don’t buy any prepared food that lists sugar, fructose, or corn syrup among the first four ingredients on the label.

Not bad advice. Really though. Who is going to do this? Weight loss is all about developing good habits that stick. Are you going to never again buy food with sugar? Probably not. If you try to stick to this you will quit and you will give up. Sound advice but not the best way to think long term. In the comments it says to buy mayonnaise and salad dressing. I am beginning to think a 4th grader wrote this….

GRADE: C+. On principle it’s sound advice but….yeah…it won’t work.

17. Put your fork or spoon down between every bite.

Kind of silly but actually a good idea. Slowing down when you eat will help to to digest your food better and you tend to feel full quicker. I’ll endorse this one.

GRADE: A.

18. Throw out your “fat” clothes for good.

BOOM! Great advice.

GRADE: A+.

19. Close the kitchen for 12 hours.

Crazy train is back in the station. I don’t even get what the hell they mean by this? No late night snacking I think is what they are saying. The whole “don’t eat after 7pm” myth has been totally debunked. Have a late night snack of you’re hungry. Just don’t eat crap.

GRADE: D-. If they mean don’t eat crap late at night then this is ok. Benefit of the doubt. Benefit of the doubt….

20. Walk before dinner and you’ll cut calories AND your appetite.

Sure. Sounds good to me. This is actually very good advice. Walking is always good. If you cuts down how much crap you eat at dinner then I am all for it.

GRADE: A+.

21. Make one social outing this week an active one.

Ha! I’ve been saying this for years. Clearly they read one of MY articles.

GRADE: A+.

22. Buy a pedometer, clip it to your belt, and aim for an extra 1,000 steps a day.

Another one that I am meh on. Good idea but not practical for all of us. The danger is that you hit below your goal, get frustrated and quit. I’ll go with a middle of the road grade here. 

GRADE: C.

23. Put less food out and you’ll take less in.

Wow. Thanks for the value bomb. You mean if I have less food on my plate then I will eat less? This suggestion is a filler. 40 tips is so much more cooler than 39.

GRADE: C. Good advice but really not very cutting edge.

24. Eat 90 percent of your meals at home.

They seem to be alternating between real advice and filler crap. This one is spot on. I’d go closer to 95% though. This is a big one and they are right. Stop eating out and you will lose weight.

GRADE: A.

25. Serve food on your plate instead of on platters.

Uh…. what?

Yeah, I guess this makes sense. Fix your plate and eat it. Don’t belly up to a table with massive amounts of food. Decent advice but not groundbreaking.

GRADE: C+. Not really convinced this will help a ton but its still a pretty good habit.

26. Don’t eat with a large group.

#24 says not to eat out and this one says don’t eat with a large group. Don’t you only eat with a large group when you are out? Why not eat with a large group? You tend to overeat? I’m calling B.S. on this one. Survey says…. DUMB.

GRADE: F.

27. Order the smallest portion of everything.

Good advice but not real good. While you don’t want to gorge ourselves when we go out to eat it doesn’t make sense to starve either. If you RARELY go out to eat then it’s ok to enjoy it. Don’t be the jerk that say, “I’m just going to get the salad…” then starves the rest of the day.

GRADE: C. Middle of the road on this one.

28. Eat water-rich foods and you’ll eat fewer calories overall.

Again with the restriction on calories. You will not a get an A grade from me if you restrict calories. This just adds to urban legend that somehow you need to starve yourself to lose weight. This one will get a good grade because I like the “water rich food” aspect. Lot’s of good nutrition.

GRADE: B-. This would be an A if it just said “eat water-rich foods”.

29. Bulk up your meals with veggies.

Not going to even add to this one. PERFECT.

GRADE: A+.

30. Avoid white foods.

Yep. Do it. GREAT advice!

GRADE: A+.

31. Switch to ordinary coffee.

This is good advice as well. Personally I don’t drink coffee, I prefer Spark. All those crazy coffees that you get places Starbucks and LOADED with crap you don’t need.

GRADE: B. (If it said switch to Spark it’s an A++++. CLICK HERE TO GET A FREE SPARK SAMPLE!)

32. If you’re going to indulge, choose fat-releasing foods.

Ok, whatever. Not a big fan of this. Clearly this is a meh. Again, this makes life too complicated. I like simplicity. This isn’t simple.

GRADE: C.

33. Enjoy high-calorie treats as the accent, not the centerpiece.

This is simple. LOVE IT. These are the kind of principles that work. Focus on getting good food in first. I teach this all the time. Good stuff.

GRADE: A+.

34. Eat cereal for breakfast five days a week.

Mixed on this one. Honestly I love cereal and I eat it quite a bit. Is it the best choice? No, it is not. I would change 5 to 2-3 then it is good advice.

GRADE: B.

35. Try hot sauce, salsa, and Cajun seasonings.

Again, yes and no. As far as seasonings go they are better than sugar for sure. But will the heat help you to lose weight? That’s doubtful. I like this one overall. It’s simply and it can’t hurt.

GRADE: B+.

36. Eat fruit instead of drinking fruit juice.

Yep.

GRADE: A+.

37. Drop your milk type and you cut calories by about 20 percent.

Nope. Go the other way. Drinking milk is bad anyway. Don’t do it. If you do the milk with the most benefit is whole milk. Nice try RD. Nice try.

GRADE: F. (NOTE: If it was the other way around I would give it a C for effort.)

38. Snack on a small handful of nuts.

Why do they mix if great advice with stupid crap? This is one of the good pieces of advice. #37 was stupid crap.

GRADE: A+.

39. Get most of your calories before noon.

This alone could help you to lose a lot of weight. Do this to win long term.

GRADE: A+.

40. Brush your teeth after every meal, especially dinner.

Huh? I don’t even know. I just don’t know.

GRADE: D-. The only reason this isn’t an F is that if you brush your teeth after dinner you are not likely to eat a crappy dessert right away.


So here is your final tally Reader’s Digest.

A’s (Good advice that added value to your readers) – 16 tips. That’s 40%. FAIL of your part.

B’s (Sound advice with some flaws) – 5 tips. So 21 out of 40 tips were at least relevant. Over 50%. I expected better.

C’s (Take it or leave it. Some sound principles but pretty much a waste of your readers time) – 8 tips. Yikes. That’s a lot.

D’s (Mostly worthless advice but at least not harmful) – 3.

F’s (Stupid crap that shouldn’t have been in the article and make the readers dumber for even eyeballing it) – 8. 20%. Good job most read magazine in the world. Good job.


So, to wrap it up. These 40 tips did have some value. Some. Not a lot but some.

Did you catch what was missing? Yeah, not one REAL exercise tip. Why do you suppose that is. FAIL.

What did you think of the list and what do you think of my comments? Am I on track or off track?

When someone goes to Google and types in “how to lose weight” this crap is the first thing that they see. No wonder our country is overweight. Hopefully this article will help you to make sense of the whole mess. Please share if you found value.

Here is the link to the original article: http://www.rd.com/health/diet-weight-loss/how-to-lose-weight/

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