By Natasha Persaud

More than a third of men and women in the United States are obese and potentially headed for health problems. Having excessive body fat (typically indicated by a body mass index or BMI of 30 or greater) raises the risks of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, breathing problems, arthritis, gallbladder disease, and some kinds of cancer.

Obesity Scale Image- Masterfile

Losing excess weight is vital. Yet, many popular weight loss methods are less than effective, according to the authors of a 2013 article published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The authors weighed evidence from randomized trials, the gold standard of scientific research, to bust 5 popular myths about losing weight.

Myth 1: Having sex burns 100 to 300 calories.

In six minutes of intercourse, a man in his early thirties might spend just 21 calories of energy, the authors calculate—far less than has been touted in popular media. Simply watching television burns roughly a third of that amount. While a healthy sex life can be an important part of good overall health, there are definitely more effective ways to burn calories and lose weight.

Myth 2: Making small changes—eating a bit less and exercising a bit more each day—will pay off in large weight losses over time.

The math doesn’t quite add up on this one. Although you’ve heard that a 3,500 calorie deficit results in a one-pound weight loss, you won’t lose exactly a pound every time. The reason: As you slim down, your body requires less energy to run itself tipping the balance against greater weight loss. You’ll likely need to cut more calories to see a difference.

Myth 3: Don’t be too ambitious when setting your weight loss goals—or you’ll wind up quitting.

Rather than leading to frustration and drop out, ambitious goals might be motivating. Several studies associate ambitious goals with greater weight losses. Related research also shows that people who alter unrealistic goals do not improve their weight loss outcomes.

Myth 4: Slow, steady weight loss wins the race.

Shedding pounds quickly at the start results in similar (and sometimes greater) weight loss after a year than losing weight little by little, research shows.

Myth 5: Breastfeeding protects infants from becoming obese later in life.

The current body of research offers no compelling proof that this association is true, according to the authors. That said, breastfeeding is encouraged for its many other health benefits.

So, if you’re looking to shed excess pounds, keep these myths in mind. Remember, your genes are not your destiny. You can lose weight by adopting more effective methods, such as reducing daily calories using a structured meal plan, taking certain weight loss medications or, if appropriate, having bariatric surgery. Talk to your doctor about an appropriate weight loss plan.


Casazza, K. et al. “Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity.” New England Journal of Medicine. January 31, 2013.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 06 Feb 2012

Last Modified: 28 Sep 2015