5 Biggest Weight Loss Myths

Does it come as a surprise that you really don’t have to exercise to lose weight? Or that it doesn’t matter whether you eat diet food or junk food? Or that you can eat at night and still maintain your ideal body weight? It certainly surprised me, because these things were drilled into me by the so-called “experts” my whole life as an obese child, teenager and adult. But with my unique education as a psychotherapist, combined with lessons that can only be learned by being overweight, dieting, and being turned into a compulsive overeater, I learned that the dietitians, phys-ed teachers and doctors who pretended to know it all were wrong. I’ve set the record straight in my groundbreaking weight loss self-help book, The Anderson Method.

If you’ve been failing at diets and exercise schemes forever and have just about given up, don’t lose hope. This can be the year you finally succeed. Believe me, no matter how many times you’ve tried and failed, no matter how hopeless it has looked, your success is entirely possible, as long as you’re still breathing and have an open mind. I know this because I lost 140 pounds twenty-five years ago, after twenty-five years of being an overweight diet failure who gave up more times than you can count. But one year, I “got it”, lost 140 pounds, ended my obesity problem, and I’ve maintained my ideal weight since, over twenty years. This could be the year you “get it”.

Today, I’m a psychotherapist who helps people solve their weight/obesity problem. I teach other therapists so they can help their overweight clients, wherever they are. We are very successful. Believe me, there is hope. You can succeed. There is a way. And here are five surprising and vitally important facts you need to absorb before you can begin on your path to recovery from obesity and dieting failure. Accept these truths and you may be on your way.

1) You don’t need to exercise to lose and control your weight.

What? This goes against everything all the “experts” say! Well, it’s true. Exercise may be vitally important for a lot of things, but it’s not required to lose and control your weight, and if you don’t get your eating under control, focusing on exercise may cause a weight gain! (An hour on the treadmill will be cancelled by one brownie! Eat two because you “worked out”, and you gain weight, not lose it!) When I learned how insignificant exercise was, and that controlling my intake was the solution, whether or not I exercised, I had hope for the first time in my life. I didn’t have to exercise in ways I hated! I have clients who are disabled and cannot exercise, yet they do fine at controlling their weight. Exercise is important for lots of things, but it’s not the solution to your weight problem. Controlling your intake is the solution.

2) It doesn’t matter whether you eat health food or junk food, diet food or fast food.

Your weight is a result of your “caloric balance sheet.” Eat more calories than you use (1800 per day for the “average” woman, 54,000 per month) and you’ll gain weight. Eat fewer calories than you use, and you’ll burn up stored fat and lose weight. It doesn’t matter where the calories come from, health food, “junk” food, carbs, fat, protein—- It doesn’t matter (for weight control purposes). A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. Is it better to have better nutrition? You bet. But if you eat too many calories of “health food” you’ll get fat, while someone who eats fewer calories of the “wrong things” will lose weight.

3) Diets are not the solution. Learning how to eat, strategically undereat what you like, is the solution.

Learning how to diet (eat in some abnormal way to lose weight) does no good, because at the end of the diet, we go back to “normal” or worse, and keep gaining. We got fat because we developed habits of eating too many calories, and if we go on a “diet” with the intention of going back to “normal”, we are planning on getting fat again. Success will come from learning to eat food we like in ways where we won’t get fat. Believe me, there is a way. We will need to change, and it must be a permanent change with no return to the old ways, but it needn’t be without pleasure. In fact, we enjoy eating even more! Our favorite foods are even better, and no guilt!

4) It doesn’t matter what time of the day you eat, or even what day of the week.

Read again what I said in item #2. It really doesn’t matter when you eat, even if you eat mostly at night, or skip meals during the week and splurge on Saturday night. Real science backs me up on this. If you can create a lifestyle you like, one you can live with where your “balance sheet” is correct, you’ll succeed, even if it’s not what some “experts” think is the “right” way to eat.

5) Success is not just a matter of “will power” or “just making up your mind”.

It’s not that some people have “it” and some don’t. Success in changing habitual behavior, even tough habitual behavior like an addiction, is not just a matter of “will power”. There is a body of knowledge and technique in my field of behavioral medicine that you can learn, knowledge and technique that will empower you to make changes in your life that were not possible before. It will be work. You’ll have to let go of some things that you haven’t wanted to let go of. But if being overweight/obese has been a curse on your life, and you’d like to get rid of it, don’t give up. Keep hoping and praying. Learn what you have to do. Read my book. Call one of my therapists. Be prepared to learn more from legitimate sources, and work at it. You can succeed like I and my clients have. Keep going.


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Marla Oxlley
Marla Oxlley
2 years ago

Very interesting article. It was my fatigue with reading endless weight loss “secrets” that clogged my email box that led to my discovery of TAM. One day, after reading yet another article that contradicted the advice of other articles, it occurred to me that the authors of these articles (a) had just recently lost weight, and (b) had lost negligible amounts of weight, many perhaps attributable to water weight. That is when I performed a Hoogle search for so,wine who had lost at least 100 pounds and had kept if off for at least five years.

In my wildest dreams, I never anticipated someone who had kept the weight off for decades.

Thank you, Bill, for sharing your hard-fought wisdom with the rest of us.

Michael Garrico
6 years ago

I don’t think that exercise is a myth. It is true you can lose weight by just watching what you eat, but weight loss results won’t be as good or as healthy as they would be if you exercise. Exercise is crucial for preserving your lean muscle mass. And muscle mass is important for improving resting metabolic rate (metabolism is what influences your weight) and many other things (I wrote about it here: https://totalshape.com/fitness/exercising-for-weight-loss/). But what is important is that exercise program is not one-size fits all! It’s important to listen to your body and set your preferences form there. And you should include physical activity in your everyday life for health reasons, if not for weight loss! In conclusion: the smart approach includes both exercise and diet, but tailored both according to what works for you and how you feel. Don’t let anyone ever tell you have to do a certain exercise or routine. You simply do not!

9 years ago

A bit of a caveat about #2 (it doesn’t matter what you eat).

This is obviously true from the narrow perspective of physics, and was proved in practice by Professor Haub’s Twinkie Diet, where he lost 27 lbs eating junk food and, rather amazingly, improved his blood profile as he did so. Calories really do matter more than food quality when it comes to fat loss, and eating healthy food to excess will most certainly make you fat.

But readers should be aware that junk food is often carefully engineered in the lab to trigger addiction and food cravings: that’s what all those unpronounceable “flavourings” are for. So eating junk food will probably make appetite control more challenging. And there’s also some evidence that nutritional deficiencies trigger food cravings. So even from the narrow perspective of fat loss and abstracting from wider health issues, losing weight is likely going to be easier if you mostly eat real food.