Sex, for instance. Not that people do it to try to lose weight, but claims that it burns 100 to 300 calories are common, Allison said. Yet the only study that scientifically measured the energy output found that sex lasted six minutes on average — "disappointing, isn't it?" — and burned a mere 21 calories, about as much as walking, he said.
That's for a man. The study was done in 1984 and didn't measure the women's experience.
Among the other myths or assumptions the authors cite, based on their review of the most rigorous studies on each topic:
—Small changes in diet or exercise lead to large, long-term weight changes. Fact: The body adapts to changes, so small steps to cut calories don't have the same effect over time, studies suggest. At least one outside expert agrees with the authors that the "small changes" concept is based on an "oversimplified" 3,500-calorie rule, that adding or cutting that many calories alters weight by one pound.
—School gym classes have a big impact on kids' weight. Fact: Classes typically are not long, often or intense enough to make much difference.
—Losing a lot of weight quickly is worse than losing a little slowly over the long term. Fact: Although many dieters regain weight, those who lose a lot to start with often end up at a lower weight than people who drop more modest amounts.
—Snacking leads to weight gain. Fact: No high quality studies support that, the authors say.
—Regularly eating breakfast helps prevent obesity. Fact: Two studies found no effect on weight and one suggested that the effect depended on whether people were used to skipping breakfast or not.
—Setting overly ambitious goals leads to frustration and less weight loss. Fact: Some studies suggest people do better with high goals.
Some things may not have the strongest evidence for preventing obesity but are good for other reasons, such as breastfeeding and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, the authors write. And exercise helps prevent a host of health problems regardless of whether it helps a person shed weight.
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