It’s January. It’s the time of year where everyone seems to be on a health-kick. It’s the fitness fanatics happiest time of the year.
As I’ve watched, read and heard about many different ways on how to become healthier, fitter and thinner, I’m happy that so many people want to make positive changes in their lives. But I also get a bit bummed because I know that come February, many people will be off their health kick and back to pre-January life. And it’s not their fault. With so many theories, diets, and lifestyles out there that claim to be the best way to get healthy, it’s confusing. And it’s easy to fall into the trap of a weight loss plan that’s too restrictive, unhealthy or just not effective. There are more fitness and health myths out there than truths.
Here is a list of the most common fitness myths I hear in the month of January:
- Exercise is the key to weight loss. Unfortunately for people like me who love to move, this is definitely false. Exercise is great for you – but if you start exercising and don’t change your diet, you aren’t going to see great results. Sure you may lose a few pounds, but you’ll hit a plateau very soon.
Ever looked up how many calories you burn while exercising? Most people are shocked at the numbers! For instance, a 150 pound person walking at a brisk pace (3.5 mph) for 30 minutes burns around 129 calories. That’s about the equivalent of one small box of raisins. So exercise is definitely not going to negate a bad diet. (Check out calorie burn estimates with this calculator: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/exercise/lookup)
Exercise does improve your overall health, so I definitely highly recommend it. And with a healthy, calorie-appropriate nutrition plan, exercise can be a great addition to aid in weight loss. Plus, people who exercise usually gain the desire to eat better. One healthy lifestyle change can precipitate another. Just don’t expect to drop 20 pounds by adding 3 walks to your daily routine without changing your diet.
- Diet foods are good for you. Have you ever looked at the ingredient list for a Special K snack pack or a Nutri-Grain bar? See a lot of words that look a lot like chemicals? That’s because they are! There are a lot foods out there that are advertised as “diet” or “health” foods, but they really aren’t any better for you than eating regular chips or a fun sized candy bar. Sure, some of these are lower in calories – but you are not fueling your body properly. If your diet consists mainly of these diet foods, then you will be lacking a lot of nutrients on a daily basis. This can make you fatigued, cranky, have an upset tummy, headaches, etc. Skip the diet foods and go for foods you know are healthy for you – like a piece of fruit, a cup of yogurt, or some veggies and hummus. If you eat real food, you will feel drastically better!
- If you want a flat stomach, do 1,000 crunches a day! First of all – OUCH!
Crunches and other abdominal exercises are great for strengthening the muscles of the core. But doing a bunch of crunches will not get you a flat stomach. You can not spot reduce.
The only way to get the extra weight off from your abdominal region is to eat the appropriate amount of calories partnered with some aerobic exercise. (To see an estimate of how many calories you should consume to lose weight, visit this site: http://www.caloriecount.com/tools/calories-goal) And you can not control where you will lose the extra weight first. For me, I lose weight around my waist first, arms seconds, hips and thighs are last. For others, it may be they lose in their legs first, waist second and arms third. Every body is different. You just have to do the work, and wait for the results.
- Going to the gym for several hours a day is a good thing. I’ve seen people who spend most of their day at the gym working out. They think they are doing something great for themselves when really they are doing more harm than good.
If you work out too much, you are at risk of overtraining. This can lead to injury, burnout, sickness as well as plateaus. Your body needs time to rest and recover in order to properly heal and improve. Take one or two rest days a week, and limit your gym time to 60 minutes. Anything over 60 minutes really puts too much stress on your body, putting you at risk for injury, and also reduces your immune system so you may get sick. (Those who have been training for a while may go over the 60 minute mark because their bodies have been conditioned to handle the stress. But for most of us, 30-60 minutes is enough for a great workout.)
Really, if something seems to good to be true, it probably is. If you see a diet that claims you can lose 20 pounds by eating cheeseburgers, then it is a fad diet. But if you see a diet that says you can lose 20 pounds by eating lots of fruits, veggies, and lean protein, then you know that one probably is a good plan to follow.
Changing your lifestyle is difficult, but it’s definitely well worth it! Give yourself some time (and some slack – because nobodies perfect!) and after a while you will be enjoying your new, healthier habits!