I love finding articles about diet and exercise myths. However, lately I’m getting pretty tired of the same old myths popping up all over the place. I already know weight lifting won’t make women bulky and I know the fat burning zone is bunk. So for those looking for something they haven’t come across a million times already, I present the following top 10 diet and exercise myths.
Diet & Exercise Myth #1
You can train to be lean. Everyone is searching for that unique exercise or workout program that makes your body drop fat like a bag of moldy tangerines. I hope they are comfortable because they will be searching for a while. When you exercise, you are training your body to be faster, stronger or more coordinated. You can train yourself to be able to do anything better. The keyword here is “do”. Training is about the capability of your body, not its appearance.
Mother Nature doesn’t care if you have lean legs or six pack abs. She only cares if you can do the activity and will make changes to fulfill that capability. But wait, doesn’t fat influence your capability? In some ways yes, but in many ways it does not. I’ve come across far too many people who take up exercise to lose weight. They get stronger, faster and more flexible, but they don’t drop an ounce of weight.
The fat on your body has a minor effect on your ability to do many exercises. Especially anything that involves sitting or lying down. In some cases, like bodyweight exercise, it has a bigger influence. Maybe doing pull ups tells the body to be lighter and thus cause more fat to be burned. However my experience is that the body will simply become stronger since its working with more resistance.
Diet & Exercise Myth #2
You will build more muscle if you tell your body to become stronger. The body has many ways to get stronger. Building muscle is just one. You can change the rate at which your muscle fibers are recruited, the emphasis of type 2 A and B fibers and even just how you move. Building muscle is an option but it’s by far not the only one.
Diet & Exercise Myth #3
Certain foods are inherently bad for you and some are always good for you. The well-being potential of all foods boils down to your ability to use that food and its nutrients. If you eat a steak and can put it to use, then it’s a good move. However, if your body has no real need for it, it’s not going to do you much good. If you can actually use it, it’s beneficial. If you don’t get anything from it then it’s either bad or a waste of resources. That being said, sometimes there are health benefits to eating something beyond feeding the body. This brings me to the next myth.
Diet & Exercise Myth #4
A healthy diet is all about feeding and fueling the body. I always say I never let nutrition become the sole focal point of my diet. We humans eat for many other reasons than just to provide the body with the building blocks of life. If that were the case then let’s just create some bland goop in a tube and we can call that lunch.
Because we eat for many reasons, we also eat for many benefits. If we have a diet that fuels the body but leaves the mind and spirit starving, then it’s not healthy. We are not satisfying all of our appetites. A healthy diet leaves no hunger in any form.
Diet & Exercise Myth #5
Better equipment brings better results. Boy did I fall for this one! I spent far too much money and time investing in equipment. I even got rid of my own bed so I could cram more equipment into my apartment!
Truth be told, we can’t design fitness success into a piece of equipment any more than we can design a keyboard to make you a better writer. All we can ask from our equipment is that it’s safe, comfortable and reliable. Beyond that it’s all up to our skills and knowledge.
Diet & Exercise Myth #6
Exercising every day leads to overtraining. The human body was designed to be used every single day. Our ancestors never took a day off so that causes me to question if we really need 3-4 rest days a week. I’m not saying you can run a marathon every day, but we don’t have to only be active 2-3 times days and then sit on our tail for the rest of the week. We can, and maybe even should, seek to do something every day. Some days are probably going to be easier than others, but we can most certainly do something every day.
Diet & Exercise Myth #7
Your diet should become a lifestyle. I think it’s a shame that some diet strategies require so much time and effort that they have become a lifestyle. There’s nothing wrong if you like that sort of lifestyle, but it’s sad when someone believes they have to live their life around food labels or ingredients just to fit into skinny jeans. Food is always part of our life, but you don’t need to base a lifestyle on it anymore than you need to base your lifestyle around the shoes you wear or the computer you use.
Diet & Exercise Myth #8
If a study shows people eating less of something and losing weight then that means that specific ingredient is fattening or bad. You pick up a magazine and read how subjects in a study ate less red meat and lost weight. So does that mean red meat is fattening? Does that mean you’ll lose weight if you give up steak? Absolutely not!
All that study shows was that the people in the study were eating a bit too much red meat to do them any good. It doesn’t mean that it’s bad. It just means the people in the study were eating too much of it. It’s anyone’s guess if you are eating too much of the stuff. Who knows, you may not be eating enough.
Diet & Exercise Myth #9
If you don’t want to do it then that means you should. Sometimes the body and mind tell us to stop and we must strive forward. Other times we should listen and pay attention to the alarm bells. The key is in understanding the difference between acute vs. chronic desire.
Acute desire is here one minute and gone the next. It’s when you crave the donut only when it’s offered to you. It’s when your muscles are screaming yet you push for just a few seconds longer. That’s the kind of desire that often pays to fight through.
Chronic desire however is when your body and mind are constantly telling you something. That’s the stuff you need to pay attention to. If you hate an exercise but you keep forcing yourself to do it, then little good can come of it. And whatever good does come of it will probably be short-term.
If you love a certain food yet constantly deny yourself then you’re just depriving yourself. Acute desire causes us to get distracted and side tracked. Chronic desire is telling us that something we are doing is not working or is unhealthy for us. By being able to tell the difference we can listen to the most important signals our body is telling us and ignore the rest.
Diet & Exercise Myth #10
We can always trust information we hear about from a scientific report. Yes, scientific research is important and yes we can learn a lot from it. However, reading a few paragraphs in a magazine or newspaper does not give us enough substantial ground to start making radical choices. Reading those short blurbs is like looking through a key hole into another room. Sure, we are looking at something true, but we are also missing out on so much more.
On top of that, most of us are not trained to fully read and understand such reports. There are scientists and experts who have been trained to read research reports and pick them apart. They can and do see things the casual observer would miss. They know if the findings actually support the conclusions. So much of what we hear from the world of lab coats and test tubes is more along the lines of interpretation of data rather than data itself. Unless we have all of the information and we have been trained in how to read it, hearing about how carrots are good for preventing cancer is little more than he said she said.