5 Fitness Myths and Mistakes
by Stephanie Nickel
I was honoured when Kimberley asked me to discuss some fitness myths with her. You can view our discussions on YouTube at the end of this post.
Here are my responses to some of the fitness myths floating around out there.
1. You can “spot reduce,” building muscle and trimming fat from specific areas of your body.
While there is some science out there to support this claim, in general, it just isn’t possible.
We can focus our muscle-building efforts on targeted areas of our body (i.e. our biceps, thighs, abs). This does not, however, guarantee that fat loss will occur in the areas we are targeting (and if we don’t also target the supporting and opposing muscles, we may develop problems). While increased muscle mass does burn more calories, it may not burn it from the surrounding area. Don’t give up on building and toning your muscles, but be patient. Increased definition and evident toning may take time.
2. A healthy diet is all about depriving yourself and eating bland, boring foods.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
For those of us who live where there is a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, whole grain products, herbs and spices, and even specialty and “alternative products” available, with just a little preparation and planning, our meals can be anything but bland and boring.
If you crave sweet snacks, consider grabbing fresh fruit instead of a chocolate bar. But if you simply must have that piece of cheesecake (my favourite) or that hot fudge sundae (one of my hubby’s favourites), consider taking a smaller serving and eating it slowly so you can savour each bite.
Also, if you eat well six days out of seven, you can feel confident that your body will be more forgiving if you do indulge on the seventh day.
That said, I would encourage you to also eat healthy foods mindfully. Savour the tastes and the textures. Eat slowly and thankfully, knowing you’re giving your body the nutrients it needs. I find the more I eat this way, the less appealing the chocolate bars and ice cream are to me. (Cheesecake, on the other hand, well, let’s just say it’s best if I don’t keep it in the house.)
3. Preparing nutritious meals is expensive and time-consuming.
Visiting the local farmers’ market has become one of the highlights of my week—and the prices are no more than in the stores. Plus, the food is so much fresher. On average, I have only a half hour to spend perusing the stalls, but it gives me treasures for the entire week. Plus, I find I’m not spending any more on my grocery bill—perhaps, even less. And I am less inclined to buy the processed, additive-rich foods I was once purchasing.
If I sit down on the weekend and plan our meals for the week, I am less inclined to grab whatever is closest at hand when suppertime rolls around.
Perhaps, it’s time for you to splurge on a new cookbook. Take your specific health concerns and personal preferences into account. When I flip through a cookbook, I only buy it if I’m inclined to try four or five of the first six recipes I come across.
4. There is a one-size-fits-all program out there somewhere.
One of the reasons it’s good to get an assessment done by a professional is that each of us is unique.
It wasn’t until I was in my 50s that I discovered that one leg is slightly shorter than the other and the neck injury I sustained approximately 40 years ago has had lasting ramifications I knew nothing about. It took an experienced personal trainer to identify these issues. Neither was significant enough for my doctor to notice, but it does affect which exercise equipment is best for me.
After the assessment, I contacted a woman who had been a fellow personal trainer when I worked at the gym. Since I knew she also had her Masters in kinesiology, I felt confident having her put together a program tailor-made for me.
While you may not need to work out with a personal trainer on a regular basis, I advise that you have a professional assessment done and get some advice on the best kind of program for you.
And when it comes to healthy eating . . .
There are so many conflicting ‘expert voices’ out there. Plus, research often shows that over the long haul, any given ‘healthy trend’ may have negative side effects.
If the food you eat has nutritional value and you prepare it in a way that maintains that value . . . if you eat a wide variety of foods as close to the way they come from nature as possible . . . if you pay attention to your body’s cues . . . you will likely have a fairly good idea what healthy eating means for you.
Do your research—from various perspectives.
At the end of the day, the best advice is to do the best you can with the knowledge you possess at any given moment.
5. Your value as a human being is inversely-proportional to your weight and/or physical strength.
When I was working at the gym, I sat down for a consultation with a young woman. Yes, she did have approximately 100 pounds to lose, but I made one thing perfectly clear. I was not going to be yet another voice that told her that her worth was in any way tied up in her weight.
There are so many reasons to lose excess weight, strengthen and tone our muscles, and eat well, but our worth as human beings is not among them. On your journey to fitness, please, please, please remember this.