Let’s talk common misconceptions about weight loss and why you can’t shed those pounds
Weight loss and healthy living can be tough. There are thousands of articles and plenty of websites. Plus you have blogs, Instagram accounts, and just about anything you could ever need or want. There are also a lot of people who make a post about how something “changed their life” or about something that must be true, but these people have little education when it comes to fitness and health. Likewise, they assume that if it worked for them when nothing else did, it must work for everyone. Also, not true.
There are a lot of misconceptions we all hold about losing weight. We are all victim to believing something we have read at one point only to later discover that it just isn’t true. Sometimes, we just don’t want to believe what is fact versus fiction and that is a whole different dilemma. There are many ideas and topics that could be discussed, but here are some of the common misconceptions people tend to hold.
Misconception #1: I have to run to be skinny! Strength training will make me bulky.
Not true. Although running is a great form of exercise, especially to work your heart muscle, it is not necessarily the most effective way to lose weight or even to look fit. Many people likely think running is a great idea to look skinny because professional runners are usually tiny, but they are also racking on heavy mileage every week, which is a large contributor to their lack of excess fat. Here’s the deal though: low intensity workouts, like a moderately-paced, long-distance run, burn more fat originally, but high intensity workouts, like high intensity interval training (HIIT) or strength training, continue to burn fat after you complete the workout. Why? Because burning fat allows us to replace necessary carbohydrates to fuel our bodies and give us energy.
Exercise should be a combination of cardio and strength. Your body needs to have strong muscles for support. Your heart is a muscle, too, which means cardio is important to keep it healthy. Additionally, some people can look skinny or only a little overweight, but they have so little muscle that their body fat to muscle ratio is too high, and they actually aren’t considered healthy. The older you get, the more your muscles can atrophy because you don’t use them enough. Don’t be afraid of weights. Just because you bench press or squat once or twice a week doesn’t mean you are going to get huge muscles.
Building muscle is a really tough process (which is why bodybuilding is a profession), but it is important to work your muscles. Exercise is important no matter what, but if you really want to do what is best for your body, make the most of your workout every time. For those of you who hate exercising, do yourself a favor and maximize your workouts. Do a hard workout for 30 minutes that involves elevating your heart rate and building muscle. It’s like a two-for-one. Think burpees, mountain climbers, squat jumps, jumping rope, kettlebell swings and so much more. And, if you love running, go for a run! Vary your runs and try to incorporate some strength training into your marathon training plan.
Do exercises that will help you as a runner, like lunges, squats and planks. It is important to cater workouts to what you are doing and what your goals are while also making sure to do what is best for your overall health.
Misconception #2: Hey, a calorie is a calorie.
Nope. Fats, carbohydrates and proteins are all very different sources. Also, none of these are bad for you. Fat can actually be good for your body if it’s from a good source. Quantity and quality matter when it comes to eating right. Overeating can make you fat just like eating junk food can.
If you take in more calories than you burn in a day, your body will store the extra calories which will cause excess weight. However, our body stores different sources in different ways. Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen or released into the blood. Carbs are used for fuel, so they’re actually really important. Carbohydrates don’t make you fat. Glucose is the primary source of energy for our central nervous system, and it is vitally important to make sure you give your body what it needs to fuel you, especially if you are working out. So yes, your body needs good sugars that are found in carbohydrates.
Fat is stored as triglycerides. Sounds scary and unhealthy, but fats are actually an essential part of your diet. However, all fats aren’t the same. At some point in your life you’ve probably heard the words unsaturated, saturated and trans-fat. Unsaturated fat is what you want, either mono or polyunsaturated fat. These sources of fat actually help to reduce LDL (low-density lipoprotein), which is what most people call “bad cholesterol.”
In reality, you want to consume healthy fats in your diet. Things like nuts and avocados are good places to look for healthy fat. Fats help you absorb necessary vitamins and can help lower your risk of heart disease, if you’re eating the right kind.
What about protein? You need this stuff, too. And you need all nine essential amino acids, which are essential because you can only get them from food sources. Meat is the only place you can find the complete protein with all nine, but for those of you non-meat eaters, you can combine different sources to make sure you get all nine. This is where things like peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, and rice and beans came from. They are combinations of food to get you all nine essential amino acids, but you can also get protein from a vast array of foods. The more active you are, the more protein you likely need, as it is essential for growth and repair. Protein isn’t going to make you huge; it will help keep your muscles happy.
So no, not all calories are equal. The source of your food matters and reducing calories to lose weight isn’t enough. If you reduce calories, that can help you lose weight, but what really matters is what those calories are composed of.
Misconception #3: It would be easy for you to lose weight if you just ate right and worked out more!
Although, in theory, this can be very true, many people struggle with weight loss for a wide variety of reasons. No two people are the same, which means losing weight and getting in shape is a different journey for everyone. How our body stores calories, our genetic makeup, our hormones and our general lifestyles are different. You could live and breathe the life of a top model, but you may never look like one.Hundreds of genes are involved in weight, so you may just not have good genes when it comes to excess body fat. You should still eat healthy and exercise, but it should be about feeling good and looking good for yourself. There’s a difference between being overweight and not being skinny. Just because you aren’t skinny doesn’t mean you aren’t healthy, and just because you are skinny doesn’t mean you are healthy. Don’t get into the game of comparison. It’s dangerous and impossible to win.
There are other factors outside of diet and exercise that play into weight loss as well. Sleep isn’t just necessary for your brain to function well, but lack of sleep can also be linked to weight gain. Hormones like leptin and ghrelin play a big role in appetite, and things like insulin are affected by our sleep. So you need sufficient sleep. Plus, stress can pack on pounds and make losing weight tough. Do yourself a favor and sleep. Life can be crazy, but good sleep now will pay off down the road.
What are the next steps?
At the end of the day, you do have choices that revolve around your health. Set goals that are realistic for yourself. Find someone to work out with. Find ways to be motivated. Have meals with people who keep you accountable for what’s on your plate. Make the right choices and it will pay off. You may never be a fitness model, but your body will thank you. You will feel better, and that’s what matters.
Maybe the number on the scale isn’t as small as you would like. Sometimes you may want to eat ice cream. There might be days when you are tired, and the gym is the last place you want to go. That’s okay. The idea that losing weight and seeing progress is going to happen quickly isn’t true. Keep working and the results will follow.