By Sal DePaola
Warning: If you are sensitive then please do not read this article. This article contains harsh truths that you may not be able to handle.
As a gym owner, every day of my life people ask me questions about diet and nutrition, both members at my gym or friends and family. I sometimes even have a random stranger asking me. I guess because I'm in half way decent shape and I frequent the health food aisle of the supermarket.
It always seems to be the same question - "I'm eating fairly healthy. Why can't I lose weight?" My response is always the same - "What do you consider 'fairly healthy' and what else are you doing besides eating 'fairly healthy?’"
This is when it gets fun. I hear a lot of the same answers. I only eat once a day. I eat "insert unhealthy food here." I do cardio. I drink magic shakes. Just yesterday I had someone come by the gym who hit a plateau. She says she eats very healthy and doesn't know what else to do. I asked her about her diet and she told me that she's a bartender and usually she eats whatever they give her, which is pasta 90% of the time. Oh, and she drinks a lot while bartending! Doh!!!
The biggest problem today, is that we have tons of information readily at our hands, but for some reason when it comes to our own health, we get lazy and careless. Most would rather look for a quick fix "Magic Pill,” instead researching how to truly get lean and healthy, which takes a lot of hard work and willpower. I'm not going to sugar coat it. It's not going to be easy, but one thing for sure is it will be worth it!
Here are my Favorite Weight Loss/Nutrition Myths Debunked:
1) Fats AND Carbs Are Bad (My personal favorite). So wait. Are we supposed to only eat protein?? Let's start with fats. Wake up people! It's not 1980 anymore! Due to debunked studies by ONE doctor in the 1970's, fats got a real bad rap. The fact is healthy fats, such as egg yolks and avocado, are good and essential for a healthy lifestyle. Healthy fats give you energy, burn fat, reduces LDL (bad cholesterol) and raise HDL (good cholesterol). Fats are also essential for building cell membranes, blood clotting, muscle movement, reducing inflammation and much more. It always bothered me how someone overweight is referred to as "Fat". If calling someone "Fat" for being obese never existed, then people wouldn't be scared to eat fats. If fats were called "Skinnies," I bet a majority of the population would be eating a lot more "Skinnies." Hmmmmmmmmm.........
As far as carbs, just like fats, there are good carbs and bad carbs. Most people starting a "Diet" - another word I dislike - decide they need to cut out carbs. This may be ok if we just sat on the couch all day. But we don't. We move. And hopefully, we exercise. The answer is not to cut out carbs. The answer should be to cut out BAD CARBS. This includes sugar, soda, processed junk, and refined carbs. I could write an entire blog post on this subject, and probably will one day, but for now, here are the cliff notes. Carbs are a very important source of energy. They are especially important if you exercise, as they play a major role in muscle recovery. Good sources of carbs are sweet potatoes, veggies, fruits (but when trying to lose there are definitely some fruits you should limit), plantains, yucca, and sprouted grains.
It all comes down to balance. The correct way to eat, not “Diet”, is to consume a proper balance of fats, carbs, and protein and eat enough calories a day to support your level of activity.
2) I Just Need To Do More Cardio. This is another one I hear a lot. I'm doing more cardio but still not losing. Cardio isn't a bad thing. It will definitely help you get healthier, build your lungs, and burn some calories. It's wayyyy better than doing nothing. The problem is that your body eventually adapts to doing the same routine over and over again. Doing a lot of cardio also burns muscle. Less Muscle = Lower Metabolism. To burn more fat you need to build more muscle. Plain and simple. The best way to build more muscle is find a routine that is constantly varied and hits different body parts every day. Functional Training, such as CrossFit, seems to be the best overall fitness routine. A varied mix of weight training, HIIT and "Cardio", if that's what you want to call it. Oh. And it's fun too!
3) I Can Just Take The Magic Pill. Grrrrr. Nothing makes me sicker to my stomach than this so called "Magic Pill" or "Fat Loss" Supplements fad. There is no such thing. The quicker you come to terms with that, the quicker you'll be on the road to looking, and feeling better. I know: you have that same feeling when your older cousin told you there is no Santa Claus. Oh well. Get over it! Just like there is no such thing as "Get Rich Quick", there is no such thing as the "Magic Pill" to lose weight. Anything you want in life, you need to work for. Only hard work and dedication will allow you to reach your goals. If you aren't willing to work for it, then maybe looking good and being healthy isn't for you. Sorry, sometimes the truth hurts. =)
4) If I Eat Less, I Will Lose More. I would say that about 90% of people that tell me about their “diet” are not eating close to enough. When you're eating enough, the body first uses food for fuel, then turns to the fat it's been holding onto for energy. But restrict calories too severely, and your body goes into "starvation mode," and starts to break down lean muscle tissue to reserve its energy stores. Ultimately, this can slow metabolism, making it tougher to lose weight. A good rule of thumb is to eat 10-12 calories per lb of body weight per day. And that's to lose weight! You should lose no more than 1-2 lbs per week. Losing weight is a marathon, not a sprint! The goal is to lose weight slowly and keep it off. The best way to do this is to count calories and macros. This too, is another article in itself. See a nutritionist, or stop by the gym, for more info.
5) I Heard "Fill in Fad Diet Here" Works. Some “diets” work. TEMPORARILY. Eventually one of two things will happen. You will either hit a plateau after the initial rush and then gain everything back plus some, or your health will start deteriorating if you stay on the diet long term. There are two definitions for the word "diet" in the dictionary.
1. the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.
2. a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.
Unless you are put on a special diet for medical reasons, I want you to erase definition number 2 from your mind. What really works here is a Lifestyle Change. Habitually making the right choices, and eating foods that are actually good for you on a daily basis. Not for 30, or 60 days. What’s the point? To look good for your friend’s wedding? Then what happens after the wedding is over? You don't care about the way you look or feel until the next event? Why not always be healthy so you don't have to crash diet, and do harm to your body just for the next big event. It's not that difficult to make the right decisions every day. The good news is that it gets easier and easier as time goes on and eventually becomes a habit, just like brushing your teeth before bed (I hope you a least do that!).
In conclusion, you now have a pretty good idea of what it takes to lose weight and get healthy. I know deep down inside that you want to, otherwise you wouldn't have finished reading this article. There is definitely a lot more to it. More posts will follow that will really get down and dirty with the how's and why's. If you're still confused, and/or want more info, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org ATTN: Sal
PS - Please throw away your scale. The scale is one of the most inaccurate measuring tools when starting a new fitness program and trying to get lean. As you shred fat, you will also be building muscle. Since muscle is heavier than fat, and you will be packing on some muscle, you may be hovering around the same weight for a while. The best measuring tool to use is a tape measure (your waist) and the other is the mirror. You'll notice that even though you're the same weight, you look leaner, and that's what really matters.