Hi friends! Long time no talk. I hope you are all doing well and enjoying the spring. Our weather here feels more like summer and it has me super excited for the months to come. Bring on the sunshine and warmth!
Today's post discusses the common myths about diet and exercise that many of us may have believed at one point or another. As with a lot of misconceptions, it can sometimes be difficult to let go of these ideas, especially when many of them have been ingrained in our beliefs and habits for so long. I hope that sharing some of the ways I've changed my attitude toward diet and exercise will be helpful to you. As always, I'd love to start a conversation about this!
5 diet and exercise myths I no longer believe
1. Cut fat from your diet to lose weight.
I'm almost positive that at one time we all believed we should avoid fat in order to lose weight. For quite awhile, fats—such as butter, avocados, and eggs—were viewed as being harmful to your health and fat-free, low-fat foods were recommended instead. It was believed that the added calories from high fat foods would cause weight gain and increase the risk for obesity and heart disease. This couldn't be further from the truth! In fact, eating high quality fats will actually help burn fat, lower cholesterol, keep us feeling full, and prevent blood sugar levels from spiking. Additionally, when you stick to a very low-fat diet you can significantly lower your immune system, which leaves you susceptible to inflammation and illness (source). Plus, many fat-free foods have been highly processed and contain added sugar or other chemicals, which are much worse for your body!
2. Cardio will yield better results than strength training.
Granted, the results we seek will vary from person to person, but generally speaking, if you are looking to improve your body composition, gain lean muscle mass, and burn fat then strength training will always be more effective than steady state cardio. Contrary to popular belief, lifting weights will not make you gain weight or get bulky. In fact, building muscle will help you decrease fat, increase your metabolism, and keep you energized. I don't want to sound like a broken record here, but I can't tell you how many times I have heard women say that they don't want to get "big," they just want to lose weight...which brings me to the next point...
3. The number on the scale is best way to measure progress.
Unfortunately, this myth is really hard to dispel. Most people use the scale as their only indicator of progress, but that doesn't provide an accurate picture. By itself your weight is an incomplete measure of body composition and overall health. Instead, you should look at your muscle mass and body fat percentage ratio, analyze how you feel, and review your lifestyle factors. I think a lot of people get discouraged when they focus on numbers and this can kill your confidence and deplete your motivation. I am heavier now than before I had children, but I also have more muscle and greater endurance. I'm stronger and healthier than I have ever been, but if you just went by the number on the scale it would appear that I've simply gained weight. If you find yourself focusing on the scale then it may be time to put it away and have a more accurate assessment done by a professional.
4. Sleep is overrated. Better to prioritize exercise over rest.
Here's where I wish I could go back to my new parent self and say, "Listen, honey—You're just spinning your wheels if you don't take time to rest." As a new mom of twins I spent most of the early months in a fog-like state. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and still healing from abdominal surgery (<-c-section). Yet I felt anxious to get back into shape and be my old self again. I sometimes felt that if I didn't use nap time - or other breaks - to workout then it was a missed opportunity. My energy was drained more often than not and I felt frustrated that it took so long to recover. In hindsight, I wish I would have made sleep more of a priority since I'm absolutely sure it would have given me more energy, endurance, and it would have helped me better manage my stress and anxiety as a new parent.
Sleep is essential for regulating hormones, managing weight, reducing stress levels, and improving heart health. Lack of sleep can interfere with all of these and can keep you from feeling your best. I wrote about how to maximize sleep for optimal health in a previous post and you may find a few helpful suggestions there if you struggle with getting adequate sleep.
5. As long as you exercise, you can eat whatever you want.
I used to think that it didn't matter what I ate since I exercised on a regular basis. However, I now realize that exercise and diet go hand-in-hand and are both equally important to your well-being. As the saying goes, You can't out-exercise a bad diet. Living a healthy lifestyle means treating your body well - through movement and nourishment.
From a performance standpoint, without the right nutrients in your diet, you may not be able to push through your workouts, reach certain athletic goals, or improve endurance. You may not even have enough energy to exercise! Consuming high-quality protein, carbs, and fats are extremely important for your health.
What are some of the ways you've changed your thoughts or attitude towards diet and exercise?