I’m going to be blunt: a lot of what you’ve been told (and/or sold) about health and fitness is junk. Or it’s sound information, but taken out of context. Or it’s based on something solid, but extrapolated or distilled or confused until it’s no longer useful. Even actual scientific facts can functionally be garbage when presented poorly.
And that sucks.
No one wants to go through life losing and regaining the same 20, 40, even 70 pounds over and over again, becoming frustrated and depressed, and being miserable all the while. No one would actively choose to have no energy, no sex drive, and a body they’re embarrassed by. But unfortunately, that’s the story for a lot of folks.
In this series, we’re going to tackle several misconceptions about health and weight loss that could not only be stalling your progress, but could possibly be making things worse for you...
#1 Fat Makes You Fat
This has been, over the last...what, 60 years?...possibly the most damaging misconception to the health of us as a species. Based on no real scientific fact and a whole lot of politics and persuasion, dietary fat has been shunned by the health community for decades now.
Fortunately, the tide finally seems to be changing on some fronts. Unfortunately, it’s not changing quite quickly enough.
Dietary fats do not make you fat. It’s quite simple, actually. They are an essential part of the human diet and serve many functions:
- They help us absorb certain vitamins
- They provide a consistent and stable supply of energy
- They provide structure to our cell walls
- They help us produce certain hormones
- And a whole lot more than I have space for here...
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Yeah, but healthy fats, right?” Honestly, I think of this in one simple way: if it’s from a real food source*, then it’s a healthy fat. Trying to go beyond that, unless you find the subject interesting, will likely end up being an exercise in frustration and confusion.
*Not derived or manufactured from - I mean you actually consume it from a real food, like a steak.
I highly recommend you check out comedian Tom Naughton’s documentary Fathead for more on this subject.
#2 It’s All About Portion Control
Portion control is nothing more than another way of getting at calories in versus calories out (which we’ve already gone over here, here, and here). And to make it seem even more appealing, its proponents can offer a seemingly endless stream of miraculous ways to try and trick your body into thinking it’s fuller than it really is.
At first sight, it might seem like really interesting, really sciencey information that can help you lose weight. But try to recount how many long-term weight loss success stories you’ve heard that start with “Well, I was 100 pounds overweight, but then I started eating off of red plates instead of my old white ones…”
There are all sorts of ways to trick the brain, especially with the eyes. But once the initial trick wears off, I’m pretty sure you didn’t really think the magician sawed that lady in half, right? Probably not. Same goes for tricking your brain with food. Sure, you may be able to get down a meal without overeating, but wouldn’t you rather tackle the underlying reason why you want to overeat in the first place rather than just try to keep duping your brain for the rest of your life?
Don’t try and trick (or worse, will) yourself into eating less food. Instead, work on getting healthy, and your body will begin to correct and reset its natural satiety signals and cravings and all manner of hormonal rhythms and cycles. Eat the right foods, and the portions will start to take care of themselves. There’s a big difference between “I want to keep eating but am forcing/tricking myself to stop” and “I’ve eaten enough.”
#3 Low Weight/High Reps to Get Toned; High Weight/Low Reps to Get Big
This is a great example of truth being mixed in with conventional wisdom and then confused until it’s no longer useful.
The common view is that, if you want to get slim and toned, you lift light weights for high reps. And if you want to get really big and muscular, you lift heavy weights for low reps.
Whatever truth there is here is immaterial. The issue is that it leads folks to step into the weight room, grab the smallest dumbbells around, and proceed to knock out 20-30 super-easy reps because they “don’t want to get too bulky.”
Well, here’s the thing: you won’t.
If you just want to “get toned,” what that means is you want to lose some body fat while building a little bit of muscle underneath to provide a nice shape (emphasis on building a little bit of muscle...).
For ladies and gents alike, it is nearly impossible to build too much muscle accidentally. In fact, it’s barely possible to build too much muscle on purpose (for women, especially, due to having much lower levels of testosterone).
You will not wake up one day and look like a bodybuilder, so go grab some heavy weights! Those tiny, colorful dumbbells might make you sweat after a while in your whatever-the-latest-buzzword-is class, and they might even make you sore if you’re new to it, but they really won’t do enough to cause the adaptations we’re looking for.
To get stronger, increase fat burning ability, improve glucose control, and build the beautiful, shapely muscles you want to see when the excess body fat starts melting away (as well as myriad other benefits), you need to actually stimulate the muscles. How do you do that? By lifting heavy weights.
That’s all for this installment. More to come!