1. Myth: You can eat whatever you want as long as you exercise enough to make up for it.
Truth: You cannot out-exercise a bad diet.
Diet has a much larger effect on your weight than exercise does. According to one study, only 10 to 30% of the calories your body burns in a day are actually related to body movement (i.e. exercise) (1).
Most of the calories your body burns (60-80%) comes from your resting metabolic rate (RMR), which is the calories your body burns just to maintain itself.
In other words, your body burns most of its calories while you’re doing nothing.
About another 10% of the total number of calories you burn is directly related to the type of food you eat.
When you are trying to burn calories and lose weight, why only focus on that 10-30%? When you do the math, it becomes clear that focusing on exercise without changing the types of food you eat will not result in significant weight loss.
A great example of this is NBC’s TV show The Biggest Loser. Just like many people trying to lose weight, the contestants exercise for hours every day and restrict their calories in order to lose weight.
But one study that looked at 14 contestants from the show found that 13 of them regained the lost weight within six years, and 4 of them were even heavier than when they began the competition (2).
They were unable to achieve a Fitness Transformation because believed the myth that you can out-exercise a bad diet.
What you should do:
Make sure to address any deficiencies in your diet, whether it’s too many sweets, too many processed foods, or eating out too much and not cooking meals at home.
A really good diet that I recommend is one called the Mediterranean diet. Studies have shown that it may reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, and type 2 diabetes (3, 4). It has also been shown to be better for weight loss and improving diabetes, when compared to a low-fat diet (5). For tips on how to follow the Mediterranean diet, click here.
2. Myth: To lose weight, you only have to “eat less and exercise more.”
Truth: Cutting calories is not a good long term solution for fat loss and staying lean. You have to change the quality of the food you eat, not just the quantity.
What’s the problem with severely cutting calories in order to lose weight?
The problem is that you lose fat, but you also lose muscle. This slows down your metabolism.
The quality of the food you eat is much more important than how much food you eat.
Think of it this way: if you eat junk, eating less junk will always be better than eating more junk.
Unfortunately, most people eat a lot of junk, so this is why cutting calories works to lose weight in the short term.
But if you eat less junk, as opposed to more junk, it doesn’t change the fact that you’re eating junk in the first place. This is the critical problem that you need to solve if you want to have any long term success with getting and/or staying in shape.
The traditional model of weight loss is “eat less and exercise more”. But as we have seen the results of that approach with contestants on The Biggest Loser, that approach does not work in the long term.
What’s the problem with the traditional model?
The problem is that starving oneself, combined with lengthy, intensive exercise, actually slows your metabolism down.
This is because your body adapts to the drastic decrease in caloric intake by burning calories less efficiently. In physiology, this is known as homeostasis.
This is the exact outcome you want to avoid. A slower metabolism will make it harder for you to lose weight and keep it off.
A faster metabolism will help you burn calories more efficiently. This will make it easier for you lose fat, gain muscle, and stay lean.
What you should do:
3. Myth: Women shouldn’t lift weights because it will automatically make them get “big and bulky.”
Truth: Eating too much ice cream is much more likely to make you get “big and “bulky” than lifting weights is. It takes more than just lifting weights to gain a significant amount of muscle mass.
Women simply don’t have enough testosterone to naturally get to the same size as a man; men have 7 to 8 times as much testosterone as women do (6).
As a woman, lifting weights is not enough to make you “big and bulky” because you don’t have enough testosterone, plain and simple.
What you should do:
Don’t be afraid to incorporate some weight training into your exercise routine!! I recommend to start with light weights in whatever exercise you’re doing and focus on your form. You can then increase the weight once you have your form down and the previous weight no longer seems challenging.