Weight Management

Famous Fitness Myths Debunked

With all the fitness information that’s available, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed, and sometimes it can be hard to determine the truth from the myths. From tips we’ve heard through friends, at the gym, or even read in articles, there are many misconceptions and half-truths about exercise that continue to spread. We’ve addressed the most common fitness myths here:

Myth: Doing ab exercises will get rid of my belly fat.
Fact: You can do crunches until you are blue in the face, and chances are you still won’t have those 6-pack abs. While ab exercises build abdominal strength and muscle, you’ll need to decrease your body fat in order to see those fab abs. The best way to do that is through a combination of cardio and strength training.

Myth: No pain, no gain.
Fact: This is potentially the most dangerous fitness myth out there. While a little soreness and that burn you feel after you’ve worked your muscles to fatigue is normal, feeling pain during your workout is your body’s way of telling you to stop. Trying to work through such pain can result in serious injury.

Myth: Women will build bulky muscles from weight lifting.
Fact: The ability to bulk up has more to do with genetics than gender. Most women do not have enough of the hormone testosterone that is necessary to develop muscle bulk. Strength training is an important component of any well-rounded fitness regimen, and can help to strength and muscle tone, decrease fat and improve bone density.

Myth: You can target one area of the body for spot fat reduction.
Fact: Studies show that it is impossible to lose body fat from a specific body area by targeting that region in your exercise. Fat loss occurs throughout the entire body, and the way to achieve this is through a combination of cardio and strength training, and a sensible diet.

Myth: The more you sweat, the more calories you’re burning.
Fact: How much you sweat isn’t an indication of how much you are exerting yourself during a workout, but rather an indication of your body’s ability to maintain it’s normal temperature.

Myth: If I don’t have enough time to dedicate to a workout, I shouldn’t bother.
Fact: The American Council on Exercise recommends that adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity a day to maintain overall health. People who are trying to lose weight are recommended to get at least 60 minutes a day. However, you don’t have to get your workout done in one shot, you can break that up into 20- or 30-minute segments. And even if you aren’t able to fit a full workout into your day, ANY activity you do is better than none.

Buddy up to boost success

When it comes to sticking to a workout schedule or managing your weight, experts are now saying that your best bet may be to team up with a buddy.

It’s not for everyone, but for some people, having someone to be accountable to is key to staying on track.

If you’re having trouble staying motivated to get to the gym or to push through a tough workout, a workout buddy can be there to inspire you, encourage you or even spark some friendly competition. You may even save money—see if you can plan a session for both of you with a personal trainer and split the cost.

Dieting is almost always easier if you have someone going through it with you. You may be looking for someone to commiserate with over an uninspiring salad at lunchtime or someone to call up at the end of the day to encourage you and tell you that you can get control over your weight and health. A good support system could be a faster track to success.

When you’re looking for a workout or diet buddy consider the following:

-do you have similar schedules- if one of you works days and the other works nights, you’ll have trouble scheduling time to exercise together. You want to be sure that each of you is mutually available.
-do you prefer the same forms of communicating- if you’re into text messaging or emailing rather than picking up the phone, make sure to find a buddy with the same preferences.
-do you understand what each other needs in terms of encouragement- some people just want to be able to talk to someone who understands the difficulties of dieting or pushing through a fitness plateau. Other people opt for tough love. Know what works best for each of you and make sure you can provide what the other needs.

If you start out with a buddy and find that you’re not a good match, consider finding someone else to team up with. Remember, it can make a big difference in your level of success

Successful Weight Maintenance

You committed yourself to eating healthy and exercising regularly, and with time and dedication, you have achieved your weight loss goals. Congratulations! Now it's time to shift your focus to weight management.

But that doesn't mean you can just give up the dietary and lifestyle changes that helped you to take it off in the first place. Reverting to old, unhealthy habits can bring all those lost pounds back, plus a few more. So while you'll need to adjust your diet and fitness regimen to maintain your current weight as opposed to creating a calorie deficit, it is important that you stick with the healthy habits you've developed.

According to the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), a database of over 5,000 individuals who have lost at least 30 pounds and maintained their weight loss for a minimum of one year, there are many common factors among people who are successful at keeping the weight off. We've shared some of these common behaviors here to help you maintain your weight.

The most prevalent pattern among people who have successfully maintained their weight is that most of them continued to maintain a low calorie, low fat diet and continued engaging in high levels of activity.

The key to maintaining these behaviors is consistency. Stick to a healthy eating plan, and plan ahead for holidays to stay on course with your eating. And don't skip breakfast. They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and NWCR participants agree - 78% report eating breakfast every day. It's also important to remain consistent with your exercise regimen. 90% of the participants in the NWCR exercise an average of one hour every day. You don't need to exercise for a full hour at one time; you can break your activity up into 20 to 30 minute blocks.

Another common characteristic among people who have successfully maintained a healthy weight is that they weigh themselves regularly. Consistently monitoring your weight can serve as an early warning system to alert you when you've gained a few pounds so that you can implement strategies to prevent further weight gain.

You may want to consider keeping a journal logging your food intake, exercise and weight, another technique used by those who have successfully maintained their weight. This will help you to identify any patterns that may be leading you off course and create a plan to avoid falling into these patterns in the future.

Tips on Dining Out

You watch what you eat and make smart choices about how to fuel your body. Don’t let a meal out mess with your good diet strategies.

You’re not going to be stuck with a green salad and plain baked potato if you just get a little creative. Here are some ideas to get you started:

-Stay away from cream-based soups and sauces- they have more fat and calories than most other options.
-When available, choose whole wheat pasta or brown rice- complex carbohydrates fill you up faster and absorb into your body more slowly so your blood sugar won’t spike.
-Drink water with your meal- again, you’ll fill up faster and you’ll avoid the empty calories in soda, juice or alcohol.
-Order your salad with the dressing on the side- this way you’ll be able to control how much you add while you eat.
-Avoid all-you-can-eat places- they’ll make you want to eat more to get your money’s worth. Stick to an a la carte menu whenever you can.
-Choose lean cuts of meat- skinless chicken breasts and turkey sausages or burgers are usually a safe bet, as is fish, depending on how the dishes are prepared.
-Select foods that are steamed, baked, grilled or broiled- usually they have less fat and fewer calories.
-Get the side of salad, not fries- most restaurants will make the substitution even if it’s not listed on the menu.
-If you want dessert, share it- or if you’re not feeling generous, order a dessert lower in calories and fat like fresh fruit or sorbet.

If you’re attending a party or wedding where you don’t have the option of making the kind of choices outlined above, just be smart about portions- leave some food on the plate and skip dessert.

How To Stay Motivated

How many times have you been gung ho about starting a new workout program, only to lose motivation and quit after you start getting bored with your routine or don’t see fast results? Staying motivated is one of the biggest challenges to sticking with a workout routine. Below are some helpful tips to keep you motivated and on track towards achieving your fitness goals.

Set clear, realistic goals. Start with short-term goals, such as jogging for 20 minutes three times a week, or taking a walk during your lunch hour. The key is to make your goals realistic and achievable for you. Unrealistic goals can sabotage your efforts, leaving you feeling discouraged and unmotivated to continue if you don’t achieve them. Once you begin achieving your short-term goals, start setting long-term goals, such as dropping 10% of your body weight, or completing a 10k run.

Keep a journal. Track your progress by logging your goals, details of each workout, and how you feel after each workout. A visual reminder of how much effort you’ve put in and how far you’ve come towards reaching your goals will encourage you to stay on track.

Reward yourself. Be proud of your accomplishments, and reward yourself when you achieve one of your long-term goals. Your reward can be something fitness related such as a new exercise outfit or sneakers, or just something fun, like a new book or cd.

Make it fun. Select activities you enjoy when working out. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t keep at it. It’s that simple.

Add variety. Going through the same workout routine can get boring and tedious very quickly. Spice up your fitness regimen by alternating different activities. Also try switching up your workout environment — if you usually use the treadmill or stationary bike at the gym, try running or biking outside when the weather is nice.

Buddy up. Working out with a partner or group can be a great source of encouragement and motivation. A little friendly competition can also help you push yourself harder. The social interaction will make exercising less tedious, and make the time go by faster. And you’re more likely to show up to your workout if you know someone else is expecting you.

Shout it from the rooftops. Tell all your family and friends that you’ve started an exercise program, and tell them what your goals are. It will give you a sense of accountability as people ask you how your workout regimen is going.

Remind yourself how great you feel after a workout. In addition to the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel from sticking with your fitness plan, remember that you are also improving your health. Additionally, exercise releases endorphins, which can help to improve your mood!

Just show up. They say that 80% of success is just showing up. Even if you’re tired, sore, or just not in the mood to exercise, showing up and doing even a little bit of exercise is better than doing nothing.

Always remember that before you begin any diet or exercise program you should consult your physician.

Foods to Keep You Energized and Motivated

Sometimes just getting to the gym feels like half the battle. Make sure you’re fueling your body with food that will energize you while you’re there.

Between work and play, your energy may not always be where you need it to be to put in a charged session at the gym, on the track or wherever you’re working out. Your diet can make a huge impact on your energy.

Most people go right for the caffeine when they need an energy boost. In the long run, this will only wear you out faster. This is because caffeine affects the amount of insulin your body produces, spiking your blood sugar and then causing a “crash” in your energy level shortly after. It can also cause dehydration.

You want to go for foods that contain complex carbohydrates—like vegetables, fruits, whole grain products and beans. Because they are digested and absorbed slowly into your body, they keep your blood sugar and energy levels up and stable without the crash. Eat around five to six meals a day with these kinds of foods and watch the quality of your energy improve.

Sugary foods and other simple carbs also give you that “quick fix” you get from caffeine, but you’re still going to get the crash if that’s what you’re fueling yourself with. Again, stick with complex carbs several times a day.

Three-Pepper Rice

Three members of the pepper family-spicy dried red chili peppers, dried mild chili peppers (paprika), and fresh red bell peppers-add vitamin C and plenty of flavor to this colorful side dish.

Pear-Apple Crisp

While we've used a combination of apples and pears for this sweet, crunchy topped dessert, you may use 3 pounds of just pears or just apples.

Broccoli Chowder

This light chowder, flecked with the green of broccoli and the red of unpeeled new potatoes, is as delightful in appearance as it is in flavor.

Chocolate-Orange Latte Cotto

This adaptation of panna cotta (an Italian dessert usually made with cream or a combination of milk and cream) is silky-smooth and satisfying. If you like, run a metal spatula around the edges of the dessert and invert it onto a serving plate. Timing alert: This dessert has to chill for at least 4 hours.