Archive for July 2014

Common Women Mistakes in Fitness And Nutrition

weight loss

While these misconceptions surely exist among men, they seem more common among women. Perpetuated by the media, fads, and fashion magazines that carelessly dispense fitness advice, these mistakes are almost ingrained and therefore hard to shake. Below is my response.

1. I Need To Lose Weight

When speaking about fitness and nutrition, this is the most common phrase uttered by women. While it is true that many overweight individuals (both men and women alike) need to lose drastic amounts of weight for health reasons, many who utter this phrase want to lose body fat, not weight. What’s the difference?

If weight goes down, doesn’t body fat follow? Not necessarily. For many, an exercise regimen that includes cardiovascular and resistance training increases muscle while eliminating body fat.

The overall effect is a tighter, more toned physique, but body weight could stay the same or even increase. Therefore, the obsession with numbers on a scale is unfounded; one can greatly improve appearance, enhance fitness levels, and eliminate unwanted fat all while maintaining a constant weight. Focus instead on a combination of body fat measurements in trouble spots and the image in the mirror.

2. I Just Gained Two Pounds!

Again, the numbers on the scale are of little importance in the short run. I hear too many women expressing genuine concern over a fluctuation of two or three pounds in bodyweight.

There are so many factors, none of which have to do with “getting fatter,” that could have caused such a minor gain, so there is no need for panic.

For example, an individual should weigh him/herself at the same time every day because the difference in weight between stepping on the scale first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and stepping on the scale after dinner can be quite noticeable. This difference, however, is normal and cyclical.

3. I’m Going On The ____ Diet.

To many women, the word diet implies two things that are notorious saboteurs: deprivation and an end-date. Whether it’s the grapefruit diet, Atkins, or some other fad diet in the latest fashion magazine (that’s why they’re fashion magazines, not health magazines), diets require deprivation. They force the follower to give up enjoyable foods, endure intense hunger or some combination of the two, which usually leads to intense cravings and even more intense binges.

A second thing that diets imply is an end date, a day when the h#llish deprivation comes to an abrupt end. So after that spring break trip, high school reunion, or wedding day, many women gain back even more weight/fat than they originally carried. This is because they feel entitled to finally eat the foods they love after a prolonged diet, and a week of carefree eating somehow turns into a month, then a year.

The way to avoid these pitfalls is to develop healthy eating habits instead of relying on crash diets. Eat nutrient-dense foods in small, frequent meals to stay satisfied and embrace portion control so that you can enjoy the foods that you love.

Exercise moderately, incorporating fun and variety to workouts to avoid burnout and boredom. Health and fitness should be lifelong goals, not 4-week tours de force.

4. I’ll Have The Salad, Please.
Salads can be a great source of nutrients while being low in saturated fat and simple carbohydrates. The key word is “can.” Too many times I see individuals pass up perfectly healthy sandwiches and entrees, opting instead for a salad drenched in dressing, bacon bits, and croutons. These items, loaded with fat and calories while scant on nutrients, will not only sabotage a diet but will often fail to make you full.

In order to construct a truly healthy salad, focus on nutrient-dense, low-calorie items such as spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, etc and mix in some lean proteins, beans, nuts, and low fat cheeses for flavor and texture.

The best feature of salads is the variety that can be created, so keep things interesting and flavorful. If you prefer the mixture of dressing, bacon bits, and croutons with some greens mixed in, you might as well have some pizza or burgers to at least fill you up. As you can see, not all salads are created equal.

5. I Try To Skip Breakfast.

Study after study confirms that individuals who eat a balanced breakfast complete with carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats lose more weight than those who skip this meal. Why?

After a night of fasting and inactivity (aka sleep), an individual’s metabolism is slowed to a crawl. Think of breakfast as the spark that ignites up your body’s metabolic fire, setting you up to burn calories for the entire day. More importantly, though, a nutrient-dense, satisfying breakfast prevents overeating later in the day.

While it is true that skipping breakfast equates to zero calories for that meal, it sets you up to consume many more calories throughout the day, when food choices probably aren’t the healthiest.

So if your goal is to shed body fat or lose unwanted weight, eat within 45 minutes of waking up. Breakfast can be as simple as a low-fat yogurt with a piece of fruit, so the “I don’t have time for breakfast” excuse won’t work.

6. It’s Reduced-Fat. I Can Eat As Much As I Want.

There are two pieces of information I would like to convey here. “Reduced fat” is a relative term and just because an item is labeled such does not mean that it is low in calories.

For example, if one serving of a certain food contains 60% of the daily recommended fat intake, reducing that amount to 30% is considered “reduced fat,” and will probably even be marketed as “half the fat of the original!”

However, 30% is still a lot of fat for one serving, so considered absolute values like how many grams of fat, carbohydrates, protein, etc. are consumed instead of relative values like “50% less fat.” Additionally, reaching fitness goals is largely about calorie intake. More body fat and unwanted weight will be gained by eating 500 calories of a low-fat item than by eating 100 calories of a high-fat item, so keep this in mind.