Joe came to see me in my office last week for a consultation and is now about to start our 10 Week program. Aside from being overweight and sedentary, he has prediabetes and high blood pressure. Coupled with a poor family history, Joe decided to take action to reverse his problems and prevent anything worse from happening now. In the course of our conversation, I could see that one of the biggest challenges for Joe was going to be “deprograming.” His brain was full of preconceived ideas he gathered from multiple, unscientific magazines and online articles.
In the last couple of generations, it has been easy for people to put out a lot of material and reach many people. But is this information evidence-based or are they tall-tales that have no basis in reality?
Let’s take a look at some popular myths concerning our lifestyle habits– the way we eat and exercise.
Myth #1—Sugar is bad for you and therefore all carbohydrates are bad for you.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. All carbs are not created equal. There is a world of difference between refined, processed carbohydrate and between unrefined, intact, whole carbs. So yes, foods containing processed sugars like candy, baked goods, white flour and sugared beverages don’t provide good nutrition and can indeed cause harm. But this doesn’t necessarily hold true for all foods containing natural sugar like fruits, legumes, and whole grains.
Myth #2—Gluten is bad so avoid it.
Take about 10 steps into any grocery store, look up at the shelves, and you will see the words gluten free on many products. This is very important if you have celiac disease, gluten allergies, or gluten sensitivities. Then you certainly need to shop for gluten free products. However, this is a very small percentage of the population. It is no more than 4-5% of people. Gluten free products have less iron, fiber and b vitamins, so don’t go on a gluten free eating program unless it is absolutely necessary.
Myth #3—Juicing is a healthy way to get my nutrition.
I am sure you’ve seen them all—detox juice, green juice, juices infused with turmeric and ginger. It is true that juicing is an effective way to increase vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients in one’s diet (Zheng 2017). However, this is not as good as eating fruits and vegetables whole. Juicing removes that much needed fiber that occurs naturally in these foods. Fiber is essential for good digestive health, cholesterol reduction, and keeping blood sugar under control. Also, consider the calories you consume with juicing. For instance, you need 5 or 6 oranges for a glass of orange juice. You wouldn’t eat 5 oranges. According to registered dietician Kim Kircherr, “it is much more economical and nutritious to eat whole fruits and vegetables in salads, soups and stir fries.”
Myth #4–Vitamins and minerals are good for health, so I should take a lot of supplements.
Vitamins, like C for instance, keep you from getting scurvy. The mineral Iron keeps you from being anemic. Still, having an increase in vitamins is not necessarily better. The best way for the body to absorb vitamins is through food, not from supplements. When you take too much of fat soluble vitamins, the excess is stored in fat and you risk toxicity in large doses. When you take a lot of water soluble vitamins, you will just excrete what your body doesn’t need when you go to the bathroom. So, all that money you have paid for these large doses is simply “going down the toilet.”
Eating right and balanced is the single best way to get all your vitamins and minerals. Don’t be fooled into taking something just because it is popular. Also, we don’t have any good studies yet on the long term effect of taking supplements. Even if you are exercising intensely, you don’t need any supplementation.
Myth #5–Exercise burns lots of calories.
In general, if you’re walking at a brisk pace, you are only going to burn about the amount of calories that are found in a banana. That’s not very much. Running at about a 5 mph pace for 30 minutes, is only going to burn the amount of calories that are in a bagel. Combining a healthy, balanced diet with regular moderate to vigorous exercise will help you lose fat. Exercise helps with weight loss for a lot of reasons, but calorie burn isn’t a big player. Look at exercise as an essential element of good health—it is!
Myth #6–Lots of sit-ups will make your stomach flat.
What’s true is that ab exercises will help to tone and firm up that area and maybe it will help to lose some inches. But it’s not going to burn that layer of fat that’s on top of the abdominal muscles. Even if you are burning calories, you can’t guarantee that the weight is just going to come off from the one area that you want. It’s going to come off overall, and you are going to have an overall weight loss. When you start eating correctly and doing aerobic exercise, that layer of fat should start to come off. As a result, the stomach will look a lot better because you paid attention to working those muscles.
Myth #7–Exercising 15 minutes a day, 3 days a week is enough for good health.
Think again! People need a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise most days of the week. Preferably a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobics per week and two days of some muscle building. It might mean working up a sweat, but when you make the proper investment, the dividends that pay off are good health, good daily function and good quality of life.
Myth #8–Aerobic training is more important than strength training.
Muscular fitness is just as important as aerobic fitness. It helps prevent osteoporosis, and it helps with weight management because it elevates your metabolism. Muscular fitness also helps you with preventing or correcting insulin resistance, which could lead to diabetes. It’s also vital for basic function. So, if you want to be able to hold and play with your grandchildren as you age, start working on building muscle now.
Myth #9–People who exercise need less sleep.
People who exercise need more sleep than those who don’t. One of the benefits of regular exercise is that it can help you fall asleep faster, sleep more deeply, and have overall more restful sleep. You will receive the full restorative power that sleep provides.
Myth #10–It is best to exercise in the morning.
We spend too much time and money researching the absurd! The best time to exercise is when you are actually going to do the exercise! Examine your day and see where it fits in best. Keep in mind, exercising intensely too close to bedtime can keep you from falling asleep easily
Joe and I spoke about many of his misconceptions. He is now very open to the idea that a lot of what he thinks about diet and exercise may not be true. I know from experience that changing beliefs and unfounded perceptions can take work. Nevertheless, we are both ready for the challenges that lay ahead. Being informed with facts based on real and current research is integral if you want to “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”