Myth #1: Diets have to be perfect. What does “perfect eating” even mean? I am not sure I can even tell you. The diet world makes us believe that if we enjoy some ice cream or a bowl of pasta, that we have failed in a particular diet or we are “cheating”. This is the farthest thing from the truth. I think the key question regarding individual nutrition adherence is, “can I sustain what I am doing?” According to an article on bmc.org, 45 million Americans go on a diet each year. Unfortunately, nearly two-thirds of Americans are also considered overweight. Many people go through this “yo-yo” dieting and it is unsuccessful in the long-term weight loss journey. Whatever level you may be at, a solid nutrition plan should be sustainable for you to follow over a period of time and eventually stick as a lifestyle pattern. Because let’s face it, that is how results are achieved.
If you despise being on the “diet” you are following, you will not continue. “Perfect” and “Clean” dieting needs to be redefined. How about sustainable, flexible, and consistent? Nutrition should not feel like you are doing everything wrong. I say master the basics: drink plenty of water, eat vegetables and fruits every day, eat adequate amounts of protein, eat a smart amount of whole grains and limit your junk and processed foods. Go from there. If you want to improve your physique, sure, you need to improve your nutrition and become more detail oriented. But you do not need some unrealistic and extreme plan to be successful. What you need is consistency. Consistently eating nutrient-dense foods and paying attention to your calories most of the time will lead you to your results. Don’t over think it.
Myth #2 Lifting weights make you “bulky”. How you lift weights and what extent you take it to will dictate the changes you will see in your physique. Proper nutrition adherence and a focused lifting program is what leads to increase muscle size and volume. We want lean muscle on our frame. Now, not everyone needs to compete in bodybuilding, but I do believe everyone can benefit from some sort of strength training. In a study published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine, researchers at Penn State College of Medicine found a link between strength training and a longer life. So in essence, consistent strength training may be the key component to slowing down the aging process. In my opinion, everyone needs to strength train in some sort of fashion. The frequency of workouts will depend on the goal of the individual. For general fitness and strength, I recommend at least 2-3 days per week of hitting the weights. The more definition and sculpting you want to see, the more you need to be “under the bar”. Strength training done correctly, will improve your lean muscle definition, increase your total body strength, boost your metabolism, protect your bone and joint health, help you to keep your coordination and agility and plays a vital role in preventing certain diseases.
When lifting weights, focus on controlling the weight and perfecting your technique. This will give you more return on investment. Haphazard strength training can increase your chances of injury so it’s very important to learn how to lift weights correctly. Invest in a qualified coach to teach you how to strength train in a safe and effective manner. It can be simple, do something for the quads (squats or lunges), do something for the backside (single leg deadlifts or deadlift patterns), push something (push-ups or bench press), pull something (inverted rows or chin-ups) and hit your core (planks, side planks, or farmer walks). Mix and match your sets and repetitions; one week complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions. The next week perform 5 sets of 7 repetitions with a slightly heavier load with a change in the tempo of the lift. There are multitudes of ways to create variety with the above basic patterns. Strength train to move well and be strong.
Myth #3: A workout should be grueling every time you train. I don’t care if you are the fittest person in the world, training to your maximum, training to failure, and training at high intensities every training session is a recipe for bad things to happen. If you train 2-3 times a week, you can add appropriate intensity into each of those training sessions. Since you are only getting in a few workouts, you need to be efficient and keep the tempo of your sessions high and focused. If you train more than 4 times per week, you need to balance in low, medium and high-intensity training sessions appropriately.
It can be a simple design like a high/medium/low training split. As you gain fitness and improve your performance, a smart and balanced program design becomes crucial to your success. Adding in active recovery sessions that incorporate tissue work, mobility and flexibility drills and dynamic movements are highly beneficial for the longevity of your functional performance. Smart and focused training leads to consistent results. Hard and random training leads to injury and burnout. Choose wisely.
Myth #4: Carbohydrates are the enemy. Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients us humans need for survival. Fruits, vegetables, grains, breads, pasta, rice, and beans can all be healthy carbohydrate options. Candy, soda, pastries, and other sweets are considered “unhealthy” carbohydrate foods. How you choose and how much you consume, and how active you are, all play vital roles in energy breakdown. If you have gained excessive weight over the past 5-10 years, you may have blamed carbohydrates because they are the easiest foods to over consume. Then the mindset turns against this macronutrient and you think drastically limiting them in your diet will be the answer. As that may work, you have to ask yourself, “is this sustainable to follow?” Weight gain happens because you have been in a calorie surplus over the years.
Whether you have consumed too many carbohydrates, proteins, or fats, the key component is that you have been in a surplus. Sure, lowering your late night chips and pizza can be a good starting place, but look at the big picture. It’s not necessarily carbohydrates’ fault. It’s consuming too much food. Period. Before you eliminate one of our important macronutrients, think about rearranging your approach. Look at everything. How much steak did you eat? How much oil do you use when you cook? How much peanut butter did you spread on your sandwich? How many salted cashews did you eat? How often do you go out to eat? How much alcohol do you drink each week? How much salad dressing did you use? How many chips did you eat? How many sodas are you drinking each week? How much rice pilaf is on your plate? It’s a big picture and blaming one macronutrient is poor logic. Move and exercise more and be mindful of all of your calories and you will get leaner.
Myth #5: That your journey is linear. Going after your goals is more like a deranged roller coaster. Up, down, sideways, crooked, back, forward… The journey to your best self is not a linear line to your goals. It is a path of overcoming obstacles and hardships. The key is to be resilient, persevere, and learn from your mistakes. Understand that there will be days when you may not feel like getting out of bed for your 5:30 am workout. But you know you still have to do it. It is not a sexy, “motivated all the time” mindset. It is a strong mental attitude that you have created that is obsessed with the process.
You recognize that action is required to achieving your goals. You do not allow discouragement to ruin your ambitions. You must fight for the things you want to accomplish. You must get back up when you have fallen. You must never give up. This type of mindset and philosophy will lead you to massive success.