As I was scrolling through Instagram this week I’ve had a fitness “influencer” trying to sell me Skinny Tea and seen an ad for electric pads that will get me killer abs while I watch TV (I thought they had disappeared in the 90’s). It got me thinking about how confusing the health and fitness industry is and how much we are all held back by the unscrupulous brands and individuals out there trying to make easy money from an unwitting public. So I compiled a quick list of the things that the health and fitness industry doesn’t want you to know to help you cut through the crap. Let’s start with diet and nutrition
All diets work by reducing calories
Low carb, low fat, paleo, plant based, Atkins, fasting….whatever it is, it mostly works because it makes you consume less, often by reducing or cutting out a particular type of food. Weight loss happens when you eat slightly less calories than you burn through exercise and daily movement, weight gain happens when you eat slightly more than you burn. The good news is that this means that any diet will probably work for you, but it also means that you don’t need a diet with a fancy name to lose weight. The perfect diet is the one that you feel good on and you can stick to for 3 months, 6 months or the rest of your life – and it very rarely means needing to cut out any food
Crash diets don’t work
Detox teas, skinny teas, cleansing teas, smoothie diets, they’re all bullshit. They are huge pyramid schemes set up to line the pockets of dishonest fitness influencers. The way they “work” is by causing a huge, unsustainable reduction in your calories. In the first week or 2 your weight drops fast but what they don’t tell you is that almost all of the immediate weight loss is actually water loss not fat. Before long your metabolism crashes to a halt and as soon as you start eating normally the weight piles back on and you’re back where you started, if not worse
No amount of exercise can erase your bad eating and drinking habits
You won’t burn many calories in a 1 hour gym session so what you do outside the gym has to be under control, especially what you eat and drink. I would go as far to say that about 80% of your results come from what you put in your mouth. Where most people fall down is at the weekend
Low fat foods aren’t magically healthy
Just because something is low fat doesn’t make it automatically better or healthier, it’s mainly a marketing gimmick. Fat makes foods taste good, so often when fat was taken out manufacturers replaced the fat with sugars, preservatives or other artificial flavours to make it taste good. In some cases the low fat version has the same amount of calories as the full fat version.
No one food will make you fat
Anything can be part of a healthy diet, what’s more important is how often and how much of it you eat. If you eat a square or 2 of chocolate every day amongst an otherwise nutritious diet it won’t do you any harm, if you eat 2 bars of chocolate every day it might be the different between weight loss and weight gain at the end of the week. Everything in moderation
You can’t reduce body fat in just one place
This is called spot reduction and unfortunately it doesn’t work. No matter how many ab crunches you do you won’t have a 6 pack until your overall body fat gets down to a low enough level, which is a factor of your diet more than what you do in the gym. Working out will mean the muscle looks more pronounced when you get your body fat low enough
You don’t need supplements
What they won’t tell you is that your primary focus should be on your daily nutrition and what you’re putting in your body through normal foods. Supplements can help especially protein powders as many of us don’t get enough protein in our diets, but the difference they make is minimal. Supplements are useful to supplement your diet where you have gaps, nothing more.
You can eat carbs after 6pm, or 7pm, or 8pm, or 9pm….
Carbs are not bad, and carbs at night are no worse than carbs in the morning or afternoon, they are all digested in exactly the same way. How many calories you have had, and how many carbs you have had are much more important variables than what time of day you had them. There are always personal differences, the important thing is to find what works for you. I’ve found that I have very low energy levels and feel irritable when I have a lower carb diet, but have better workouts and more sound sleep when I eat regular carbs. Find out what works for you but don’t fear night-time carbs
There are no quick fixes
if it sounds too good to be true it probably is, anything that promises results in 4 weeks is lying. The only thing that works is getting regular exercise in and being consistent with your diet week in week out for at least 3 months, ideally more. You don’t hear this much because it’s not sexy and doesn’t allow anyone to sell you stuff. But that’s what works, and always has done. If you’ve been gaining weight for 10 years to the point you are at now, you won’t lose it all again in 2 months. Give it time, make gradual changes, trust the process and results will come.
I hope this shifts your perspective on healthy eating and I’d love to hear from you – what surprises you the most from the list above? And what have I missed?
In part 2 I’ll tell you what the health and fitness doesn’t tell you about exercise.