exercise nutrition

Busting Fitness Myths for Spring

Myth 1: Weight Loss = Fat Loss

If only this myth were true… unfortunately, when you first start seeing the numbers on the scale drop, chances are good that it’s not necessarily fat loss. Instead, it’s likely water weight, especially if you have recently decreased the amount of carbs consumed.

In addition, if you see weight increase quickly, it could be the result of eating more sodium than usual or hormonal changes.

To help support your body’s fat loss, it’s a good idea to increase water intake when you start reducing calories. This is especially true if you’re increasing exercise.

Myth 2: You Can Target Your Trouble Spots

“I hate my thighs…” (or belly or bat wings), so I’ll just train that section really hard. Sadly, spot training has never worked. You can’t just sit on the adductor machine for hours to slim those thighs or do thousands of crunches for a flatter stomach.

Instead, you’ll need to follow a smart diet plan that creates a calorie deficit to lose fat from your entire body. Until you lose that weight, you won’t know where the weight loss will come from, and every body is different. As the fat comes off, you’ll be able to see the results of your training efforts if you target certain muscles, but only when you’ve reduced body fat.

Myth 3: “Cleanses” Lead to Rapid Weight Loss

One of the most popular diet myths is that our bodies need help cleansing, so it’s important to go on a highly restrictive diet at least a couple of times a year to “clean out.” Along with this recommendation is often an intense juice cleanse and perhaps some fairly harsh supplements to help clear out the digestive system.

It is true that you may go to the bathroom a lot, but that doesn’t translate to fat loss. In fact, many of these diets are highly restrictive, and they provide a big dose of liquid sugar (in the form of fruit juice), which can lead to blood sugar spikes and crashes. Another caveat is that these are often very low in calories, leading to increased hunger, headaches, lack of energy, and just feeling blah.

Worse, the deprivation can lead you to overeat once the cleanse is complete combined with a decrease in metabolism as your body strives to hold onto calories since it’s no longer sure when the next meal is coming its way. Weight loss in this manner can be short lived and often just water weight.  It’s not a very fun way to diet, and could also deprive you of important nutrients your body needs to function optimally.

Myth 4: Drastically Cut Calories to Lose Weight

Thinking of a “crash diet”? Just drop calories to under 1,100, 800, or even 500, and you’ll drop pounds fast. Seems logical. Unfortunately, it’s much more likely to set you up for failure and long-term health consequences than help you lose fat.

Diets like this can lead to nutritional deficiencies, they’re impossible to follow long term, and getting less fuel than your body needs leads to decreased energy levels, headaches, and simply feeling bad. Most importantly, in the long run, your body will start using your muscles for fuel and your metabolism may slow to a crawl to help you survive.

Moderate decreases in calories will be more sustainable in the long-term and provide consistent results. Additionally, nutrient-dense choices, including eating plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, quality proteins, and slow-burning carbohydrates (e.g., whole grains, fiber-rich starchy vegetables, and legumes) will help you stay full for longer.

Myth 5: All That Matters is Calories In, Calories Out

Yes, there is some truth to weight loss being a numbers game. However, if that’s the only focus, you can end up trading in nutrient-dense foods that will keep you full and satisfied (like whole eggs and avocado on whole grain toast) for foods that are low in calories as well as nutrients (like rice cakes and egg whites). Eating a nutrient-rich diet and choosing foods that satisfy your tastebuds as well as your body will help you stick to your plan for long-term weight loss. It will also fuel you by providing the nutrients you need to stay active and mentally sharp.

Myth 6: Eat Whatever You Want As Long As You Exercise

You simply can’t out-exercise a bad diet. The math just doesn’t work out. It would take hours to “work off” just a few slices of pizza—and if you have a thing for high-calorie junk food, you’ll never be able to burn off those excess calories, even with hours on the treadmill.

Plus, you aren’t doing much good for your training if all you’re eating are empty calories. Instead, food is fuel to provide energy for you throughout the day—including as you exercise. Tailor your diet to lose weight; exercise to improve fitness (physical and mental!). They both fit brilliantly together for a healthier, happier lifestyle. But one can’t overcome a lack of the other.

Myth 7: Eat Whatever You Want That is Low Fat, Low Carb, Sugar Free or Labeled as “Diet”

If this myth were true, we would all be at our ideal weight! No matter which “healthy” claim you find on a food, the food isn’t likely to be calorie free. In fact, many of the worst offenders are just packaged, processed foods that won’t add anything to your diet, despite their label claims.

Skip the “healthy”, keto, sugar-free cookies—or at the very least, ensure you’re sticking with a single serving—and make better whole food choices most of the time. You’ll enjoy more satisfying meals that will energize you throughout the day.

Myth 8: It Takes Willpower to Lose Weight

“I’m just not motivated enough…” “I don’t have the willpower to …” If you are using willpower alone to get healthier, you may succeed in the short-term, but when you’re tired, stressed, or just having a bad day, willpower will inevitably fail you.

Instead, create habits rather than relying on willpower. Prepare yourself and your environment (kitchen, car, workplace, etc.) for success. Ensure you have healthy foods that are easy and convenient to eat, limit access to foods that don’t fit your plan, prep meals, and schedule workouts. These steps go a long way toward building solid habits to get you to your goals – minimal willpower needed.

Myth 9: Weight-Loss Results are Immediate

Some people may see results within days of beginning a new fitness lifestyle. But that isn’t true for everyone. Some people may, in fact, not see any results on the scale for a month – or more. Even after loading up their grocery carts with healthy, nutrient-dense foods, exercising consistently, and doing everything “right,” the scale may not budge for a while or ever.

The human body is complicated! And all of us are different. Weight loss comes from our unique metabolism, hormones, environments, and perhaps health conditions. Understand that when you begin exercising, you may add some solid muscle, which can increase your overall weight.

Additionally, don’t just rely on scale weight to measure success. Are you enjoying more focus, greater energy levels, improved skin health, better resistance to common colds, looser jeans? All of these measures can be markers of your progress instead of the scale. Be patient and consistent.

Myth 10: Skinny People Are Healthy

Normal weight, skinny, or lean people are not always healthier than heavier people. It is true that being overweight leads to increased risks of health issues, especially if your weight borders on obese. However, on the other end of the spectrum, being ultra-lean can also lead to increased health risks. Beyond that, though, it’s difficult to know how healthy a person is depending on their weight. And some people naturally carry more weight than others.

Instead of focusing on the scale, if health is your goal, it’s much more important to consume a nutritious diet and enjoy an active lifestyle.

Myth 11: Fat Turns into Muscle

This is impossible. Muscle and fat are made of different tissue types. If you do stop exercising and notice that you gain weight, it might be because you have not reduced your caloric intake to make up for the difference in activity, which means you are losing muscle and gaining fat – two separate processes.

Myth 12: Joining a Gym will give Me Motivation

While a gym has many tools, classes and programs, the mere fact of joining will not “give” you motivation. motivation in an inside job and comes from having a long-term goal, plan and maybe a coach. Research should that those who are physically active have a willingness to expend effort towards their goals, enjoy the exercise they choose to do and feel a sense of loss when exercise is missed.

Myth 13: Running is Better than Walking for Exercise

There is no one form of cardio that is “better” than another. If you prefer to do one over others, it will keep you motivated to continue to do it. All exercise has its benefits and risks. When choosing, consider what you enjoy, what you can start with in small increments, how you can make it fun and change things when needed and how closely it aligns to your goals.

Myth 14: Avoid Fats if you want to be Healthy or Lose Weight

You do not have to avoid all fats if you’re trying to improve your health or lose weight. Fat provides essential nutrients and should be an important part of healthy eating plans. Fats help keep your feeling full, provide fuel for your body and brain and help with nutrient absorption. Bottom line – fats don’t make you fat, consuming too much food makes you fat. You DO want to avoid trans fats however. These can be found in packaged snacks and baked goods, fried fast foods, margarines and non-dairy creamers.

Myth 15: Eating Many Small Meals throughout the Day is Better for Weight Loss than Eating Two or Three Big Meals

While it’s true that you get a small metabolic boost after eating, the boost that you do get from eating represents 10 percent of the calories you burn. Fidgeting and other activities of daily living have the potential to burn more calories than those burned during food digestion. In fact, research shows that lower numbers of regularly timed meals (i.e., two or three meals per day) may decrease the risk of weight gain. Researchers also suggest there may be an increased risk of certain diseases when eating six or more meals per day.

What is your favorite? What Surprised You?


I work with mid-life men and women who want to feel younger through improving their relationship to food, movement and mindfulness.

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