Sometimes I feel like cranky old man. I’m not as laid back as I used to be, and this is never more true than when I’m all fed up with a healthy dose of B.S. from the fitness industry.
Today I’m all geared up to yell at the kids to get off my lawn. But the “kids” are fitness industry “leaders” and my “lawn” is you. That’s right, you’re my lawn. That’s why I water you, and feed you, and pick up the dog poop. Because I…care.
That analogy went a little sideways, but I think it makes sense if you look at it right. No, tilt your head a little more. Yeah, there you go. See, now it makes perfect sense. Right?
OK, Michael. Don’t scare them off.
There are a lot of lies the fitness industry perpetuates that really grind my gears.
But below, in no particular order, are my top 10. These are my top 10 because they shame people, and/or make it harder for people who are looking to be healthier to make sustainable progress.
If you disagree, or have your own you’d like to add, drop your thoughts in the comments below! I’d love to talk further about these with you.
#1. You have to diet to lose weight
Let’s make sure we’re on the same page with this one. When I say diet, I mean what we all think of when we hear the word “diet” – restricting food in some way, usually via a popular method (gluten-free, keto, Atkins, etc.) with the intent to lose weight.
I don’t know what the formal definition of diet is, but I think that was a pretty good one.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “I need to go on a diet.” Thousands? Probably, honestly. And how many times a have you heard a fitness professional talking about the need for people to go on a diet? Maybe just as many times. We are beat over the head with it, and it’s ingrained in us that the only way to lose weight is through restriction, and deprivation.
Want proof that diets tend to not work? You are probably your own proof. How many times have you gone on a diet and had it stick? There’s some pretty solid and specific-to-you proof.
In fact, I would argue that diets rarely work. They fail to address the real issues (your relationship with food, your habits and behaviors, your coping skills) and act as a quick fix that falls apart before too long.
Also, can we take back the word “diet” already? I mean, really we’re all on a diet, because a diet is simply what we eat…healthy or not. Do you eat McDonald’s every day? That’s your diet. Do you only eat vegetables and fish? That’s your diet. The food you buy your dog? That’s their diet. Plus some scraps from the table because he’s such a good boy! Such a good boy!
Whatever you eat, that’s your diet. And you don’t need to restrict or deprive yourself to lose weight. In fact, you probably shouldn’t.
#2. You aren’t healthy unless you’re lean
I hate this one. I really hate it. It makes people disappointed in their progress because they feel like it’s “not enough”.
Lean does not automatically mean healthy. Just like body fat doesn’t automatically mean unhealthy. You can be very lean and be emotionally, mentally, and physically unhealthy. I’ve seen it many times. You can also be considered overweight and be very healthy in all those categories.
It’s almost like judging someone’s health by the way they look is a really stupid thing to do. So don’t listen to anyone who says it’s not…including yourself. Let actual health markers (blood pressure, labs, annual doctors visits, etc.) determine that. Not the scale.
#3. Fit people are very lean year round
Hang around someone who is prepping for a body building or fitness show, or getting ready for a photo shoot for very long and you will quickly learn that getting to high levels of leanness is incredibly difficult for most people. There is so much work that goes into getting stage or photo ready…it’s grueling. And potentially dangerous. Water and sodium manipulation, diuretics, extreme dehydration…just to “look good”. Not too mention perfect lighting and Photoshop to make them look even better.
There’s a really good chance that the people you see on magazines only looked like that the day the had their photo shoot, and won’t look like that again until their next one.
That Instagram “model” who posts pictures of her abs every day, maybe she looks like that all the time, or maybe she posts a bunch of pictures over several months, all from the same photo shoot. That absolutely happens.
Sure, we all know people who seem to be able to stay quite lean throughout the year, but that’s the rarity not the norm. And it certainly doesn’t indicate any level of health. People work very hard, and often put their heath at risk getting lean enough to be considered stage or photo shoot ready. And the process is often incredibly disruptive to their lives. I’ve been around them. They’re usually miserable.
Don’t make the assumption that they walk around that lean on a daily basis, or that a high level of leanness is any kind of indicator of being healthy or fit. It’ll only make you frustrated with progress that you should be celebrating.
#4. You need to detox your body
I’ll be honest, I’m so tried of detoxes. I’m tired of hearing about them. I’m tired of people peddling them. I’m tired of people’s health being negatively impacted by them. And, I’m tired of people not giving their bodies enough credit.
I’ll keep this short. Your body has it’s own detox system. If you have a liver, kidneys, and skin that you can sweat through, you’re body is detoxing just fine on it’s own.
“But I did a detox once, and I felt so much better!”
Of course you did. You stopped eating a bunch of highly processed foods, stopped overeating, and were better hydrated. Anyone would feel better doing that. It’s not the detox that made you feel better.
#5. Starvation mode is real
I’m willing to bet that more people than not believe that starvation mode is a real thing. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, starvation mode is the notion that if you eat too little for too long, your body thinks you’re starving, will stop you from continuing to lose weight, and possibly even cause you to start gaining weight. However, despite how much so called fitness pros perpetuate it, it’s flat out not true.
It has about as much scientific backing as “put on a coat or you’ll catch a cold.” We’ve heard it a lot, but hearing something a lot doesn’t make it science.
Yes, metabolism slows as we eat less food over time. That’s what the body does. Eating less food, and carrying less body weight will cause your metabolism to drop because it doesn’t need to operate as high as it used to. There’s less food to digest and less mass to maintain, so it doesn’t need to expend as much energy. That’s simply the body maintaining homeostasis, not some negative effect of you eating too little. Your metabolism may slow down some, but if you’re truly in a caloric deficit, you wont stop losing weight.
As far as actually gaining weight because of a prolonged calorie deficit? Nope. That’s flat out false. Need proof? Check out the Minnesota Starvation Experiment. Look at videos and pictures from the Holocaust. If this were true, wouldn’t those starving third world countries be filled with overweight people instead people who are emaciated?
The fitness industry needs to stop spreading this falsehood.
#6. Carbs make you fat
Carbs have been getting a bad wrap for quite a while now. And the rise in popularity of low carb diets, like keto, have only furthered the demonetization of things like fruit and grains.
People really like to spread information that is sensationalized and not backed by any evidence.
The statement “carbs make you fat” fits this bill.
When someone tells me that carbs are bad, or make you fat, I find it interesting to simply ask them why. Usually, I’m met with blank stare. They have no idea, nor do they have evidence for what they’re saying. They’ve just heard it repeated so much that they believe it. I don’t put the blame solely on these people, after all we’ve all had that message beat into our heads by an industry that is supposed to have our best interest at heart. But, at the same time, we need to take agency for ourselves and make sure we’re well, and accurately, informed.
No food (not even ice cream and cookies) can cause you to gain weight on it’s own. Gaining weight, put simply, is the result of eating more calories than your body needs on a regular basis.
Can eating too many carbs cause you to gain weight? Yes. But that’s the result of the amount, not the carbs themselves.
#7. Lifting weights will make you bulky
This is another one of my least favorites on this list. First, it’s flat out not true, and is only perpetuated due to a gross lack of understanding of how the human body works. Second, it often discourages women from strength training. And everyone, women included, could benefit greatly from strength training.
Muscle gain is a two part process. First, there must be enough damage caused to the muscle, typically via strength training, to cause a growth response. Second, there must be enough extra energy (excess calories) in the body to facilitate and support that growth. Building muscle takes energy. If the energy isn’t there, it wont happen.
Can lifting weights cause muscle growth? Absolutely, but ONLY if coupled with an excess of calories over an extended period of time.
#8. Sugar is toxic
Let’s talk about “toxic” for a minute. If someone is going to say something is “toxic” they have to mention dosage. Otherwise, they might not fully understand the concept of toxic. Most things can be toxic at a certain dosage.
Yes, water can be toxic. In fact, too much water can literally kill you. That’s right, the most benign thing in the world can literally kill you if you get too much of it. Now, you’d have to drink an absolute ton of it to be in danger of this, but it’s possible.
If someone is going to say “sugar is toxic”, it needs to be immediately followed with “at a dosage of”, or they don’t really grasp what they’re saying. Again, this amounts to something that gets repeated so much, no one questions it, and spreads it like wildfire.
Now, can sugary foods be problematic? Of course. They’re delicious, and designed in a way that makes us want to keep eating them without feeling satisfied. But, that doesn’t make them toxic.
*It’s worth mentioning that most of the foods we label as “sugary” (ice cream, doughnuts, cookies, milkshakes) also contain high amounts of fat. So to say the issue with these foods is the high sugar content is really missing the boat, and not looking at the full picture.*
#9. Soreness is an indicator of a good workout
Soreness is an indicator that you did something you haven’t done for a while, or before. It’s due to repeated motion through a range of motion you’re not used to, or with a load (weight) you’re not efficient with yet.
#10. Your worth is determined by your size/shape/weight
No, no, no, no, no.
If anyone tells you this, or implies this, know that they are flat out wrong.
Your worth has nothing to do with any physical features, your size, or a number on the scale.
Your value is not impacted by what you look like in a swimsuit.
Anyone that makes you feel any different is speaking from their own inadequacies and insecurities. Shut them down, and get that noise out of your life.
The fitness industry is rampant with falsehoods and lies. It is an industry that largely preys on people’s fears and insecurities to make money. It can be an ugly industry.
But, it’s not all bad. There are a lot of folks who care more about you being successful than they do about getting your money. Be careful who you let influence you. This whole “being a healthier person” thing is tricky on it’s own. Don’t let someone make it unnecessarily harder by spreading false beliefs.
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