December 14, 2011
Myth 1: If you want to lose weight, only eat when you’re really hungry.
Truth: Regularly skipping meals like breakfast, or waiting until you’re famished to eat your next meal may seem like sure-fire ways to take in less calories throughout the day. However, more often than not, people with these sporadic eating habits often struggle with weight loss — as well as weight maintenance — because they feel more deprived leading them to make poorer food choices or simply overindulge the next time they eat.
What Can You Do: When it comes to losing weight and keeping it off, researchers for the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) found that evenly spacing healthy food consumption throughout the entire day is a key aspect of success.
The findings of their research also show that when it comes to keeping weight off, breakfast is key, so make a plan to eat small, well-balanced “mini” meals every three to four hours throughout the day — starting with consistently eating in the morning. Studies show that people who eat breakfast tend to consume less dietary fat, snack less impulsively, and engage in slightly more physical activity than those who skip breakfast.
Eating at regular intervals throughout the day can not only help you with your weight loss efforts and maintenance, but it will also help you stay nourished, provide increased energy for physical activity (another critical component of weight loss and maintenance), and may result in fewer mood swings.
Myth 2: Drawing your belly button to your spine is the best way to protect your back from injury during exercise.
Truth: While the act of drawing the belly button toward the spine — also known as “hollowing out” or “drawing in” — does in fact activate the transverse abdominis (the deep musculature of the core), a growing body of research in recent years has found that the technique of drawing in can actually decrease stability in some situations.
What You Can Do: Instead of hollowing the abdominal wall by drawing your bellybutton toward your spine when you're next exercising, simply activate and stiffen your abdominals — almost like you are about to be punched in the stomach. This contraction is called bracing, and it activates all of the major muscles that girdle the spine (e.g. transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, multifidi) helping to enhance the stability of the spine and also improve performance.
Myth 3: The more you sweat, the more calories you burn.
Truth: Sweating is the process your body uses to maintain its normal temperature. Essentially, you begin to sweat when your body starts to store heat because your body experiences a cooling effect when sweat evaporates. How much (or little) you sweat does not correlate with how many calories you are expending.
What You Can Do: When it comes to the number of calories burned, duration (how long you work out) and intensity (how hard you work out) are what matters, so resist the temptation to gauge the effectiveness of your workout solely based on how much you sweat.
Myth 4:Being skinny means you’re fit and healthy.
Truth: Although some individuals are genetically able to maintain a healthy weight without exercising or watching what they eat, sporting a thin frame does not necessarily protect anyone from the health risks that come along with poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle. In fact, the findings of one study indicate that healthy weight individuals who are inactive actually have higher rates of disease and death than obese individuals who regularly participate in physical activity.
What You Can Do: Focus on more than just the number displaying on the scale. To understand the complete picture of your health, fitness and wellness, you may want to first consult the professionals.
When it comes to general health, consider talking to your doctor to evaluate your health risks – blood pressure, cholesterol levels, etc.
When it comes to exercise, working with a personal trainer is a great way to gauge your current level of fitness via assessing body composition, which measures percentage of body fat, along with other physiological assessments like muscular strength, flexibility, cardiorespiratory fitness, etc. Working with a personal trainer will also help you get started on a path to adopting a more active lifestyle, especially if you’re not already physically active.
As far as nutrition is concerned, working with a registered dietitian is a perfect way to learn how to make wiser food choices, plan meals, and in turn improve your eating habits.
Finally, when it comes to your overall wellbeing, minimizing stress, surrounding yourself with the support of positive people, getting adequate sleep, and thinking positively will help you be both healthier and happier.
Did you miss Part 1 of fitness myth busters where Matthews shed light on four other misconceptions? Read the post here.
Jessica Matthews, MS, E-RYTContributor
Jessica Matthews, M.S., E-RYT is assistant professor of exercise science at Miramar College. As a leading fitness expert, writer and educator Jessica is a regular contributor to numerous publications, including Shape and Oprah.com. She holds a B.S. in physical education teacher education from Coastal Carolina University and M.S. in physical education from Canisius College. She is a certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Health Coach through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as well as an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT) through Yoga Alliance and trained stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga instructor. Prior to teaching at Miramar, Jessica worked full-time ACE, serving in a number of key roles including exercise physiologist, certification director and senior health and fitness editor. Her past work also includes serving as aquatics director at Conway Medical Wellness and Fitness Center and designing health and physical education curriculum for grades K-12. Full Bio Jessica Matthews »