If fitness were easy, nobody would be struggling with excess weight or to build the muscle size they want. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as calories in, calories out, and getting in those recommended 150 minutes of cardio per week. These items do matter, but there’s a lot more to it than that—and a lot of people are sabotaging themselves without even realizing it. For starters, the number of so-called “healthy” people aren’t nearly as prevalent as we may think. This also goes for the number of un-diagnosed eating disorders, which can include much more than anorexia and purging-induced bulimia. It also includes binge eating disorder, night eating syndrome, and orthorexia. This is just one of many factors that may play a role in your fitness, and should be addressed before and during any new fitness undertaking.
Still, there are a few common issues that crop up and should be considered if you’re struggling to reach the level of healthy fitness you’re chasing. Here are the top five most common, why they happen, and what to do about it:
1. Clear alcohol is zero-carb and won’t affect your weight loss journey.
Technically, yes, clear alcohol is relatively low carb. This can make a difference if you switch from a high-carb alcoholic beverage like beer, but alcohol by nature slows down the metabolism. Alcohol is also high-calorie and lowers inhibitions (including your natural inhibitions not to binge on food or eat junk food). If reducing fat is your primary goal, it’s a good idea to ditch alcoholic beverages altogether.
Ultimately, there is no benefit to drinking alcohol, and it will do nothing but get in the way of your fat loss journey. Alcohol works in a very complicated way within the body and brain, and has been proven to make stubborn fat stick even more firmly.
2. All cardio and no strength training.
Americans are getting better at this overall, but women continue to pursue this strategy more so than men. The idea is that they don’t want to look “masculine,” and why waste time weight training when cardio is burning calories and reducing fat? For starters, women don’t have the correct hormones to bulk up very large naturally. Secondly, the more muscle you have, the better you are at burning fat. In other words, muscle helps your cardio while also combatting sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss). It also helps with bone mineral density, which will protect you from brittle bones as you age.
3. All calories are the same (it’s the nutrients within them that are different).
This is only partially true. Yes, in some ways, calories are calories. If you eat nothing but 1,000 calories worth of candy bars per day, you will probably lose fat. However, these empty calories are going to starve your body, and you will hit a plateau. Empty calories also don’t help you feel full and will affect your metabolism, digestive system, and overall bodily function. You are what you eat, and these types of binge-like short-term solutions will only set you up for failure.
4. Opting for diet soda.
In terms of sheer calories count, diet soda has zero calories compared to around 100 – 120 per serving of regular soda. However, the chemicals in diet soda are so relatively new that nobody knows the full consequences of consuming diet soda. What we do know is that dark soda, diet or not, can completely decompose a variety of hard objects (including teeth). Diet soda also tricks the brain into thinking it’s getting sugar, but then pulls that final satisfaction away. This can make a person crave more sugar because the body is confused why it was teased with it. A great goal is to substitute water for any beverages besides tea (green and black tea offer a rich variety of benefits).
5. Getting most of your nutrients from supplements.
It’s true that it’s nearly impossible to have an adequate nutrient intake through diet alone while maintaining a reasonable caloric intake. However, some people are tempted to eat as they like and supplement what their body needs solely through supplements. It’s always better to get these nutrients from whole foods. One of the major reasons is because taking a handful of vitamins means your body can’t process all of those nutrients at once. It’s why professional bodybuilders have a strict schedule of when they take their supplements and how. This isn’t feasible for the majority of people, not to mention that supplements can quickly become expensive. Ask your doctor for an annual vitamin deficiency screening and if you can’t address deficiencies through diet alone, only then will a high-quality supplement be a positive solution.
Most people are aware of where they’re cheating themselves, but it’s easy to ignore these gut feelings because of familiarity and convenience. When it comes to fitness, there will be ups, downs, and plateaus. However, doing the same thing and expecting different results is Einstein’s definition of madness, and this goes for how you tackle fitness. Keep in mind that diet usually outranks exercise, and that’s where everyone should start when it comes to getting healthier. When reading up on fitness myths, don’t believe the myths that there are shortcuts or miracle cures. Whole foods, holistic fitness, and being honest with yourself is key.