Almost everything happens fast in today’s world. Messages fly from one phone to another, people can track you down anywhere and everywhere, planes zip you from point A to point B in no time at all, and you can order anything online and have it delivered the next day. It’s no wonder we’re all looking for the same immediacy with our health and fitness goals!
Unfortunately, improved health is not easily achieved in the short term. Rather, it’s a life-long pursuit that requires small, daily changes that add up to a new and improved lifestyle. Often times, the tactics that produce quick, short-term gains can actually backfire. Or worse, when you set yourself up to believe that a health or fitness goal can be attained in a super short period of time, you run the risk of being disappointed and abandoning the new habits completely. That certainly doesn’t help you get to a healthier place.
Let’s take a look at four top “quick fixes” we’ve all been tempted by and dispel the myths once and for all.
Myth: Turn up the HEAT!
Some will have you believe that the more you sweat, the quicker you’ll lose weight. But heating your workout space, avoiding the fan or adding layers to your wardrobe will NOT increase your long-term weight loss efforts. Yes, it’s true, if you artificially increase your core temperature, you may see a slight dip on the scale after a sweat fest. But wait a few hours and the minute you rehydrate, the weight will come back, because it’s just water that you’ve lost. Sustained weight loss depends, in large part, on burning more calories than you ingest. Burning more calories requires effort. And sweat does not equal effort! Instead, focus on intensity instead of sweat. Aim to work out at a level that leaves you not wanting to have a conversation at times, and accumulate activity throughout the day. And please, whatever you do, throw the plastic sweatsuit away. It’s not attractive and it doesn’t work.
Myth: Get washboard abs in a WEEK!
Whittle your waist by doing 1,000 crunches every night? NO! There’s no fast-track to exposing your abs (or lifting your bum, melting away the muffin top or shaping your inner thighs). Spot reduction is a total myth! There is no magical exercise to “fix” any part of your body, and doing more of a specific exercise is not the answer. Getting your six-pack to show (or any other muscle), requires two things: building muscle and burning fat. Muscles are made by performing exercises with a weight that is uncomfortable. And burning fat requires burning more calories while cleaning up your eating and drinking habits. Your abs will start to show when your body fat decreases. Keep in mind, though, that the waistline is sometimes the last thing to budge. It takes time, so don’t abandon the process. Take note of all the other muscles you are witnessing for the first time, how much stronger you are, and the wellspring of energy you have!
Myth: Fasting equals fast fat loss!
It’s true: If you dramatically reduce the amount of calories you’re consuming for any given time, you will lose weight. But if and when you return to normal consumption, the weight will come back because it’s mostly water weight. There’s conflicting research about what happens to your body during fasting, but many reports conclude that depending on how long you fast, you risk losing muscle mass and slowing your metabolism. This is no recipe for sustained weight loss. Yes, cleaning up your diet is a must for achieving health and fitness goals. But find a balance you can maintain rather than strict diets that will have you feeling deprived. Be sensible and avoid cutting out food or food groups all-together for best results.
Myth: You must work harder, harder, harder!
Speaking of intensity, while it’s important to push your body physically from time to time, you don’t have to work out really hard every time you hit the gym, especially when it comes to cardio. Everyone is still heralding HIIT (high intensity interval training) as if it were a magical pill you could take to reverse the effects of poor nutrition and sedentary lifestyle in record time. While HIIT does result in great calorie burn, shortens the length of your workout (which might mean you’ll stick to it), and (some will say) produces EPOC (excess post exercise oxygen consumption) which leads to an “after-burn” of sorts, there’s also research to suggest HIIT isn’t the best for beginners. Not that beginners can’t handle it or that they won’t see results, but more because the enjoyment factor tends to go down, causing them to quit. There’s no perfect cardio exercise—it’s about finding something that you enjoy, that you’ll continue to do, and sticking to it. And don’t forget, cardio isn’t the only exercise you should be doing. Engage in strength training sessions to increase your muscle mass and overall metabolism.
Bottom line: Getting to a healthier place takes time. Find activities you enjoy, and ease into your fitness journey slowly and deliberately. Seek the advice of fitness professionals, find a community to surround yourself with, and do a little bit every day. Health is a journey, not a destination. The sooner you get that, the easier this whole thing becomes!