It’s now the beginning of March and I'll bet a few of you declared a New Year’s resolution to achieve better health this year. If studies are correct, 78% of you have given up on that crazy notion and reverted back to your old ways and are using inaccurate misconceptions to justify your change of heart.
I wrote a blog a while back about all the excuses I hear why people don’t exercise. Well here are some popular misconceptions I hear when it comes to starting or sticking with healthy habits. The following ideas might seem like reasonable assumptions, but the research suggests otherwise. Here are eight misconceptions that might be getting in the way of your healthy resolution.
1. My doctor will tell me if I have a weight problem
If you think your doctor will alert you that your weight is putting your health at risk, think again. You’re better off looking at yourself in the mirror for an accurate assessment. And be honest with what you see. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that less than half of those who were overweight and only two-thirds of those who were obese were told during the past year by their doctor that they were too heavy. Doctors are trained to treat illness, not prevent it, so don’t expect them to tell you to lose the weight until you have a weight related crisis to deal with. And by then it could be too late.
Furthermore, according to Dr. Christine Gerbstabt MD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and author of “Doctor’s Detox Diet”, “weight is a touchy subject, especially for women, which might partially explain why female physicians are less likely to bring up weight with their patients. Plus, doctors sometimes figure that their patients have the resources to address weight issues on their own because there's so much diet and fitness information available to the public domain." Which we also know is untrue.
2. I'll eat less calories if I skip breakfast
Please drill this into your head: Skipping breakfast won't save you calories. "People have this notion that if they don't eat breakfast they'll save calories, or can cheat-eat later in the day, but it really doesn't work that way," says Gerbstadt. "Your body needs food in small increments throughout the day to stay powered, and research shows that people who eat 400 to 600 calories at breakfast are less likely to be overweight." Starting your day with a morning meal can help jump-start your metabolism by 10 percent and prevents you from overindulging on snacks and large meals later in the day because you're ravenous.
If you typically don't feel hungry in the morning, I suggest you skip dinner - just once or twice - to reset your appetite clock. Many people say they're just not hungry when they wake up, but this is because they ate too much at dinner, or ate unhealthy snacks all through the evening up until bedtime. Another suggestion is to stop eating after 7:30pm in the evening, this way, you'll be sure to wake up hungry.
3. Taking the stairs takes too long
Sorry, but taking the elevator at work isn't just lazy, it's inefficient, too. Nothing frustrates me more than seeing a person take the elevator for one to five floors. Worse still, if they're overweight and holding a can of Coke or a bag of chips. I work with a guy that almost never takes an elevator, (only if he has to climb greater than 20 flights of stairs!). And it should be no surprise that he’s in amazing shape. A Canadian study calculated that when you factor in the time you spend waiting for an elevator to arrive; taking the stairs will actually save you about 15 minutes each workday. Researchers timed hospital workers making trips between one and six floors, and found that it took 2.8 times longer per floor to travel by elevator than by stairwell. So the next time you catch yourself complaining about being too busy to work out, taking the stairs is a healthy way to gain a few minutes to your day.
4. I lost 10lbs, that’s good enough
Don’t settle with mediocrity. Losing 10 pounds may feel good, but if you're overweight or obese, a small dip in weight is only the beginning and not the finish line. Your goal weight should be very close to your graduating high school weight, (assuming you weren’t overweight when you graduated).
I’m training a 50+ year old fellow right now who had a starting weight of around 240lbs and when asked what his goal weight should be, he was somewhat surprised when I suggested his high school weight, which was around 170lbs. Six months after starting, his weight is a very healthy 179lb, with only 9lbs to go! When we started, I said we would focus on healthy lifestyle choices (Diet, Exercise, Rest, Reduced Stress) and the weight will take care of itself. The results below speak for themself:
While short-term studies have concluded that obese people can see significant improvements in their heart health after a 5 percent weight loss, a new 10-year Swedish study found that you most likely need to lose twice this much to yield meaningful results. Obese people who lost 4 percent of their body weight showed no significant improvements in terms of major health risk factors, like blood pressure, diabetes, or any of a number of weight related degenerative diseases.
5. I’ll just work off that extra Big Mac
You probably know a thing or two about calories; like you need to eat less of them and burn more of them if you want to see the number on the scale go down, but chances are you may underestimate the effort associated with "burning" those extra calories off your body.
According to the Mayo Clinic, one MacDonalds Big Mac (540 calories) requires over an hour of stationary rowing to burn it off. A study in the American Journal of Public Health found that when teens read a sign that said it takes 50 minutes of jogging to burn off a bottle of Coca Cola, sales fell 50% compared with those teens who just read the number of calories, suggesting that people have a false sense about how many calories they consume versus the exercise required to burn off those extra unhealthy calories. People I speak with have a false understanding how easy it is to consume calories and how hard it is to burn them off. So, my advice is to always be mindful of what you eat, because unless you’re training for an Ironman, exercise alone won’t address your weight gain associated with the consumption of unhealthy high calorie foods. choices
6. I'm in control of what I'm eating
Sure you're in control and you have no one to blame for eating that extra cookie, or slice of apple pie but yourself, but no matter how strong your willpower, you may be consuming more food without even knowing it. A number of studies show that there are sneaky, subliminal factors that affect how much we serve ourselves. Not only do people dish out and eat larger portions when using bigger spoons, plates and bowls, as I spoke about in my Portion Control blog post a few months ago, but they also tend to eat more when their food is a similar color to their plate, say researchers from Cornell University. Mindless-eating expert Brian Wansink found that people were more likely to dish out a big helping of pasta Alfredo on a white plate than a red one. No wonder when I vacation in Tuscany the Itialians serve their pasta in those brightly colored bowls in reduced quantities.
7. It's too expensive to eat healthy
I often get the excuse from all income brackets that it’s too expensive to eat healthy. Times may be lean, but eating healthy doesn't have to be a luxury. A 2011 study in Health Affairs calculated that following the USDA's MyPlate guidelines would only cost an extra $380 a year in groceries, or $1.04 a day. Also, findings from George Washington University researchers show that obese women earned $5,826 less per year than their thinner counterparts - so maybe eating right is worth the investment, both physically and financially.
Eating healthy doesn't have to be exotic or gourmet. To see just how much it would cost to shape up your eating habits, try tallying a week's worth of food and meal receipts – count everything and don’t cheat. Include your $15 lunch to your $4 Starbucks cappuccino - and then compare it with 7-day's worth of well planned healthy groceries. Studies say it’s usually less expensive compared with how much you're spending dining out and eating on the run.
8. A little snack won't hurt
Well, that depends on your perception of what qualifies as a snack and how often you're noshing between meals. Remember point #5 above, and it’s not just what you eat that counts, but when you eat it. Investigating the snacking habits over the course of a year, researchers found that healthy midmorning snackers lost 7 percent of their body weight compared with those who ate their healthy snack later in the day, who lost 11 percent of their body weight. Why? Midmorning snackers usually didn't stop at just one snack and tended to eat another later in the day too, as opposed to afternoon snackers.
The problem with snacking is that people don't know what a snack is. A snack is nutritious and filling; it bridges meals and is no more than 200 calories. Snack packs, cookies and candies aren't snacks - they're treats. You need to know the difference and know that there is a limit.
Hopefully, those of you that started down the path of healthy choices back in January are still committed to those resolutions as the day you started. If not, hopefully this little post will re-focus your commitment and get you back on track.
Enjoy the Ride….Rob