The impetus behind my Small Steps series is my frustration and sadness with witnessing people – both loved ones and our society as whole – making attempts to take control of their health in all the wrong ways. Eventually, when their efforts don’t produce the results they want, they give up, feeling like failures. That’s terribly sad to me.
My frustration is with the mindset. The false belief that making drastic changes in diet and exercise will produce quick results, that one will reach her goals in a matter of weeks, and that these results will last a lifetime. This is where elimination and deprivation diets are born. It’s also where the deconditioned believe that the only workout worth doing is one that resembles that of a professional athlete. It is a strategy that has been proven over and over again not to work.
I am frustrated also with many who claim to be in the fitness industry who feed this mindset because that’s the easiest way to make a buck. It is why the mindset won’t die – people are making millions off of it and the pool of people willing to pay doesn’t get any smaller.
This warped mindset puts the focus on body image rather than well-being. It encourages a strategy of quick, extreme fixes for the goal of temporary weight loss rather than a gradual adoption of fit habits for the goal of a healthy life. The focus, strategy and goals are wrong-headed.
But, you don’t have to take my word for it. The following are a few of the perpetuating myths of this terrible mindset that have been debunked by scientific studies, experts and the test of time:
- Going all-in on a vigorous exercise plan is the only way to exercise for weight-loss & fitness: Many join a gym, sign up for trendy fitness classes or buy expensive equipment thinking they need to jump feet first into the exercise pool to kick-start their fitness. Then, because a deconditioned individual is performing workouts designed for the conditioned, extremely sore muscles, time crunches and injury all conspire to make the workouts less and less frequent until they become non existent. But, it turns out that sore or pulled muscles and lack of time aren’t the only reasons for the drop out rate. It is actually a psychological body image road block – the fear of being judged – that is the top reason new exercisers eventually quit. You can read about it here. It also stands to reason, the more challenging and vigorous the workout is, the more likely a newcomer will feel she will be judged negatively by others.
- Eliminating an entire food group is the proper way to lose weight and be healthy: Of all the crazy fad diets that have circulated over the years, those promoting the elimination of entire food groups for weight loss and health are the ones that most concern me. Whether it’s eliminating all carbs, all meats, all fats, or all animal products it’s all wrong. Every one of these macronutrients provides our bodies with unique, vital nutrients we need to function properly. The only foods we all should eliminate from our diets are highly processed, chemically infused foods. Whether they originally come from plants or animals or represent a carb, fat or protein – these lab-made “foods” provide nothing of value to us. Eliminating anything else is not only unsustainable but unhealthy. Here is an example of its unsustainability and why experts say elimination diets are unhealthy.
- Eating healthy means you must deny cravings and deprive yourself of treats; superhero-strength willpower is a must: All evidence shows that this approach backfires. It leads to binging and yo-yo dieting. Just as elimination diets don’t work, its sister diet, deprivation diets aren’t realistic or healthy in the long run either. Read about Weight Watchers’ latest study on deprivation diets here.
My Small Steps series combats these myths by promoting an incremental strategy to exercise with the focus on finding a variety of workouts and movement one enjoys. Eating for fitness also means adopting an incremental strategy to diet with the focus on consuming a balance of all three macronutrients sourced from a wide variety of minimally processed plant and animal foods in the correct portions. In both cases the final goal is overall health.
If you are in need of a fitness reboot, steer clear of the extreme strategies that can only lead to frustration and discouragement. Learn more about my Small Steps series and see what we’re working on in January. And then follow along with us throughout the year on the road to a fit and happier state of mind.