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Self-Care

Experts 'Weigh In' On Popular Diet And Exercise Myths


Earlier this year, millions of Americans made the resolution to lose weight. Now as warmer weather is upon us, it’s also a time when many will get frustrated and give up before their goals are reached.

Contributing to this problem is the host of bad information regarding diet and exercise circulating through gyms, workplaces, and the Internet. Julie Bender, a dietitian with Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, and Phil Tyne, director of the Baylor Tom Landry Health and Wellness Center "weigh in" on the most popular diet and exercise myths:

    1. Crunches will get rid of your belly fat. False. "You can't pick and choose areas where you'd like to burn fat", says Tyne. "In order to burn fat, you should create a workout that includes both cardiovascular and strength training elements. This will decrease your overall body fat content".

    2. Stretching before exercise is crucial. False. Some studies have suggested that stretching actually increases muscles' susceptibility to injury. They claim that by stretching, our muscle fibers are lengthened and destabilized, making them less prepared for the strain placed upon them by exercise. "You might want to warm-up and stretch before a run, but if you are lifting weights wait until after the workout to stretch the muscles," adds Tyne.

    3. You should never eat before a workout. False. "Fuel" coming from food and fluids is required to provide the energy for your muscles to work efficiently even if you are doing an early morning workout. "Consider eating a small meal or snack one to three hours prior to exercise. Load up your tank with premium 'fuel' and choose some fruit, yogurt, or whole wheat toast," says Bender.

    4. Lifting weights will make women bulky. False. "Most women's bodies do not produce nearly enough testosterone to become 'bulky' like those body builders on TV," says Tyne. If you do find yourself getting bigger then you would like simply use less weight and higher repetitions.

    5. Fat is bad for you, no matter what kind. False. Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of "good fats" out there that are essential to promoting good health and aid in disease prevention. "They are the ones that occur naturally in foods like avocados, nuts, and fish, as opposed to those that are manufactured," says Bender. "Including small amounts of these foods at meal times can help you to feel full longer and therefore eat less."

    6. Restricting calories is the best way to lose weight. False. Both cutting back on calories and moving more will help you lose weight and maintain lean muscle mass needed to boost metabolism. However, often individuals think they must take drastic measures to lose weight (ex. eating less than 1200 calories), but this does not usually provide adequate fuel for the body and may slow metabolism. " Drastic measures rarely equal lasting results, so start small and eliminate 100-300 calories consistently from your daily diet and you will reap the reward," says Bender.

    7. As long as you eat healthy foods, you can eat as much as you want. False. A calorie, is a calorie. Although oatmeal is healthy, if you have 4 cups of oatmeal, the calories add up. "Healthy or otherwise, you still must be aware of portion sizes," says Bender. "You must limit your caloric intake in order to lose weight, however, understanding how to 'balance' calorie intake throughout your day can help you avoid feelings of deprivation, hunger and despair," adds Bender.

    8. Exercise turns fat into muscle. Fat and muscle tissue are composed of two entirely different types of cells. "While you can lose one and replace it with another, the two never "convert" into different forms," says Tyne. "So fat will never turn into muscle."

    9. Eating late at night will make you gain weight. False. "There are no 'magic' hours," says Bender. "We associate late night eating with weight gain because we usually consume more calories at night. We do this because we usually deprive our bodies of adequate calories the firsthalf of the day. Start the day out with breakfast and eat every 3-4 hours. Keep lunch the same size as dinner, and you will be less likely to over-indulge at night, yet you can enjoy a small late night snack without the fear of it sticking to your middle," explains Bender.

    10. You have to sweat to have a good workout. False. Tyne says "Sweating is not necessarily an indicator of exertion -- sweating is your body's way of cooling itself." It is possible to burn a significant number of calories without breaking a sweat: try taking a walk, or doing some light weight training or working out in a swimming pool.

For more information about the Baylor Tom Landry Health and Wellness Center, visit www.BaylorHealth.com.


© 2007 Health Resources Publishing