Diet and Exercise Myths and Mistakes
Losing those stubborn few inches from your thighs and belly.
Below is an unconventional approach to nutrition that goes against the mainstream media misinformation glut of articles, books and TV shows. I have made a conscious decision to observe and listen to all the widely accepted truths and/or myths with critical thinking and common sense. My goal is to sift through all this information and misinformation in order to get to the truth of the matter.
If you have tried everything from working out at the gym, healthy clean eating, calorie restrictions, raw foods, cutting all sugars out of your diet, over-exercising, gluten free diets and so forth, but you are still having difficulties losing the final few inches from your waist, lower belly or thighs there are still a few things that you can do to address the issue and correct a possible mistake you are making.
Diet mistake number one!
I will probably raise a few eyebrows here but I will say this anyway. Cut that unnecessary protein powder out of your diet! Do it now! Your beautiful fresh smoothies do not need any additional powders added to them. Protein powders are a bi-product of the dairy or soy industries and they are processed, refined foods and most likely genetically modified. There is no scientific literature that supports the notion that adding artificially derived protein is healthy. On the contrary, too much dietary protein is linked to a host of diseases. If you need further information on the subject read The China Study. From personal experience I can tell you that I gained extra muscle tone and lost some of my “baby puffiness” after I cut the protein powders completely out of my diet. They did make me slightly puffy as they can make you retain water; they challenge your kidneys and change the natural macro nutrient balance in your otherwise healthy diet.
But, But… all the bodybuilders that are so lean and practically live on chicken breasts and that stuff? Yes you can calorie restrict severely, supplement with creatine, carnitine, etc and be lean and buff in a not so healthy way. There are plenty of active bodybuilding women living on 1200 calories a day that are successful on high protein, high fat diets. The higher muscle mass combined with the calorie deficit allows them to be able to pull it off. Do I advise you to do that long term in order to be healthy, lean, flexible and happy? NO
Every whole food has amino acids in it. So just trust Mother Nature! She’s got you covered! 🙂
Plus most women I know do not want to be abnormally buff. Strong is what we are after 🙂 Same applies for men. Although it is very trendy to be overly buff nowadays, having functional strength is superior. A strong, muscular lean body can outperform a buff body in most sports. We all should be able to run fast, pivot, climb, jump, twist and bend as we age in order to age in the most graceful way possible. 🙂
Diet Mistake number two:
You might be having too much fat in your diet. In biopsies of fat deposits in humans they can tell exactly what kinds of fat the person has been eating. We literally wear the fat we eat. The body stores dietary fat as fat. Extra carbs have to be converted into glucose and used for energy. The body is not efficient at converting sugar to fat. The problem usually comes from combining carbs with fats and then carbs get the blame.
“In one of the first studies to show that body fat comes from food fats, rather than other parts of the diet, researchers at a Veteran’s Adminitration home in Los Angeles asked residents to consume either normal diets or diets using vegetable oils instead of animal fats.
Then, every four months, each man dutifully had a fat sample removed from his derriere with a tiny needle. Laboratory analysis shows that body fat mirrored the kinds of fats in the foods eaten. Men eating lots of beef and chicken fat ended up with these remnants in their OWN body fat, while vegetable fat eaters ended up with vegetable fats stored in their behinds.. Some of the men stayed with th experimental diet for as long as five years, and the same pattern held true: the fat they ate is what built fat in their bodies. (1,2) ~ Neal Barnard, M.D. Turn off the Fat Genes
Converting food fat into body fat is easy; the process doesn’t even modify the molecules. Research scientists can actually take the fat biopsies off your hips or waist and tell you where it came from – pig fat, dair fat, chicken fat, or olive oil; the fat is still the same as it was on your plate, but now it is under your skin. The saying ‘from your lips to your hips’ is literally true. Fat is also an appetite stimulant – the more you eat, the more you want. ~ Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D. Eat to Live Source
“The Human Body Does Not Turn Sugar to Fat
The process of synthesizing fat from sugar is known as de novo lipogenesis—the new production of fat. This activity is highly efficient in some animals, such as pigs and cows—which is one reason they have become popular people foods—these animals can convert low-energy, inexpensive carbohydrates—grass, say, in the case of cows and grains for pigs—into calorie-dense fats.5 However, human beings are very inefficient at this process and as a result de novo lipogenesis does not occur under usual living conditions in people. Thus the common belief that sugar turns to fat is scientifically incorrect—and there is no disagreement about this fact among scientists or their scientific research.5-8
Under experimental laboratory conditions, however, where people are overfed large amounts of simple sugars, the human body will resort to converting a small amount of sugar into a small amount of fat (triglycerides) in the liver. For example, in one recent study, trim and obese women were overfed with 50% more calories than they usually ate—note, 535 of these extra calories each day came from four and a half ounces (135 grams) of refined sugar. In this forced-fed situation, the women produced less than 4 grams (36 calories) of fat daily from the extra carbohydrate.8 Extrapolation from these findings means a person would have to be overfed by this amount of food and table sugar every day for nearly 4 months in order to gain one extra pound of body fat from the conversion of sugar to fat—by de novo lipogenesis. Obviously, even overeating substantial quantities of sugar is a relatively unimportant source of body fat. (So where does all that fat come from?—the fat you eat is the fat you wear.)” Source
Get on a website such as www.cronometer.com and make sure not to exceed 20% of calories coming from fat in your diet. Better yet stay at 15%. Personally I stay at around 10% and I find this optimal for a yogic or athletic diet that also focuses on flexibility. I can see an absolute correlation of body composition to fat intake in my body. So even if I didn’t trust the literature and the studies I would still come down to the same conclusions. Humans are meant to derive most of their calories from healthy carbs. Our diet most likely evolved from humans living in tropical environments where fruit was abundant.
Just as an extra resource you can check out the BMI by country and see how the high carb asian countries have the lowest body mass index in the world.
Diet Mistake number three:
You make yourself eat breakfast because it’s a common notion that skinny people eat breakfast. In my experience that’s 50 percent true (and I am being kind with the numbers here). I have spoken with some elderly people that told me this is one of the worst pieces of dietary advice they have ever heard. You have to go with your hunger. If you are naturally hungry in the morning then OK go ahead and start your day with a big meal. Personally I eat light during the day. I skip meals if I am not hungry and make an early dinner my main meal. Why? The body is in detox mode in the morning. Bacon and Eggs is just going to clog the arteries and stop the detoxification process. Eating breakfast also tends to make people feel hungrier during the day.
Many people become very uncomfortable with feelings of hunger. However, hunger is natural and if you learn to allow your body to become hungry then you will have more digestive fire to to metabolize your food. If you learn to relax with the feeling of having an empty stomach then you will find in many cases that you actually have more clarity and energy while feeling hungry. The body expends tremendous amounts of energy with digestion and skipping meals can actually allow the body to rest. As a result you will find yourself more energetic by skipping meals here and there, especially breakfast. If you absolutely have to eat something in the morning in order to deal with work then try having a some fruit instead of a heavy breakfast.
“Skipping breakfast may be the key to skipping a lot of things — excess weight, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and premature death, among them. How are you going to do all that, simply by pushing away from the breakfast buffet? By engaging an amazing process called “hormesis.” Scientists tell us that if you challenge your body, the way you do with a 16-hour fast, it responds by preferentially burning fat, sharpening your mind, tuning up your heart, and turning on the human growth hormone jets. Cool, right?”
A study published in Nutrition Journal in 2011. Researchers followed the eating habits of 100 normal-weight and 280 obese participants during a two-week period. They found that in both groups, the more calories they ate at breakfast, the more total calories they ate for the rest of the day. And when they ate a smaller breakfast, or none at all, their total calorie intake was less.
In a 2010 study in the Journal of Physiology, researchers fed a group of active men an unhealthy diet composed of 50 percent fat and 30 percent more calories than they normally consumed. They then divided the men into three subgroups: One group didn’t exercise at all, another group exercised four times a week after eating breakfast, and the third group exercised four times a week before eating their first meal of the day. The no-exercise group gained six pounds, developed insulin resistance, and began storing extra fat in their muscle cells. The group that exercised after eating breakfast gained about six pounds and also showed signs of insulin resistance and greater fat storage. But the participants who exercised before eating their first meal gained almost no weight and showed no signs of insulin resistance. Source
So when I hear breakfast is the most important meal of the day I generally wonder what type of agenda is behind it. What are they selling here?
Diet Mistake number four:
You are taking a bunch of supplements from the health food store. Unless you have a specific reason to take a particular supplement most of them will just throw your body out of balance because they are refined extracts and the body does not recognize them as whole foods. With most supplements you are either just wasting your money or sabotaging your goals while wasting your money. Go for whole seasonal foods raw or steamed or stewed and save yourself the trouble of falling for marketing ploys. In addition most supplements use an anti-caking agent that can actually coat the intestines which hinders proper absorption and digestion.
Jaakko Mursu and colleagues followed 38,772 older women for 25 years. The women in the study, whose average age was 62 back in 1986, reported their use of multivitamins and supplements over the years. The news was not good: the risk of death INCREASED with long term use of multivitamins, vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc, and copper. The risk of death only decreased with the use of calcium. They also noted that in other studies, calcium had the opposite effect.Source
Supplements can be harmful to your health and therefore not optimal when trying to lose weight in a natural way. So unless there is a very particular reason to take some skip the general pills advertised on TV. Personally I have experimented with quite a few supplements, including alpha lipoic acid, coQ10, resveratrol and others and all of them have had a negative effect on me within a day or two. I do eat clean and I hardly ever take any supplements so I am able to feel a negative effect immediately. Actually years ago I decided to try l-carnitine out of curiosity. It’s very highly recommended in the bodybuilding, fitness world. I got severely depressed within a day of taking it. I went from feeling inspired to feeling like the world is coming to an end and nothing matters. Now I have been sad in my life before but this was something I have never experienced. My depressed days last for just that – a day. This lasted for a whole week until I realized what was going on and I discontinued it and my mood went back to normal. The funny thing is I had told myself I will stick with it for a month no matter what and I will push through it so I can be consistent with taking and be able to judge its effects on the body. Supplements either have a negative impact on me and I quit them or I just forget to take things in capsules.
Herbs and Herbal tincture do not fall in the supplement category. They are whole, concentrated foods.
As an herbalist I strongly believe that herbal extracts are very effective. You are way better off taking herbs rather than artificially derived synthetic chemicals that come from a lab. If you are taking supplements in order to have more energy or clarity I strongly suggest that you look into taking adaptogens, flower remedies, or other herbs that are more natural. There are many herbal extracts that can help strengthen the body’s immune system that have a very powerful positive effect.
Diet Mistake number five:
You are desperately trying to eat 6 small meals a day. Unless you have iron will power and you can eat bird food and be satisfied you are bound to fail with this technique because you will just end up overeating calories. Every so often I end up grazing and munching during the day- I take bites from my mom’s salad, I eat pieces of banana while I am freezing them, I take a bite from a cliff bar, etc and I do not count those as small meals because they are just bites. But going out of my way to make half a sandwich and then greek yogurt with fruit every 2 hours is just not what our bodies are designed to deal with. The stomach needs to be empty for long periods of time in order for all the detoxification organs to do their job properly. If you are constantly eating then you are constantly digesting which keeps the body’s blood flow centered around the stomach. Constant eating does not allow us to detox properly and I strongly advise you against a diet that pushes eating six days a day.
Exercise mistake number one:
You are over-exercising! Too much exercise can stress you out, raise your stress hormones levels such as cortisol, adrenaline; thus making you very hungry and ultimately sabotaging you. I advocate higher intensity on certain days and hormone balancing Interval Yoga on others. We need to rest as much as we need to exercise; we need to relax and find joy in exercise. All of these components are needed in order for us to be successful in our fitness endeavors. It’s the art of life! We are all constantly perfecting it and finding the balance between rest and play; ecstasy and contemplation.
Exercise mistake number two:
You are not exercising enough. Try to move daily. Exercising 6 times a week is best. Make it a part of your day. Not a constant struggle and “a thing” you gotta get into. Consistency pays off. I would write a whole article on the last two points alone. But for the purposes of this article I will keep it short and concise for now.
Exercise mistake number three:
This one overlaps the previous two. You have an all or nothing approach to fitness. Way too often I have observed what I call “the weekend warrior” approach. They allow themselves to get out of shape, eat chips for months and not get off the couch and then one weekend they go for bungie jumping and rock climbing back to back. Or God forbid jogging which can be a disaster for the joints for a not fit, overweight body. So just trust the process take small but persistent steps and it will pay off. Stick with my classes and grow stronger gradually. You don’t have to punish yourself and make fitness a thing you dread. Movement IS joy. Yoga is play.
Exercise mistake number four:
You think cardio is the best for weight loss so you constantly try to jog or run on the treadmill. This is one of the most common questions I get- “How many calories does this class burn?” I will get a heart monitor just to be able to answer that BUT it really doesn’t matter. My approach to fitness is intelligent, intuitive, out of the box movement. I don’t care for mindless, bootcamp calorie burning. I want everyone to be calm, relaxed, strong … and I mean ultra strong and flexible in the least amount of time. Moving consciously, breathing, meditating, being quiet, silencing the mind and teaching our bodies to advance through difficult sequences with grace is far better than a Tae Bo style -yell-at-you fitness instructor that makes you feel that exercise is punishment and you deserve to be punished for being a fat slob. Sorry but thats the feeling I get every time I see this cruel type of approach to something that is supposed to be FUN! I truly resent being yelled at while I’m trying to do something and I can’t imagine this having a lasting positive result for most humans.
Exercise mistake number five:
You skip on your shavasana. Yep, if you are hard wired and you tend to resist meditation you might not be getting enough retrospective, quiet time in order to balance your hormones and immune system and thus reduce stress and all the negative effects of stress such as binge eating, cravings for junk food, hormonal weight gain, etc, etc
LIFE IS ART
LIVING IS AN ART FORM
FINDING BALANCE IS A MASTERPIECE
Let me know if you agree or disagree with some of these points and what your experience with finding balance has been.
Leave a Comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.
I was wondering if you considered hemp seeds the same as protein powder?
What are your thoughts on brown rice powder? Thanks!
Hemp in small amounts as a part of a whole food carbohydrate rich diet is excellent. I don’t find rice protein to be of absolute importance but if you must add protein to your diet then rice protein is a better choice. 🙂
Thank you! 🙂
Great article Ali…What about the use of hemp or rice protein for recovery. My husband lost muscle and weight to the point of emaciation when in ICS for three weeks. He wasn’t eating enough to recover (He’s 6’1″ and 190 at his trim, fit weight). He was at 130 after the hospital. I was healthy cooking like crazy for him but he had trouble eating enough and was not putting on any weight…After a month of this I researched protein sources and chose hemp protein as the most absorb able. He finally gained up to 170 and we stop the added protein. At this point he was able to exercise, etc again and his weight stabilized at 185-190. In case we ever face this again (knock on wood!)…what would you recommend to be a better way to recover from catastrophic illness and weight loss? The same happened to me after chemo and I used the hemp as well.
Laura with serious illness the diet has to be adjusted for sure and you did the right thing. I would assume a lot of smoothies high in calories would be a good way to go. hemp is great as well especially when the person is emaciated and has troubles absorbing nutrients from their food. this article is specifically geared towards the people that have been trying to lose weight through dieting and exercise. people recovering from illness, anorexic, underweight and such should follow different guidelines for sure. <3 sending love to richard and you!!!! <3 oh and air kisses for Sparky 😛
Ali, this is so wonderful and insightful. I have been the bodybuilder type with a protein powder addiction. I went through dozens, always trying to find one that didn’t make me feel awful. I mean, as a weight lifter and gym rat, I “had”to use protein right?
I have studied and tried almost all the myths you mentioned. As a certified personal trainer, I have been spoon fed (and dished out) all that mumbo-jumbo while always wondering where the proof was.
Your wise words always comfort me on this journey of forsaking all I’ve been told and read in women’s fitness magazines, and listening to my body- eating and exercising intuitively.
One observation that drew me to you and your philosophies is the change in motivation. I notice that most fitness pros and workout instructors use a guilt/jealousy/pride/ envy approach to motivate people to use their programs. They scream, “have a better body, make everyone jealous, be better than everyone else, be the most perfect the most beautiful”. As a christian this realization that they were calling me to feel superior to everyone else, to be jealous of other people’s bodies or worry that I’m not good enough, seems so wrong! I don’t want envy, superiority, competing with every other woman or being a show off to define my life or my fitness and health. What do you think?
Abby, I agree with you. A lot of the motivational techniques fitness instructors use are sending subconscious messages that go against what we are looking for deep inside. We need balance, acceptance and no need for approval from outside. As long as we are motivated by negative emotions we are bound to be unhappy and fail at what we are trying to do.
i am very proud of you turning your life around despite all the brainwashing and conditioning women go through growing up in a society so obsessed with images, guilt, competition, etc.
All the fitness magazines first and foremost sell products. a lot of the research and studies are sponsored by these companies selling the products so if we go with the mainstream accepted information we are bound to make at least a few mistakes …
i think now you are on the right path. just focus on simplifying, reducing stress and acceptance of self and others. the rest will flow 😀
Very interesting indeed, and a lot of common sense in this article – I like that! 🙂
Personally, when I’m stressed out, I lose weight simply because I can’t eat. Not v healthy though, and especially not when being stressed out under longer time periods. So think your article is pinpointing how to lose those extra inches under healthy conditions, but can also be applied to how to keep your body weight constant if you’re lean already?
I cut out all meat and (most) animal products from my diet 10 months ago (for ethical reasons), and what I noticed since then is I don’t gain weight! In addition, I don’t get sick as frequently as I used to prior to changing my diet. Also, my skin has improved significantly, eg the cellulites on my behind are gone today.
Saying this, I see a lot of benefits switching from a more traditional (Swedish) diet, which contains a great proportion of animal products, to a vegetarian life style. And I think this aligns pretty well with what you have written in your article too?
Thanks for sharing!
Margareta, yeah there are many variables depending on the details and the particular situation. If you are underweight, you don’t eat when stressed obviously the advice would be different. this article was geared more towards everyone trying to lose the few last stubborn pounds that just don’t seem to come off. i am so very happy for you doing the switch. i think the main reason why i promote what i promote- apples and broccoli 🙂 is because its great for the planet, the animals and humans. it is my believe that we all must understand compassion on a deep level and our lifestyle can nurture that. <3
finally, i agree with you on the no cellulite part after switching to a diet that is more detoxing. my skin also cleared thanks to the diet. <3
Ali if you are not having breakfast then what time u r doing yoga and walking (eıthout havıng breakfast ın the morrnıng?)
Second if you are skipping breakfast how long after u r having something like main course
i am not a good example of routine because each day is different for me. sometimes i do have lots of fruit through the day. sometimes i do yoga at 1 pm, other times at 4 or even later 8 pm so i have had a big fruit meal before the class and then veggies after. for the most part i don’t eat that much for the first 4 hours after waking up. usually i work in the morning and drink tea and have bee pollen, dates – nothing major. if breakfast works for you keep doing that. some people including me just get very hungry if we eat an early breakfast.
Hi Ali, I have been doing some research for liver gallbladder cleansing and came across this post. I have struggled with pretty intense pain under my ribs for almost 2 years now…I’ve done liver cleanses, coffee enemas, a variety of supplements to support the liver and increase bile flow, I’ve seen chiropractor, kinesiologists, and naturopathic doctors…but nothing has helped and this pain under my ribs is just constant. It actually started under just the right side but now it’s under both ribs and happens every time I eat anything. The bloating is so uncomfortable! Is there anything that you can suggest to me to help with this? I feel like I’ve tried just about everything and I’m starting to get worried about this pain, it’s definitel not normal to feel this way. I gave up all grains (not just gluten) after doing a food sensitivities test and my hormones really leveled out and I felt pretty great…but as soon as my stomach gets bloating and I get this pain under my ribs I also notice that my hormones and moods are pretty dark. Major PMS type of symptoms, I don’t even want to be around myself. It doesn’t feel normal and it all seems to go together. Oddly enough when my pain under the ribs is coming on my knee really hurts as well and I can’t hardly walk. Then it calms down a little and I can get back to my exercising until the next round. It’s just so much up and down (mostly down).
If you have any insights or thoughts about any of this I would love to hear it! Thanks!