“Torch belly fat.”
“Trigger that after burn with these three movements.”
“Tone up without getting bulky.”
These are your typical, run-of-the-mill promises made by women’s magazines, personal trainers and misinformed Kardashian followers.
Beneath these false promises are negative and predatory connotations that have troubled coaches for years.
They prey on women’s fears and body image issues.
They imply that secret movements or products you haven’t thought of before are the key ingredient to your ideal body.
They play up to our vanity.
This is why we struggle. This is why women double up on cardio three weeks out from vacation, replacing meals with green smoothies and our sanity with waist trainers. This is why the weight loss industry is worth $60 billion.
Despite shattering glass ceilings in business, education and soon, the White House, it’s quite unnerving that many women still fall prey to so many myths around diet and exercise.
Below are the top 4 female fat loss myths we need to ditch once and for all.
“I have to do more cardio”
Recently, several students of mine approached me to ask why they weren’t seeing the results they wanted despite working out several times a week. On paper, they were the epitome of health, but in their minds, they wanted more muscle definition, less belly fat and the overall appearance of a lean or toned physique. I inquired what they were doing currently and as I suspected, there was a whole lot of cardio involved.
Here’s the truth: Cardio is not a magic bullet for fat loss. It’s the side dish to the entree, and that entree is strength training. The ideal training program for anyone who wants to tone up or build muscle and lose a bit of fat is:
– 3-4x of strength training
– 1-2x of short duration, high intensity interval training (HIIT)
– 1-2x of low-impact, low to moderate intensity “cardio” like walking or some restorative yoga
Strength training will always be more efficient than tacking on 2-3 more days or hours of cardio. More muscle mass means more calorie burn at rest, something you don’t get out of a 4-mile run. Moreover, the idea that one must lose weight before adding on strength training to lose fat misses the point of muscle building to begin with. That lean, toned physique isn’t built after weight loss happens; weight loss occurs as a result of building that lean, toned physique with good nutrition and a good strength training program.
“Eat more salad”
For whatever reason, women equate fat loss with eating more salads. I’m not sure how this myth came to be but I imagine it went something like this:
Client: “What should I be eating to lose weight?”
Trainer: “Eat more vegetables.”
Client: “But how many vegetables should I be eating and when?”
Trainer: “Eat vegetables at every meal.”
Client: Great, which vegetable is the best one for weight loss?”
Trainer: [Sighs] “Just add a salad to lunch and dinner.”
Client: “Ok but how big of a salad are we talking here?”
Trainer [feeling frustrated]: “You know what? Just replace two meals a day with a large salad everyday for the rest of your life and you’ll be toned forever.”
Client: “Sweet! Let me tell all my friends!”
The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t account for your activity levels or lifestyle changes. There is no such thing as the perfect diet, perfect salad or perfect vegetable, but what every fad diet has in common is this: more protein, vegetables at every meal, less processed, sugary foods. That’s it.
I hate to say this but it’s really not that complicated.
If nutrition is an area you struggle with, adding more salads is a direct way to ensure you get more vegetables into your diet, but if you are still stuffing your face with processed foods and alcohol the rest of the time it really doesn’t make a difference. Your goal is simply to establish a baseline of good nutrition, which for most of us means more vegetables at every meal, more protein, unprocessed foods and less sugar.
Once you’ve established this into your routine and are ready to kick things up a notch, only then do things like timing, weighing portions, carb loading or understanding whether white rice or brown rice is the better carb even matter.
“Women and men should train differently”
Fitness professionals have debated this one for years so let’s make it short and sweet. There is no such thing as female-specific exercises versus male-specific exercises. Men and women may have a few differences in build, metabolism or calorie needs but that usually has to do with their specific goals rather than nature. Multi-joint movements like the squat and deadlift will have the same effect on a woman as it will a man, meaning they work the same muscle groups and have the same benefit. Now, this doesn’t mean women will suddenly look like dudes or vice versa. Don’t insult your intelligence with that line of thinking. Load, volume, intensity, frequency, body composition, genetics and a slew of other factors come into play to affect our overall physique.
“Training & diet are the most important factors for fat loss”
Despite this article focusing primarily on training and diet, these are not the only factors critical to fat loss. In terms of importance, the totem pole goes something like this:
Nutrition: Replacing processed foods with more whole foods alone will make a drastic difference in your energy, skin condition, and physique.
Sleep: Adequate sleep is crucial for recovery and stress management. Muscles need downtime to repair and rebuild. While everyone’s needs are different, a solid 7-9 hours of sleep a night does it for most of us
Stress management: Managing stress means managing hormones like cortisol that can lead to weight gain or belly fat when it spikes out of control. Plus, it leads to better sleep. See above.
Training: Smart training like what I described above will fast track your results.
When it comes to fat loss, it’s important to look at all the components that contribute to that bangin’ body you crave like you would an outfit. It’s not just one blouse or one pair of shoes that makes a fashion statement. There’s a variety of things from quality of fabrics, to textures to accessories that make other women say “Now that’s a great outfit!”. That’s exactly how training, sleep, stress management and nutrition works. Together, they create a healthy, strong and beautiful body in the most sustainable and healthy way. Plus, with the right tools and coaches, you can catapult your results by not wasting time on inefficient workouts or more hours on the treadmill.
If you’re ready to start training the smart, healthy and effective way, I’ve opened up the doors for customized online coaching until October 8! There are a limited number of spots left so if you’re ready to take the leap this fall, email me at [email protected] for more details and a quick consultation (for free!).