Can you bust four common fitness myths?

(Originally posted at acefitness.org)

By Jessica Matthews, MS, E-RYT

Myth 1: If you want to lose weight, only eat when you’re really hungry.

Truth: Regularly skipping meals like breakfast, or waiting until you’re famished to eat your next meal may seem like sure-fire ways to take in less calories throughout the day. However, more often than not, people with these sporadic eating habits often struggle with weight loss – as well as weight maintenance – because they feel more deprived leading them to make poorer food choices or simply overindulge the next time they eat.

What Can You Do: When it comes to losing weight and keeping it off, researchers for the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) found that evenly spacing healthy food consumption throughout the entire day is a key aspect of success.

The findings of their research also show that when it comes to keeping weight off, breakfast is key, so make a plan to eat small, well-balanced “mini” meals every three to four hours throughout the day – starting with consistently eating in the morning. Studies show that people who eat breakfast tend to consume less dietary fat, snack less impulsively, and engage in slightly more physical activity than those who skip breakfast.

Eating at regular intervals throughout the day can not only help you with your weight loss efforts and maintenance, but it will also help you stay nourished, provide increased energy for physical activity (another critical component of weight loss and maintenance), and may result in fewer mood swings.

Myth 2: Drawing your belly button to your spine is the best way to protect your back from injury during exercise.

Truth: While the act of drawing the belly button toward the spine – also known as “hollowing out” or “drawing in” – does in fact activate the transverse abdominis (the deep musculature of the core), a growing body of research in recent years has found that the technique of drawing in can actually decrease stability in some situations.

What You Can Do: Instead of hollowing the abdominal wall by drawing your bellybutton toward your spine when you”re next exercising, simply activate and stiffen your abdominals – almost like you are about to be punched in the stomach. This contraction is called bracing, and it activates all of the major muscles that girdle the spine (e.g. transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, multifidi) helping to enhance the stability of the spine and also improve performance.

Myth 3: The more you sweat, the more calories you burn.

Truth: Sweating is the process your body uses to maintain its normal temperature. Essentially, you begin to sweat when your body starts to store heat because your body experiences a cooling effect when sweat evaporates. How much (or little) you sweat does not correlate with how many calories you are expending.

What You Can Do: When it comes to the number of calories burned, duration (how long you work out) and intensity (how hard you work out) are what matters, so resist the temptation to gauge the effectiveness of your workout solely based on how much you sweat.

Myth 4: Being skinny means you’re fit and healthy.

Truth: Although some individuals are genetically able to maintain a healthy weight without exercising or watching what they eat, sporting a thin frame does not necessarily protect anyone from the health risks that come along with poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle. In fact, the findings of one study indicate that healthy weight individuals who are inactive actually have higher rates of disease and death than obese individuals who regularly participate in physical activity.

What You Can Do: Focus on more than just the number displaying on the scale. To understand the complete picture of your health, fitness and wellness, you may want to first consult the professionals.

When it comes to general health, consider talking to your doctor to evaluate your health risks – blood pressure, cholesterol levels, etc.

When it comes to exercise, working with a personal trainer is a great way to gauge your current level of fitness via assessing body composition, which measures percentage of body fat, along with other physiological assessments like muscular strength, flexibility, cardio-respiratory fitness, etc. Working with a personal trainer will also help you get started on a path to adopting a more active lifestyle, especially if you’re not already physically active.

As far as nutrition is concerned, working with a registered dietitian is a perfect way to learn how to make wiser food choices, plan meals, and in turn improve your eating habits.

Finally, when it comes to your overall well-being, minimizing stress, surrounding yourself with the support of positive people, getting adequate sleep, and thinking positively will help you be both healthier and happier.

Learn more and read the previous article at acefitness.org.


How can I prepare healthy meals that my kids will enjoy (without breaking the bank)?

(Originally posted at acefitness.org)

By Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD

Parents share many concerns about their kids’ eating habits; the three biggest being not eating enough fruits and vegetables, picky eating and too much junk food1. While most know an ideal eating plan is high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in sugar and salt, getting a kid to actually eat such a nutrient-dense diet is a massive undertaking for anyone.

Mealtimes should be an enjoyable family experience, but too often they become a dreaded food fight with moms and dads pushing healthy foods on kids who blatantly refuse them. Studies show that the most important predictor of whether a child will eat a food is if it tastes good2. But with hectic schedules, jobs and homework to balance, success is often measured by a meal with an assortment of food even making it to the dinner table, regardless of whether it’s healthy or tasty.

The good news is that healthy, balanced and inexpensive meals kids will love are possible using just a few basic cooking guidelines.

First, prepare. Do this by completely cleaning out your pantry and refrigerator and starting fresh. This ensures you have fresh ingredients and food on hand that will actually be eaten, and you’re well aware of the arsenal of ingredients you have at your fingertips

Next, follow a recipe. As you’re getting started, rely on high-quality cookbooks and recipes. At first choose basic recipes with only a few ingredients. Once you feel comfortable, get creative. Try substituting ingredients and experimenting with spices and herbs. For example, instead of ground beef for taco night, try baking mahi-mahi with cumin and lemon for a lighter, healthier and more adventurous version. Or try using thinly sliced eggplant and zucchini as substitutes for pasta in your favorite lasagna recipe.

Finally, remember timing is everything. The temperature, texture and overall taste of food depend largely on timing. Make sure to serve hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Steam vegetables to the point where they still hold a bit of crunch and aren’t soggy.

Learn more and see recipes at acefitness.org.


How can I become a better fitness goal setter?

(Originally posted at acefitness.org)

By Dr. Michael Mantell

Before you read any further, I’d like you to make yourself comfortable, preferably in a place with few or no distractions, and watch this video.

As you listen to the entire three minutes and forty-one seconds, allow your mind to fully imagine a particularly difficult obstacle in your life that’s keeping you from achieving an unmet goal, and visualize how you will reach it.

What direction did your thinking take? What decisions did you make? How dedicated did you feel about reaching your goal? How did the music help? If you do not feel inspired, energized and completely driven to achieve by your goal setting process, your goal-setting process has been less than flawless and will likely fail.

While most of us know it’s important to begin a workout session with a warm-up and some dynamic stretching, have you ever stopped to think that your mind also needs a warm-up?

You can simply assume that you’re motivated, goal-directed and mentally ready to achieve OR you can distinguish yourself as a flawless fitness goal setter. Not both.

Goal setting has a considerable impact on your long-term adherence to a fitness program. Said another way, if you want to be a consistent in your fitness endeavors, make improved goal setting a key goal of yours.

Here are three methods that appear, in one way or another, in nearly every effective approach to goal setting for improved motivation and long-term adherence that I’ve come across.

Learn about the 3 methods watch the video at acefitness.org.