The rise of millions of fitness accounts on social media has led to the exponential growth and spread of misinformation when it comes to health, exercise, and weight loss. We tackle some of the most common health myths and explain why they could be sabotaging your weight loss efforts.
1. Myth: Healthy food is expensive
You've probably seen the above image in one format or another, especially if you frequent fitness pages on social media. The truth is, it's a complete myth that eating healthy is more expensive than eating junk food.
Have you ever tallied up exactly how much money you spend on food in a month? It's probably a lot more than you realise. Raw fruit and vegetables from the supermarket can cost as little as 50p and healthy canned goods such as kidney beans, chopped tomatoes, and chickpeas can be even less, only 30p per can at some supermarkets.
The myth that healthy food is more expensive than junk food derives from the fact that many prepared salads and fruit boxes are indeed expensive. However, this is because you are paying for the convenience, not the healthy food. If you cook all of your meals from scratch, you will save heaps of money and you will soon find that eating healthy is actually less expensive than junk food! A homemade salad could easily cost as little as £1 to make.
When have you ever only spent 99p at McDonald's? Yes, there are a couple of items on the menu that cost less than £1, but you'd be left feeling very hungry if that's all you ate. You have to be honest with yourself and really keep an eye on the money you are spending on food. It won't be what you expect.
2. Myth: You need to eat more to lose weight
One of the latest trends on social media is to tell women they are not losing weight because they are not eating enough. There's a heavy pressure on women to lift heavy weights and do zero cardio in order to 'tone up' and lose weight. Sadly, this is a myth. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.
If you eat 2300 calories a day, have a BMR of 1500 calories (the calories your body burns just to stay alive), and burn zero calories through exercise because you're not doing any cardio and live a sedentary lifestyle, you will gain weight because you are in a 800 calorie-a-day surplus.
This myth is propagated by the theory that you need to eat a calorie surplus in order to build muscle. While this is true to an extent, most of the general public live a sedentary lifestyle, sitting at a desk all day, and only exercise maybe 1 hour each evening. The average lifestyle does not allow you to eat 2300 calories a day because you won't be burning them off. You would have to lift a lot of weights and live a much more active lifestyle in order for this calorie surplus to be used to build muscle instead of being stored as fat.
It's important to remember that these Instagram fitness gurus do not live a sedentary lifestyle and therefore what works for them will not work for you.
3. Myth: Your friend is losing more weight than you/is naturally slim because their metabolism is faster
If you've been beating yourself up because you can't lose weight while your friend is sailing through their weight loss journey, don't worry, it's not what it seems. While it is scientifically possible to have a slightly faster or slower metabolism than someone else, it would not be enough of a difference to mean you are 10lbs heavier than your friend even if you eat the same.
People who are 'naturally' slim are this way because they eat less and do more activity. If you were to pay very close attention to what your slim friend eats in a day, it is a guarantee that it will be less than what you eat, even if they claim they eat a lot.
Everyone has a BMR which is a Basal Metabolic Rate and this indicates how many calories your body burns just by being alive. This is affected by your age, your gender, and your current weight. Everyone also has a TDEE which is your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. This figure takes into account your daily activity, as someone who does a very manual job and moves a lot will burn more calories on a daily basis than someone who sits at a desk all day.
Everyone's BMR and TDEE will be different and therefore the amount of calories you need to eat will be completely different to that of your friend. It won't be because they have 'good genes' or are 'naturally slim', it'll be because their TDEE is higher than yours, meaning they burn more calories on a daily basis than you.
4. Myth: A juice cleanse/detox is a quick way to lose weight
You may have heard by now that doing a 'detox' is not really a thing, as your body naturally detoxifies itself daily anyway. If your body was full of toxins, you'd be incredibly ill and you'd certainly need more than a juice cleanse to help you.
The way juice cleanses or detoxes work is that your daily calories plummet and you lose water out of your muscles. You become very dehydrated and the number on the scale goes down. You may well lose some fat too as you are consuming so few calories, but it can't possibly last.
Not only this, fruit juice is full of sugar which could make you moody, spotty, and generally just a bit cranky. You won't be getting enough protein so you'll feel very tired and fatigued, and you'll be missing out on vital nutrients.
5. Myth: Everyone should lift heavy and eat more protein
You will have seen a lot of images on Instagram that propose lifting weights is superior to doing cardio and that everyone should be eating copious amounts of protein in the form of 'protein bread', 'protein oats', and now even 'protein yogurt'.
The truth is, it depends entirely on your personal goals and daily activity. If you are training for a marathon or triathlon, these are both entirely cardio-based activities. Of course you'll need to do cardio! Cycling is also a very cardio-heavy activity, but professional cyclists are far from skinny and unhealthy.
Most people do not need a sky-high amount of protein in their daily diet because they live a sedentary lifestyle and their body won't utilise it. Unless you live a truly active lifestyle and lift heavy weights or do strenuous sports 6 times a week, you don't need a ton of protein in your diet.
This new myth comes from a shift in attitudes towards body types and the new obsession with 'booty gains'. These days, being slim is seen as bad and everyone wants to look like the Instagram fitness gurus. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with cardio, and you probably do it more than you think. In fact, doing regular cardiovascular activity is vital for keeping a healthy immune system, lung function, and heart health.