Ok, now that we have your attention, let’s talk about the truth.
These days, the focus of most fitness articles seem to be aesthetics (read: a good-looking body) – 5 Minutes to Fab Abs! A-list Booty Workout! The Magical Saltines and Water Diet!
While these absurd titles may sell magazines, the information they contain usually leaves a lot to be desired. Some articles actually propagate fitness myths. The idea is to get you to buy the magazine based on promises of some effortless fitness ’secret’ that we all somehow missed, which the writers seem to have somehow discovered.
First off, there’s nothing inherently wrong with an aesthetic goal. They can be highly motivating. A goal that causes you to exercise and/or eat better also improves your health and well-being, regardless if flat abs or ‘toned’ arms are your primary focus. But when these aesthetic goals lead to obsessive, irresponsible or rash behaviour, they become dangerous.
The human body hasn’t changed much over the last few thousand years, and thus what’s always worked as a result of evolution still works today. But it’s easy to become paralysed and confused based on all of the seemingly-conflicting information out there from the media. Therefore, it seems logical to me that when discussing weight loss, we need to keep things as simple as possible, but no simpler.
Most of us today want to lose body fat. We can argue about how many grams of this or that to eat and what exercises burn the most fat, but the simple truth is that we just need to do what has always worked – eat healthy nutritious food in amounts that we only need, and exercise.
Getting leaner – by losing fat and building muscle – is accomplished by monitoring your calorie intake while doing a basic resistance training. For beginners, this can be as simple as bodyweight push-ups, pull ups, and squats. As you progress, you might want to move to free weights, resistance bands or machines.
Cardiovascular training can also speed up the process, as long as you don’t take in more calories. Many people who start running get hungry and end up eating more to replace what they used during the activity. None of that: “Oh I ran for 10Ks today so I deserve to have two slices of chocolate mud cake.” Don’t even think it.
I would recommend playing a sport, dancing, hiking, rock climbing, or anything you actually enjoy in addition to monitoring your calories.
You should also create a meal plan of foods you enjoy eating instead of diet foods or avoiding certain food groups. It’s not about eating something low fat, high protein or sugar free. It’s the total amount of calories that matter.
Remember, simple is better than complex. And enjoying life with a plan is better than iron-fisted discipline when striving to reach your goals.