Without a doubt people, especially women, are inherently impatient when it comes to weight-loss issues. As a woman/mother/working professional and someone who likes to keep fit…I have realized that there are no short cuts; it’s all about finding the right balance between training and nutrition along with being consistent.
I have also noticed that more often than not women’s judgement gets clouded by myths about weight management. Many are clueless about the hormonal changes which, for instance, lead to vitamin D deficiency, and this can have a direct impact on training, thus preventing them from reaching their goals.
Here we list some common myths and also give you tips on how to get in shape by balancing healthy eating with the right kind of exercises.
Myth: You can lose weight fast if you diet or exercise rigorously
Reality: There are no short cuts. To start with, set realistic targets that are easier to achieve, rather than aiming for the impossible. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, weight loss of no more than 1kg a week is medically safe, which translates to almost 4kg a month. Diets that restrict calorie consumption to less than 1,000 calories per day can cause a metabolic slowdown which eventually leads to the rebound effect. You end up putting all the weight back on, if not more. For example, the Atkins diet limits carbohydrate consumption to 30g a day (while the recommended normal daily intake should be 300g), the body thus loses weight because it hits a state of ketosis, which is not sustainable. And if you sensitize your body so much, once you get back to a normal diet (a healthy one), you’re bound to put back all the weight. So the moral of the story is that it’s easy to lose weight but tough to maintain it and the maintenance depends on how you lost weight in the first place.
Eat right: Consuming less than 1,000 calories a day can cause a metabolic slowdown.
Seek professional help if you’re medically overweight, so you can get nutritionally sound advice. And if you’re motivated enough to do it yourself, follow the basic principles of healthy eating. Have a diet that is low in fat (limiting consumption of saturated fats), high in fibre, contains nuts, seeds and wholegrains and stay away from fried foods, the whites (sugar, rice, pasta), and processed foods.
Myth: Cardio machines—a woman’s best friend
Reality: So not true. You do not need to spend hours on a cardio machine to lose body fat. A combination of Interval cardio with resistance training equals efficient fat loss. Interval training refers to alternating high-intensity bouts of training with low or medium intensity ones; this keeps the metabolic rate elevated even after an exercise session. The human body is the most resourceful of all organisms and intuitively adapts to repetitive stress, including that coming from exercise. Accordingly it becomes immune to exercises that are performed over and over again. Vary your routine to avoid stagnancy or reaching a plateau and encourage muscle confusion by cross-training so that your muscle doesn’t adapt to just one kind of exercise. This will speed up results and justify time spent in the gym.
I see a lot of women obsessing about their weight every single day. Understand that muscle weighs more than fat, and an increase in muscle means a higher metabolic rate. So worry about changing your body composition (the ratio of fat to muscles) rather than weight. Reduce body fat percentage and increase muscle mass.
If you want to improve muscle mass then lift weights or add external resistance to workout. Women tend to shy away from weight training, thinking they will bulk up like men. Women don’t have the hormones (testosterone) to cause an increase in muscle like men. Instead, adding weights to your routine will lead to an increase in muscle mass which, in turn, leads to a higher metabolic rate and also increases bone density.
Myth: If I go on a special diet I can melt the kilos
Reality: Diets that restrict and limit certain food groups eventually put the body under stress due to lack of essential nutrients. Understand why you would want to restrict a particular food group. For example, many women who suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)—leading to hormonal imbalance (about one in every 10 women suffers from this syndrome these days)—need to stick to food measuring low on the glycaemic index (GI) to keep their blood sugar levels balanced in order to reduce insulin sensitivity. GI measures the effect of carbohydrates present in food on blood sugar levels—the higher the number, the greater the blood sugar response. So a low GI food will cause a small rise, while a high GI food will trigger a dramatic spike. Hence, omit foods like white potatoes, white rice and keep cereals limited to wholegrains. Another example could be how women with thyroid should stay away from soy and soy products (which are otherwise healthy) as consuming these can limit the absorption of the prescribed medication.
To keep the metabolism elevated, eat every 3-4 hours, which in turn balances blood sugar levels to help prevent binges. Include essential fatty acids to increase the body’s capacity to burn fat. Drink around five-six cups of green tea to promote and aid the body’s detoxification and elimination processes. Increase your intake of lean proteins (such as fish, chicken, soy and skimmed milk products) to help increase muscles and keep blood sugar levels balanced.
Myth: I can reduce weight only on my abdomen
Reality: There is nothing known as spot reduction. So forget doing 100 crunches hoping for a miracle. While performing isolated exercises will definitely tone the muscles in that particular area, it is impossible to reduce body fat in just one part of the body. The only way to burn fat is to burn more calories than you consume, which you can do through a combination of cardiovascular exercises, resistance training and exercise in general. However, when you do start losing fat, you lose it all over your body, not just in one place, and it doesn’t necessarily come off evenly. So, if you want washboard abs, you have to achieve it through a mix of diet and exercise. Do not just limit yourself to crunches but work at other core-strengthening exercises as well if you want to shape up your tummy.
Myth: A longer duration of exercise is required to achieve weight-loss goals
Reality: While consistency is the main ingredient of any successful exercise programme, longer durations of activity are not. Short and intense workouts have shown better results for weight loss. Something is better than nothing, even 20 minutes of workout a day, five days a week, is better than an hourly session a week.
Sumaya Dalmia is a wellness consultant, fitness expert and owner of SD ACTIVE, a personal training studio in New Delhi.
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