Yosef has a few medical issues and will be starting our 10 Week program soon. He came to see me in my office for a consultation. Aside from being overweight and sedentary, he has prediabetes and high blood pressure. Coupled with a poor family history, he decided that he should take action to reverse these problems and prevent anything worse from happening now. In the course of our conversation, I could see that one of the biggest challenges for Yosef was going to be deprograming his brain from all the preconceived ideas he picked up from multiple unscientific magazines and online articles.
Unfortunately, we have been inundated with information. In the last couple of generations, it has been easy for people to put out a lot of material and reach a large number of people. However, is this information evidence-based or are they tall tales that have no basis in reality? Let’s take a look at some popular myths concerning our lifestyle habits; some from the way we eat and some from the world of fitness. If it’s in bold print—it’s just not true.
#1—Sugar is bad for you and therefore all carbohydrates are bad for you. Nothing could be further from the truth. All carbs are not created equal. There is a world of difference between refined, processed carbohydrates and unrefined, intact, whole carbs. Yes, foods containing processed sugars like candy, baked goods, white flour and sugared beverages don’t provide good nutrition and they do, indeed, cause harm. However, according to Kathy Mcmanus, MS, RDN, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes are essential and the foundation of a healthy diet.
#2—Gluten is bad, so avoid it. One only has to take about 10 steps into the grocery store and look up at the shelves to see the words gluten free on many products. This is very important if you have celiac disease, gluten allergies, or gluten sensitivities. Then, you’d certainly need to shop for gluten free products. However, this is a very small percentage of the population– no more than 4-5% of people. Gluten free products have less iron, fiber, and b vitamins, so don’t go on a gluten free eating program unless it is absolutely necessary.
#3—Juicing is a healthy way to get my nutrition. I am sure you’ve seen them all—detox juice, green juice, juices infused with turmeric and ginger, etc. It is true that juicing is an effective way to increase vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients in one’s diet (Zheng 2017). However, this is not as good as eating fruits and vegetables whole. Juicing removes the much needed fiber that occurs naturally in these foods. Fiber is essential for good digestive health and cholesterol reduction, and it also helps us keep our blood sugar under control. Also, consider that calories you consume with juicing. For instance, you would need 5 or 6 oranges for a glass of orange juice. You wouldn’t eat 5 oranges. According to registered dietician, Kim Kirchherr, “it is much more economical and nutritious to eat whole fruits and vegetables in salads, soups and stir fries.”
#4–Vitamins and minerals are good for health, so I should take a lot of supplements. Vitamins keep you healthy. Vitamin C, for instance, keeps you from getting scurvy. The mineral Iron keeps you from being anemic. It’s all good and important, but 1) more is not better and 2) the best way for your body to absorb vitamins is through food, not from supplements. When you take too many fat soluble vitamins, the excess is stored in fat and you risk toxicity in large doses. When you take a lot of water soluble vitamins, you will just excrete what your body doesn’t need when you go to the bathroom, so all that money you have paid for these large doses is simply “going down the toilet.” Eating right and in balance is the single best way to get all of your vitamins and minerals. Don’t be fooled into taking something just because it is popular. Also, we don’t have any good studies yet on the long term effects of taking supplements. Even if you are exercising intensely, you don’t need any supplementation.
#5–Exercise burns lots of calories. In general, if you’re walking at a brisk pace, you are only going to burn about the amount of calories that are found in a banana. That’s not very much. Running at about a 5 mph pace for 30 minutes is only going to burn the amount of calories that are in a bagel. Combining a healthy, balanced diet with regular moderate to vigorous exercise will help you lose fat. Exercise helps with weight loss for a lot of reasons, but calorie burn isn’t a big player. Look at exercise as an essential element of good health—it is.
#6-Lots of sit ups will make your stomach flat. What’s true is that ab exercises will help to tone and firm up that area; maybe it will help to lose some inches, but it’s not going to burn that layer of fat that’s on top of the abdominal muscles. Even if you are burning calories, you can’t guarantee that it’s just going to come from that one area that you want it to; it’s going to come from all over, and you are going to have an overall weight loss. But once you start eating correctly and do your aerobic exercise and that layer of fat comes off, the stomach will look a lot better because you paid attention to working those muscles.
#7–Exercising 15 minutes a day, 3 days a week is enough for good health. Think again! People need a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise most days of the week, preferably a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobics per week and two days of some muscle building. It might mean working up a sweat, but when you make the proper investment, the dividends that pay off are good health, good daily function, and good quality of life.
#8–Aerobic training is more important than strength training. Muscular fitness is just as important as aerobic fitness. It’s going to prevent osteoporosis and it’s going to help with weight management because it’s going to help elevate your metabolism, and it’s going to help you with preventing or correcting insulin resistance, which could lead to diabetes. It’s also vital for basic function. So, if you want to be able to hold and play with your grandchildren as you age, start working on building muscle now.
#9–People who exercise need less sleep. People who exercise need more sleep than those who don’t. However, one of the benefits of regular exercise is that you are going to fall asleep faster and you are going to sleep more deeply, so you are going to have more restful sleep. That will give you the full restorative power that sleep provides.
#10–It is best to exercise in the morning. We spend too much time and money researching the absurd. The fact is that the best time to exercise is when you are going to do it, although exercising intensely too close to bedtime can keep you from falling asleep easily. Examine your day and see where it fits in best.
Yosef and I spoke about many of his misconceptions and he is very open to the idea that a lot of what he thinks about diet and exercise may not be true. But I know from experience that changing beliefs and unfounded perceptions can take some work. Nevertheless, we are both ready for the challenges that lay ahead. Being informed with facts based on real and current research is integral if you want to “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”
Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a CERTIFIED WELLNESS COACH with over 19 years of professional experience. Alan is the creator and director of the “10 Weeks to Health” program for weight loss. He is available for private coaching sessions, consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org Check out the his web site – www.alanfitness.com US Line: 516-568-
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.