Eat Right, Exercise, Die Anyway (or Lies the Internet Tells You)

I really need to lay off the LifeHacker blog posts. Much like with BuzzFeed and Cracked, I find myself going down a black hole of information nuggets doled out in numbered lists.

"23 Things Only Ladies With Big Boobs Will Understand"
"4 Ridiculous Things No One Tell You About Being an Adult"
"73 Is the New Retirement Age for Today's College Grads"

After weeping inconsolably about my lack of retirement before I become a geriatric, I ultimately wound up reading "10 Health Myths That Just Won't Die, Debunked by Science," and was mildly amused by the utter nonsense people believe.

My particular favorites revolved around gluten-free foods, 3500 calories to burn a pound, and spot-reduction.

Gluten-Free is the Way to Be!

Speaking from experience, gluten-free food is disgusting. There may be a few options out there that are palatable, if not tasty, but I have yet to find them. For a (thankfully) brief period I was put on a celiac diet that cost me flavor as well as a metric ton of money. I also noticed gluten-free did not mean healthy.

What it is like eating gluten-free anything.

An example from the article is soda. There is no gluten in soda, is it healthy? Of course not.

What about that gluten-free sandwich dough? If there is no gluten, there must obviously only be healthy stuff packed in there (Air? Cardboard?), right?

Nope, often times you end up with starchy grossness that is just as unhealthy.

Then there is the fact that gluten isn’t actually bad for you. If you are a celiac or gluten-sensitive, then I am sorry you will be subjected to the gluten-free diet for all eternity. Perhaps with the new hyper focus on it, better tasting (not to mention cheaper) alternatives will arise.

In the mean time, just because gluten is bad for celiacs does not mean it is bad for everyone else. People most often believe this myth due to how dramatically celiacs' lives improve when they cut out gluten.

Again, this is because their body cannot process it. Yours can. At the end of the day, unless you are a celiac, cutting gluten isn't going to make you any healthier.

The Magic Number: 3500

Only 2563 calories to go until I lose one pound! (CC BY 2.0)

Yes, it is true that you must burn 3500 calories to lose one pound. This is not the myth. The myth is that 3500 calories out will burn one pound of fat. This is simply not the case.

There is no mathematic equation where you can plug in the number of calories you burned (which is difficult to ascertain for certain anyway, even with a heart rate monitor) to discover how much weight should show on the scale much less how much fat you lost.

So what are you burning if not fat? Some fat for certain, but also some water weight and random other bodily tissues. This is how you see people drop weight and still look soggy around the mid-section. Fat loss is on its own program and does not care one jot for your 3500 calorie belief.

(Fat loss is a mean SOB, let me tell you)

Basically, unless you have some magic way to know for certain how many calories you consumed, how many you burned, and how much of it came from fat, your fat-loss will not necessarily correlate with your weight loss.

That being said, don't give up on your exercise and diet regimen. You are still burning calories and fat for sure, just not necessarily at the rate you thought you were. Check out our crossfit workouts and healthy recipes if you are looking for new ideas.

Spot Reduction: An Oldie but a Goodie

Losing weight can be confusing. We can help
CC BY 2.0

You may doubt that this myth still persists, but the internet seems to think otherwise (why else would there be so many articles dedicated to debunking it).

Much like your fat decides to burn off at its own pace, it also won't just disappear from where you most want it to. You can do crunches galore, but your midsection won't be any tighter for it. Certainly the muscles will grow and strengthen, but the fat will remain stubbornly in place on top of them.

This is because your body more or less loses fat evenly across the board. Strength training in and of itself isn't really going to help you burn a ton of calories. The muscle you build will help burn fat, this is true, but cardiovascular or aerobic exercises are going to be the main factor for fat-loss.

Also, men and women have stubborn areas that will always take longer to reduce than others. For men this tends to be the waist line; for women this is hips and thighs. No amount of crunches or lunges will change this fact.

Honestly, a good balance between strength training and cardio will bear the best results. Just like with your diet (you don't only eat salads do you?) your muscles respond best to a balanced exercise regimen.

Hopefully, you now feel a little bit smarter (unless you were already shrewd enough to recognize these fallacies for what they truly were) and will stop worrying about things you can't change, such as the rate of fat-loss, or things you shouldn't change without good reason, like cutting gluten from your diet.

There are far more important things to agonize about anyway, like how much it sucks that you won't retire until after you turn 73

You can find the original LifeHacker article here.

About Samantha Bookwalter


Samantha Bookwalter is freelance writer and social media specialist. She specializes in web editing, copy editing, copy writing, social media management, HTML, CSS, and other web-related acronyms. Samantha has an affinity for health and fitness; in her free time she enjoys working out with her husband and researching recipes that are not only healthy but delicious too.


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