With so much of fitness shifting online, there are more overnight experts and Instagram gurus than ever before. It can be difficult at times to sift through all the nonsense and find real information that will actually help you achieve your goals. In the spirit of making sure you have accurate information that you can put into action, I wanted to take a moment today to debunk 3 popular fat loss myths that just won’t die.
Myth No. 1: You can spot-reduce fat
For some reason, this myth just won’t go away, even though it makes no sense. When people have come to me looking for help, they’ve said things like, “I want to lose the gut,” or, “I want to lose the fat on my arms.” It’s not their fault; they’ve been misinformed by all the Johnny-Come-Lately on the internet who are continuing to spread misinformation. Think about it this way: If you didn’t have a choice in where the fat accumulated on your body, why would you think you’d have a choice in where it disappears? It’s a bummer but that’s how it works. I wish it worked differently too.
The truth to how do you lose your belly or arm fat? Here’s how: Consistent, intelligent strength training; eating a diet of whole, minimally processed foods rich in protein and vegetables; and a mixture of short, intense bursts of cardio with longer, lower-intensity cardio.
[One caveat: Excess belly fat compared to the rest of the body could indicate elevated cortisol levels from stress. Excess fat in the triceps or upper back areas could indicate overconsumption of carbohydrates and/or poor carbohydrate tolerance. But that’s next-level stuff. Always start with the three things listed above first.)
Myth No. 2: You have to eat 6x/day to lose fat
This is another one that grinds my gears. Do people successfully lose fat eating smaller meals more frequently? Of course they do. So do people eating 3 larger meals a day, and people doing intermittent fasting. Just because some celebrity lost 20 pounds eating 6 meals a day doesn’t mean that’s the right approach for you. In fact, as busy as most mere mortals are with work, school, kids, etc., it may just not be feasible to eat that way.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t lose fat.
For most people, nutrient timing and how many meals per day you eat just aren’t that important. What’s important is that you’re exercising consistently (hopefully, prioritizing resistance training) and consuming the right foods in the right amounts throughout the course of the day. For women, this means 1 palm-sized serving of lean protein; 1 fist-sized serving of veggies; 1 cupped handful of whole, unprocessed carbs; and 1 thumb-sized serving of healthy fats as a starting point. For men, it’s 1 each of those.
If your meals more or less look like that and you eat 3-4 meals per day, you’ll do better in the long run than following some fad diet you read about in Men’s or Women’s Health. And you’ll be a lot happier, too.
Myth No. 3: Fat loss is easy
We look back and laugh at all those bizarre infomercials about “6-pack abs,” “buns of steel,” and the “You Can Do IIIIIT” guy and all the elaborate machines he was peddling. Yet the fitness world is more wild, wild west than ever, and those 80s infomercials have just been repackaged as deceptive ads in your Facebook feed.
Let me ask you this: If fat loss is easy, why is 42% of the American adult population obese and 70+% generally overweight? I can’t even escape the deception when I get in my car, where I’m bombarded by radio ads guaranteeing 20-40+ pounds of weight loss in 40 days. If that’s easy, then gaining it back will be even easier. It’s time to come to grips with the fact that fat loss is hard, and requires hard work, consistency and discipline. What it doesn’t require is starving yourself and making exercise a full-time job.
Don’t get sold on the magic bullet or secret sauce, because there is none.
Your best bet? Keep it simple, stick to the proven principles that work, be patient and play the long game. You deserve this for yourself, and you deserve to know the truth.