Remember when chocolate was bad for you, but then a bit later, just kidding, dark chocolate was fine? Remember when olive oil was the worst thing you could cook with but now it's touted as being high in antioxidants? Remember when steady-state cardio was best for fat loss, but then high-intensity interval training came on the scene?
If you care about your health, chances are you’ve tried a trend or a new diet or the latest fad at some point. And sometimes that’s a good thing, because you’re getting out of your comfort zone. However, there are a few habits you may have picked up that you should cut out of your routine.
1. Jumping on Every New Diet Bandwagon
Paleo, keto, whole 30, the Mediterranean diet… just Google “current diet trends” and the list is practically endless. It can feel like a new way of eating that will magically fix all your problems is always right around the corner.
Sometimes, as I said above, it’s a good thing. Sometimes people try a new diet and sleep better or have less chronic pain. Food can be powerful medicine.
The issue becomes if you’re constantly skipping around from diet to diet. If you’re the person who’s all about the next food trend, I have bad news: you’re not going to reach your goals.
A key aspect of health and fitness is consistency. If you’re constantly and drastically changing the way you eat every 20 days, how will you ever know what’s working for you? How will you know what helps you feel better or lowers your stress?
What to do instead: give each new diet at least six weeks before you toss it in favor of the next one. Keep a journal of how you feel while on the diet. When you prioritize protein, do you feel stronger? When you decrease processed goods, do you have more energy? Noting how you feel after you eat various foods is vital to tracking your progress.
2. Relying Too Much on Supplements
Similar to fad diets, supplements are all the rage in the health and fitness industry. Collagen, peptides, creatine… the internet is full of guides for “the supplements you should be taking” or “the supplements that aren’t worth it.”
If you don’t pay much attention to your diet but your kitchen counter looks like a pharmacy of supplements, that’s not ideal. You can’t use vitamins or pills to replace good nutrition.
To take supplements effectively, do your research and rely on scientifically studied resources. Focus on supplements that support your specific goals, like fat loss or muscle gain. And definitely talk to your doctor before starting or stopping any supplement.
What to do instead: make sure you’re eating a balanced diet. This doesn’t have to be complicated; aim for a variety of colors on your plate at every meal and you’re a good portion of the way there.
For example, put blueberries, strawberries, and banana on your morning Greek yogurt (protein, blue, red, and yellow). Have a turkey sandwich with spinach, tomatoes, and bell peppers for lunch (protein, carbs, green, red, and orange). Make a stew with carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, and lentils for dinner (so many veggies, protein, orange, green, and brown.)
Eat the rainbow every day and your diet alone will be doing the work of half a dozen supplements.
3. Believing in "No Pain, No Gain"
Too many folks are over-exercising. Do you go to the gym literally every day? Do you have a strict workout schedule with no days off? Does the thought of skipping a day give you anxiety?
A lot of people are in this boat, and the bad news is, when you skip rest days, your body can’t recover. The real work isn’t done in the gym, when you feel the sweat and the tension in your body.
The real work is done in the hours and day after, when your body is repairing the small tears in your muscles to make them stronger.
If you consistently go from one training day to the next, your body doesn’t have a chance to adequately repair. (Yes, even if you’re training a different body part.)
What to do instead: take rest days! (That's me on the left, resting.) Build these into your routine at least two days a week, if not three. If the idea of “resting” fills you with dread, you can do gentle activities on these days. The keyword there is “gentle.” Think going for a walk or doing light yoga.
4. Avoiding One Macro Because it's "Bad"
Spoiler alert: there are no “good” or “bad” foods or macros. There are foods that can make you feel bad or aren’t the healthiest for you. But that’s it.
Macros are the big groups: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Some people simplify their nutrition by not counting calories, necessarily, but rather by the grams of each of these macros they consume throughout their day.
This can be a wonderful way to track your nutrition and keep your diet balanced. However, some people take it a bit too far and either eliminate or tone down a certain food group too much because they think it’s “bad” for them.
Most of the time, the group is either carbs or fats. This ties into fad diets a bit, because the health industry likes to go back and forth on which one is “good” or “bad” in the moment.
The reality is, you need all three macros in your life to keep your nutrition balanced.
What to do instead: if it’s safe for you to do so, use a nutrition tracking app to make sure your macros are balanced. Or, consider working with a personal trainer to learn the basics and get on track.
5. Believing Strength Training Will "Bulk You Up"
Ladies, this one’s for you. The amount of times women in the fitness space express fear that they will “look bulky” by lifting weights is excessive.
It’s just not true. You literally, physically cannot “bulk up” on an average weight lifting routine.
Yes, there are female bodybuilders. However, they have a strict diet and a pattern of eating that is practically impossible for a regular human to follow.
So, following an average weight lifting routine to build muscle will not bulk you up. Why? Because, ladies, you don’t have enough testosterone.
Testosterone is the hormone responsible for tissue growth, protein synthesis, and controlling fat metabolism. On average, males have 7–8 times the amount of testosterone in their bodies than females.
So, yes, while females have some testosterone and it helps you build muscle, it’s not enough to trigger the same type of tissue growth that males have.
What to do instead: pick up those weights! If you’re intimidated by the weight room, snag a buddy or a personal trainer to help with your initial experiences. My guess is that once you experience the thrill of crushing a new goal, you’ll be hooked for life.
What Habits Do You Have?
Are there sneaky health or fitness habits you have that have crept into your routine? Are they influenced by science or by magazines? Or possibly both? Let’s talk about it in the comments.