You may think these habits are helping you lose weight and stay healthy, but the truth is you may be better off without themBy: Erin Hicks
Now that the weather’s getting warmer, it’s time to spring clean—and your closet isn’t the only thing that could use a face lift. It turns out some of the “healthy” habits you practice religiously may be excessive, ineffective, and adding clutter to your already hectic life.10 Best foods for life's troubles
With the help of Adam Friedman, a NSCA-certified strength specialist, certified nutrition consultant, and Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute expert, we’ve identified seven not-so-healthy things you thought you had to do, and found simpler strategies that will still provide the intended benefits.
We’re not saying that any of your old habits are wrong, just that there may be a new and improved way of thinking about things. Consider this your spring 2.0 manual.
Are you ready to start simplifying your life?
Why you can shed it: Eight glasses is a general recommendation and doesn’t take into account different lifestyles, says Friedman. “The 8/8 recommendation is a good rule for healthy individuals, meaning that they are active, but it’s not a scientific number.”
Plus, you’re probably consuming water from other sources without even knowing it. Most liquids count toward the water intake goal—except alcohol. So yes, your morning tea or apple juice will count. That said, don’t skip the water fountain altogether.
“It’s true that you can be getting water from the foods you eat, but it usually accounts only for a percentage of what the body needs,” Friedman says. “Every individual has different water-intake needs based on their physiology and activity level.
And if don’t drink until you’re thirsty, it’s already too late, he says. You’re experiencing dehydration.”
Do instead: Friedman recommends having a glass of water right when you wake up in the morning, because you’re bound to be dehydrated after a night of sleep. “I always mix a glass of water with a packet of Emergen-C in the morning instead of having a cup of coffee,” says Friedman.
If you find yourself forgetting to drink enough water, stop focusing on glasses. Instead, fill a half-gallon jug with water and aim to finish it by the end of the day. Hydration is more important to our lives than we think, says Friedman. “The payoff is more energy, better digestion—meaning you’ll get more nutrients from the foods you eat—and better mental focus,” he says.
If you’re not sure how much water you’ve consumed throughout the day, the color of your urine is a good indicator of how hydrated you are. “Ideally the urine should be clear to very light yellow,” says Friedman.
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Why you can shed it: Though some studies show that weighing yourself can make you more conscious of your weight, and subsequently lose more of it, recent research says just the opposite.
A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that focusing on being healthy as opposed to fixating on the numbers on the scale can help decrease your blood pressure, put you in a better mood, and best yet—help you keep the weight off in the long term. Also, the research shows that a focus on shedding pounds can cause anxiety about weight and also increase the risk of gaining weight back over time.
Friedman agrees, saying that scales can actually be discouraging for people, and “they don’t always tell the whole story.” (Search: Weight loss success.)
“As people are training, they generally put on muscle, which weighs more than fat, so the scale can be misleading,” he says. “Women especially can be misled by the numbers. They can easily retain 3 to 5 pounds of water fluctuating in a day depending on their menstrual cycle.
“I would never let my clients do a daily weigh-in,” he says.
Do instead: Friedman recommends focusing on body composition and how much energy you have on a daily basis. If you’re more goal-oriented and need to focus on a number, pick a different metric than the one on a scale.
“Instead of obsessing about your weight, try to fit into an old pair of pants, or work on getting your cholesterol or blood pressure down,” says Friedman. “You can pick another goal that’s measurable but gives you higher self-esteem once you accomplish it.”
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Why you can shed it: Some may think that sitting on a ball all day is good for your abs, but Friedman says it’s not really an abs workout. Plus, if your core isn’t strong enough in the beginning you could hurt your back.
“Sitting is the worst thing we can be doing for ourselves, period,” says Friedman. “Sitting on a ball does engage the body more, but the dimensions have to be appropriate to someone’s height and leg length, and also their desk height. Sometimes that’s a hard combination to find,” says Friedman.
Do instead: Friedman recommends getting up every 20 minutes from your desk to walk around and stretch. If that’s unrealistic, try standing a few times an hour. And stand every time you talk on the phone. Or try this groundbreaking idea: If you need to talk to a coworker, get up and walk to her office instead of sending an IM (we know what you do).
Why you can shed it: Steady-state cardio has its drawbacks. Your body gets used to the routine and stops responding, meaning weight loss will plateau if you don’t mix it up. “I would not stick to one kind of exercise. Doing just the elliptical, or any other machine, isn’t going to continue to stimulate your body,” says Friedman.
Do instead: On cardio days use the treadmill on an incline or the stairstepper, says Friedman. Also, mix interval training into your cardio routine to challenge your muscles and burn more fat. “Designate two or three days to do interval training, and on those days do only 20 to 30 minutes of an intense interval workout to achieve results.”
He says strength training should also be incorporated into any fat-loss program. “Do strength training before cardio—it’s better for fat burning,” he says. “Hit the weights a minimum of two times a week to see results.”
Video: Try this total-body at-home workout (no equipment required!)
Why you can shed it: There’s no study out there that says eating after 8 p.m. will make you gain weight, says Friedman. “It’s an old-school thought—someone once upon a time said it and it stuck.” The harm is that you might be tempted to eat more at dinner so you can make it through the night.
“People think that once you sleep, your metabolism slows down and those calories will be converted into fat,” he says. “The truth is that if you’re eating calories from the right nutrients and the appropriate portions, nothing will turn into fat.”
Do instead: Though Friedman says that a calorie is a calorie, it is true that certain types of foods may be more difficult to break down at different times of day. Friedman recommends sticking to something lighter and easier to digest if you’re going to eat a late meal.
“A midnight sirloin may not be the best idea,” he says. “What I recommend for my clients before bed is cottage cheese with some fruit and maybe a few nuts—something light that’s going to allow them to sleep well.”
Why you can shed it: “People do the same abs exercises every day thinking that it will give them a six-pack,” says Friedman. “Everyone has a six-pack—they just have a layer of fat hiding it.”
If you’re combining healthy eating with a solid workout program that includes cardio and weight training, you’ll reveal your washboard stomach, says Friedman. “Abdominal workouts are good, but they should be designed more toward building strength than attempting 1,000 crunches a day to get a ripped core,” he says.
Do instead: Challenge your abs while working out other parts of your body. “Some of my clients tell me they want to do more abs, but I have to tell them that the exercises they are doing are working their core as well as their entire body,” says Friedman.
“If you’re strength-training properly, you will engage your abdominals throughout each exercise, so you don’t have to dedicate a whole 20 minutes to doing crunches.”
Video: Sculpt a chiseled tummy with Pilates.
Why you can shed it: When eaten in moderation, fat is an essential part of your diet, according to Friedman.
“Fat in your meal actually slows down the digestion process, which makes you feel fuller, faster and longer,” says Friedman. Fat also helps you absorb more nutrients found in your food because it’s processed slower in the body, he says.
“People think that fat is making them fat, so they remove fat from their meals and end up eating more carbs or protein, which gets converted into sugar, and then stored as fat if you’re getting too much,” says Friedman.
Do instead: Fill up on healthy fats: avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and nut butters. Discover more foods that will help you blast belly fat with this free guide.
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