From fad diets to fitness, there are a lot of misconceptions that society perpetuates about our health—and sometimes, those ideas do more harm than good. There's this notion that weight loss is the ultimate goal, that you can tell how healthy and motivated someone is by their body size, and there are all these ways we're supposed to eat and exercise. In reality, none of those ideas are true (instead, they're just highly stigmatizing) because everyone has different needs, goals, and abilities—and all of those differences are okay. That means it's time to stop believing everything you hear about food and exercise, and learn the facts so you can figure out what works best for you.
When it comes to your diet...
Myth: Cutting out fat is good for you
The Truth: Your body actually needs fat to stay healthy. According to the American Heart Association, fats give you energy, support cell growth, protect your organs, and help your body absorb nutrients, produce hormones and stay warm (those are all pretty important things!). Keep in mind that not all fats are the same, too—there are four types: polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats, saturated fats and trans fats; all of which have the same amount of calories, but affect your body differently. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are the ones you want to focus on eating more of, since they can lower LDL cholesterol (the type that puts your heart at risk) while saturated and trans fats do the opposite. But ruling out fats as a whole? Not necessary.
Myth: It's important to "eat clean"
The Truth: Fads like "clean eating" start off with the best of intentions—it's supposed to be about eating less processed food and more whole foods—but where they fail is in how they assign moral values to food. Looking at food as "good" or "bad" doesn't help people—it ignores the fact that some people don't have access to "good" food and can perpetuate disordered eating patterns (like feeling guilty when you eat those so-called "bad" foods). There's a great piece in Good Housekeeping that breaks down the "clean eating" trend and how harmful it can be, but the most important takeaways are to eat food and not food claims, and to focus on transparency (essentially meaning, eat something because you know what it is and you like it, not because it claims to do something "good" for you). At the end of the day, it's about doing what makes the most sense for you and your body, because everyone is different and has different needs.
Myth: You need to take multivitamins every day
The Truth: If you eat a mostly balanced diet (a mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.), you're probably already getting all the nutrients you need from your diet, so there's really no need to gulp down those giant multivitamins on the regular. Unless your doctor recommends supplements because you're dealing with a deficiency, what you eat should have you covered when it comes to meeting your suggested daily intake. According to a post on Greatist, some studies show that overdoing it on the vitamins might actually be harmful—the post also has a breakdown of which foods supply you with which vitamins, and the effects of getting too much Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and Calcium.
Myth: Gluten is bad for you
The Truth: Going gluten-free has become a big diet trend over the last few years, but unless you have Celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity (and talk with your doctor before you make any major dietary changes) there's really no need to cut gluten out of your diet. In fact, according to a Huffington Post article, it might even be unhealthy to cut it out without cause. Whole grains have great health benefits, and often times, gluten-free replacements are lacking in many of the nutrients that our bodies get from those whole grains (like fiber, iron, zinc and more). And studies show that people who eat whole grains are less likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. It's important to know what's in your food, but it's also important to remember that a "gluten free" label doesn't necessarily equal "healthier."
And for your fitness routine...
Myth: Fat can turn into muscle, and vice versa
The Truth: The fact of the matter is, fat and muscle are two different types of cells, and you simply cannot convert one type of cell into another, according to LiveStrong. When you exercise, you create tiny tears in your muscle fiber, and your body produces more muscle cells to repair that damage, which is how you build muscle. Along with that, calorie deficits shrink your fat cells, so if you're burning more calories than you're taking in and working on strength training, you'll likely see an increase in muscle definition and a decrease in fat—and it's not because your fat cells are actually turning into muscle. That also means that muscle can't turn into fat, either—so if you stop working out and lose muscle definition, know that your cells aren't converting.
Myth: Working out every day will yield the best results
The Truth: While getting up and moving every day is important, hardcore workouts require rest time, and that means taking days off. According to Shape, overtraining can do more harm than good. For example, not taking time off from your workouts can cause trouble sleeping, exhaustion, mood problems, burnout, and if weight loss is your goal (it's not everyone's goal, and definitely doesn't have to be) overtraining can cause your weight loss to plateau. Plus, if you menstruate, overtraining can cause amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) which might sound great in theory to some people, but is a clear signal that something's up with your body. Make sure you take at least one rest day a week, so your muscles can recover and your body can stay at its best.
Myth: Strength-training means you'll bulk up
The Truth: Some people do strength train to bulk up, but that actually requires a concentrated effort and doesn't just happen when you start lifting weights. According to Women's Health, there are a lot of misconceptions about weight lifting. For one, if you are actively trying to burn fat and lose weight, strength training can help boost your metabolism, so it's not all about doing cardio. And yes, you might gain weight from strength training, but that doesn't mean you'll bulk up unless you want to—if you're lifting weights, a scale may not be the best measurement to turn to. Why? Because it's entirely possible that your weight will go up even if you lose inches or stay the same size. The number on the scale won't necessarily accurately reflect your body's progress and changes, no matter what your fitness goals are, so focus on how you feel instead.
Myth: Sweat and soreness = progress
The Truth: You may think that if you're not breaking a sweat or feeling that muscle soreness the next day, you're not working hard enough, but there's actually no scientific evidence to back that up. While some soreness is normal, it's not a marker of success, according to Shape. Rather, the only way you should measure your fitness success is if you're able to challenge yourself and enjoy exercise, and if you find doing activities you love (think hiking, going for bike rides, etc.) is easier and more enjoyable.
Switching your mindset about exercise is a game-changer.