Ladies, ladies, ladies.
Fitness advice, for us, is so frustrating. It’s never simply fitness advice—it’s always, in some roundabout way, weight loss advice. Don’t get me wrong; weight loss, for some of us, can be a part of our fitness goals, but there's still some real problems with the messaging we get. It’s always shrink down to nothingness, be as small as possible—regardless of the possible detriment to our health.
As someone certified as a specialist in women’s fitness, I’m sensitive to issues that mischaracterize health and fitness for women. And nothing burns my toast more than bad advice.
That being said, I do have four key pieces of advice that will not only allow you to live a little bit healthier, but will also give you good reason to dismiss some of the worst fitness advice given to women ever:
1) "Restricting entire food groups is the way to success." It’s not, and if your diet isn’t adequately balanced to accommodate the nutrients you might be cutting out of your diet, you could find yourself worse off than when you originally started over time. Take, for instance, dairy. Certain diets and lifestyle encourage you to give up dairy entirely which, depending on how frequently you drank it, could leave you potentially deficient in calcium. Calcium deficiencies – as well as magnesium, iron and zinc deficiencies – have been linked to increases in PMS symptoms as well as muscle cramps. Who wants that? Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to give up dairy, or adopting an alternative eating lifestyle – just make sure that you’re very clear on the benefits you could be missing, and you have developed your own individual plan for how you intend to make up for it.
2) "Don’t lift weights – they make you bulky!" It’s only recently that I’ve started to see more training mags start bucking this trend, and it couldn’t have come soon enough. Lifting weights doesn’t bulk you up, especially on a recreational basis. Everyone who lifts weights won’t look like The Rock, but they will experience untold benefits on both the inside and outside. I can appreciate what makes everyone run to doing cardio for weight loss, but we should dig a bit deeper, here: whereas you can burn a good 500 or so calories a session in cardio, adding muscle to your frame – even if it’s just a pound here, two pounds there – will help you burn more calories and fat when you’re not working out, making your body much more capable of getting and keeping you lean year-round.
3) "All you have to do is count calories!" Even as a calorie counter, I have to admit this one is false. Make no mistake about it, calories matter. Are they “all” you have to concern yourself with, though? Not even close. Believing that “all” you have to be mindful of is calories might bring you a smaller frame, but are you healthy? Are your bones strong, or brittle? Is your hair falling out, are your nails brittle, and is your skin wrinkling and pooling and overstretched? What about fatigue – are you always tired? When people talk about calories being the “only” thing that matter, oftentimes it’s because they know they’re talking to a crowd that wants to drink its Mountain Peppersi Colas with impunity. You can’t. Thinking about calories – and, even more so, the source of those calories – strictly from a weight loss perspective is unhelpful to the person who still has a job with responsibilities that require then to be coherent at the end of the day. A diet of chips and orange soda might help you lose weight, but not only are you going to feel – and look – like crap, but you’re not fueling your workouts properly and you certainly won’t be operating optimally.
If there was an overarching theme here, it’d be to make sure you assess how taking any bit of fitness advice seriously could affect your life all around, not just in the gym. Bad advice can have you looking ridiculous, and feeling terrible, so always dig deeper. As I always say, your body will thank you for it!
Erika Nicole Kendall is the writer behind the award-winning blog, A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss. Ask her your health and fitness-related questions on twitter at @bgg2wl.