Dr Sheela Nambiar an obstetrician, gynaecologist, fitness expert and to top it all an animal lover, has enlightened us about health and fitness through her books ‘Gain To Lose’ and ‘ Get Size Wise’. She decodes the many myths that surround the realm of fitness and exercise in a conversation with Varsha Abhay.
Fitness and Diet Myths
MYTH 1: To lose fat around the waist (belly), we need to do a couple of hundreds of purely abdomen exercises every day.
Doing Ab crunches alone will not burn fat around the mid-section area of the body. For that, one needs to expend several calories. Unfortunately, Ab exercises don't do as much. Add compound exercises, cardio and weight training to get the best calorie burn that eventually will give you that flat stomach. To conclude, there is no such thing as “spot reduction”.
MYTH 2: If I train with weights, I’ll become ‘muscular’ and ‘manly’.
The hormone Testosterone determines masculinity. You will not miraculously develop a deeper voice or a male physique by picking up a dumbbell. Weight training will build muscle mass and strength, which will benefit your aesthetics, health and immunity. Indian women particularly dislike this form of exercise, not realizing the fact that they really need to build more muscle in order to burn fat, get stronger, improve posture and prevent osteoporosis and so on.
MYTH 3: If I eat or drink certain type of food for e.g. lime & honey, green tea, celery, I will ‘burn’ fat.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a fat burning food. I wish there was and I wish I had invented it. Eating won’t cause the fat cells within your adipose tissue to ‘burn’. The fat in your cells have to be called upon to be used as fuel by your muscles to get converted to energy. Hence, exercising is essential.
MYTH 4: Sweating helps me lose fat.
When your body temperature rises, your skin pores give out water with constituents of salt, this is sweat. This happens when you exercise and your heart rate increases; your internal thermostat indicates that your body is over-heated. A similar thing happens when you are in hot humid weather. Sweating will lead you to believe that you have lost ‘fat’ when you step on the scale and find to your utter delight that you have lost ‘weight’ but this will come back once your body rehydrates, that is in the next 48 hours.
MYTH 5: Starving myself will help me lose weight.
Starving will cause your body to believe there is a famine and start storing all the calories it can however little you eat. In other words, it will lower its Basal Metabolism. Besides, you cannot starve eternally, so when you do get back to eating near normal, all the excess calories accumulates fat stores and you may even gain more weight than when you started. A more sensible thing would be to eat healthy, choose wisely at every meal, keep indulgences in control and eat from all the food groups in moderation after determining your requirements.
MYTH 6:To see results I need to work for hours and hours in the gym
To improve fitness and lose weight, you have to train ‘smart’ not ‘long’. You need to firstly, build a very strong foundation of strength and cardio-vascular endurance with basic moves and lifts. Once you get fitter, you can cut down on time spent exercising. Your body will acclimatize. Building enough muscle mass will help you stay lean even with shorter workouts.
MYTH 7: I will never be able to sustain weight loss, it always comes back.
Not if you alter your lifestyle a tad bit. Sustaining weight loss is far more difficult than actually losing the weight. Change in the way you eat, work, sleep, travel, and deal with stress will help in lasting significant changes. It requires not only exercise and a consistent diet, but a change in thought process and deep mindfulness.
In this fast paced life, a word of advice for women in their:
20s – Get your foundation in fitness right. It will hold you in good stead later by preventing weight gain and disease. It’ll also help you enjoy fitness, especially as you age. Build a strong foundation of Stamina, Strength, Flexibility and Endurance.
30s – Usually a time post-delivery, with a family, career and much bewilderment. If you have already achieved a strong foundation, you can experiment with various forms of fitness. Remember to include your 4 Pillars of Fitness however.
40s – Take fitness very seriously. Include weight training at least 2-3 times a week. Yoga, meditation, mindfulness play an important role. A certain level of solemnity and empowerment comes with crossing 40! Women should pay more attention to themselves.
HEALTHY FOODS DECODED
- Calcium, best obtained from dairy products and green vegetables.
- Minerals, vitamins & anti-oxidants, from fruits, vegetables and eggs.
- Protein, Meats, Eggs, poultry, beans, sprouts, soy, nuts & seeds are the best.
- Vegetables like broccoli, mustard greens, spinach & parsley are good for vegetarians.
- Have green leafy vegetables, leeks, meats and ragi for Iron.
- For Omega 3, consume flax seeds, walnuts, hemp and oily fish.