One of the things that irks me most in the world is the massive amount of misleading and incorrect information out there regarding health and fitness. In the past week I have received several emails asking for advice, and the one thing that is common among almost all of them is that people are confused about what and when to eat, how and when to train, and who to trust (I love getting emails from you guys but, as I always say, I’m not a personal trainer or nutritionist – yet! – so take what I say as you will).
On my flight to Auckland on Saturday, I was desperate for something fitness-related to read as it’s difficult for me to go more than a couple of hours without reading an article, book or blog about working out! I’m still in Auckland, by the way, and I apologise for the late blog post – it was an absolute mission trying to find Internet and something exciting came up which I’ll tell you all about next time!
Anyway, I grabbed a magazine at the airport which has only recently come out in Australia, Cosmopolitan Health. I know, I know – what on earth was I thinking?! I foolishly hoped that the health version of Cosmo would be more serious and useful than the regular magazine. However, I think it was even worse! The saddest part is that each issue of this ‘specialised’ magazine remains on the shelf for three months, allowing plenty of time for (mainly) women to be misled by this nonsense – without even realising!
I shook my head almost the entire way through the magazine. Here are just a few of the quality pieces of information:
- “For a more effective workout, prioritise your spot training. The first place you exercise gets the hardest workout and most toning.” This was the first piece of text I read on the very first non-advertisement page of the issue. The ‘tip’ then proceeded to suggest that if you want a firm butt, do squats first, but if you want washboard abs, do crunches first! People, there is no such thing as spot training and you will not ‘tone’ any part of your body more than another by doing the exercise first! You will not get visible abs unless you lose weight from your entire body and work extremely hard! Doing hundreds of crunches every day will not do anything except weaken your back.
- Yet another Biggest Loser trainer decided to sell out, with Tiffiny Hall shamelessly plugging fat-burning workout pants all the way through an interview. Apparently these pants are “caffeine-infused garments that banish cellulite”. Please, ladies, don’t waste your money on this crap – no matter who promotes it. If you want to get rid of cellulite get the blood moving and do some deadlifts!
- There were numerous workouts posted that promised to get you summer-ready in a matter of weeks. One of the pages included the infamous Tracy Anderson, using only 600ml water bottles to get ‘fit and toned’ in just three weeks. Some of the other moves included “The Boob Firmer” (a light dumbbell chest press on a stability ball – please don’t use those balls for anything but crunches!), “The Midriff Honer” (claimed to “shrink your waist and elongate your torso so your stomach looks even flatter”) and “The Bum Firmer” (sadly bodyweight lunges are not going to give you a butt like Amanda Latona’s!). Getting a body like the fit women in magazines takes more than 2-3 weeks’ worth of effort, and if you want to be fit by summer you should really have started in winter!
- There was a four page article on how to walk. I’m sorry, but I thought I covered that when I was a toddler?!
- A helpful section also told me which make-up to wear both in the gym and in the pool. Even if you are wearing waterproof make-up, it should be running down your face by the end of your workout if you’re doing it properly. Please. Leave it at home.
- My favourite section was the one which told me I need up to nine serves of cereals, including wholegrain breads, rice and pasta a day. Just FYI, one serve is two pieces of bread. So I can potentially eat 18 pieces of bread a day and get fit. On top of that, it promoted five serves of vegetables (good), two serves of fruit (okay), two serves of dairy (not necessary in my opinion), one serve of lean meat or nuts, and two serves of “sometimes foods” such as a piece of cake, four biscuits, potato chips or pizza. This article seriously tells people to have only one serve of chicken/fish/red meat a day, but up to eight sweet biscuits?! No wonder we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic. In my opinion, I think you should be having meat (or a very high protein source) in every single meal of the day.
- Following this article was a quiz, testing your eating habits. One of the questions was as follows: “Top of your grocery list should be which item? A. Milk. B. Yoghurt. C. Ice cream. D. Cheese.” The answer was: “All of the above.” Apparently, your body needs calcium to burn fat as it feeds the muscles. I’m sorry, but there are plenty of other non-dairy foods that provide calcium and people do not need any more excuses to eat ice cream! I’ve previously made my argument for why I don’t think dairy is necessary, and I stand by it.
- A helpful tip for people trying to avoid eating an entire chocolate block was that you should “still indulge but keep it small”. I think limiting yourself to just a taste – no matter how small it is – is only creating negative food habits and fuelling addiction to sugary foods. If you want to be super fit, there should be no place in your diet for bites of chocolate every day.
The moral of the story is that you shouldn’t believe everything you read. I can just picture thousands of Australian women following the advice above, and then wondering why they still haven’t got a six pack. I’d like to think that I’ve studied and experimented enough to separate a legitimate idea from a get-fit-quick gimmick. Sadly, I know that’s not the case for most people.
What’s the worse advice you’ve ever read in a fitness magazine?