How to distinguish fat-loss and exercise myths from the facts

Joshua Trentine, President, Overload Fitness

Boldly succeeding by applying truth in a world bombarded by false advertising requires understanding. How many of the most popular weight-loss pitfalls do you know how to recognize on sight?

“Possessing this knowledge and the ability to dispense it will nearly make you a legend with others still doling out dollars for miracle cures,” says Joshua Trentine, president of Overload Fitness.

Smart Business spoke with Trentine about common fat-loss myths and how to see through them.

What’s the truth behind cellulite?

Cellulite is a word coined to help European salons and spas describe the dimpled condition of customers’ thighs and buttocks. American women can thank Nicole Ronsard for bringing this term to their lips in her 1973 book “Cellulite: Those Lumps, Bumps and Bulges You Couldn’t Lose Before,” which absolved many women of guilt because it was determined they simply didn’t understand cellulite nor did they possess the tools of Ronsard’s beauty salon to fix it. She attempted to convince women that they have a special kind of fat that has run amok in their bodies, thriving on toxic waste that they’re powerless to eliminate. Today, legions of anti-cellulite products hawked by multilevel marketing companies, Internet sites, and even local department stores, grocers and pharmacies stand ready to rid you of the problem, along with your money. Not far behind all the hype and hoopla is the Federal Trade Commission taking action against the marketers of most cellulite-reducing products.

Keep your money and get results by first getting the facts. Cellulite can only be eliminated by losing body fat by restricting calorie consumption and maintaining lean muscle, which is best accomplished with strength exercise.

What about toning and firming? Can those really be accomplished?

Toning and firming are buzzwords that are appealing but have no basis for meaning, biologically speaking. Using these terms when speaking to a medical professional is a dead giveaway that you are unschooled in how the body works. These are simply marketing words meant to part people from their money for whatever pill, potion or program advertised, all without fear of working too hard, adding muscle and becoming the next world-renowned bodybuilder. Unfortunately, out of necessity, to attract people, specifically women, to the exercise arena, savvy marketers since the 1950s have created an array of misinformation regarding what is required to get the desirable appearance from strength training.

Every person needs to understand that the results that one seeks are dictated by genetics, which can be improved upon and controlled only by changing the body-shaping tissues with which they were born. People who aren’t using performance-enhancing drugs simply cannot become too muscular. As a matter of fact, most are in a constant losing battle, shedding close to a pound of muscle per year once they hit age 35. Those who are aggressively strength training will be lucky to maintain their muscle mass as they advance in age.

Can strength training lead to too much muscle?

The thought of becoming too muscular from strength training is irrational and only perpetuated by the media and marketers. Rest assured that if one ever did get too muscular in a particular part of the body, all he or she would have to do is stop training that particular body part for a few weeks and it will atrophy back to its original size. However, back off too much or too frequently, and the whole body will become shapeless and baggy once again. Our body shape comes from its underlying bone structure and muscle, and our overlying fat provides the body’s curves. Fat can be appealing when kept in check and only when there is sufficient underlying supportive muscle.

Muscle is the foundation of our shape, metabolism and our functional ability, so become as lean as is reasonable through calorie control and as strong and enduring as possible through consistent, high-intensity strength training. Then let nature do the rest.

Can an area of the body be ‘targeted’ for weight loss?

Spot reduction, the idea that one can get rid of fat in some ‘problem area’ by exercising that part of the body, is perhaps the most popular myth in fitness.

The myth of spot reduction assumes these fallacies:

• You burn a significant amount of extra calories due to the exercise for that particular body part.

• You burn extra calories exclusively in the area targeted for spot reduction.

• Your fat stores replenish the deficient energy substrate instead of calories from diet.

• Your liver mobilizes fat specifically from the target area.

A good analogy for spot training would be bailing water from one end of the pool with a bucket. You won’t see the water level change on one side of the pool and not the other. The water is lost from the pool uniformly. Similarly, fat is mobilized systemically as opposed to locally from one specific or targeted location.

How can people test the progress of their diet?

The too-tight pants test is the easiest and cheapest way to make assessments about the effectiveness of your diet and exercise for fat loss. Begin by selecting a pair of nonstretch slacks or jeans you no longer wear because they are too uncomfortably tight. If, from week to week and month to month, these pants are easier to slip on, then you are becoming leaner. This test is as good as any fancy body fat measuring device providing that you don’t wear the pants around and stretch them or shrink them in the wash.

Likewise, this test works in reverse. If the test pants begin to feel tight again, then most likely you are regaining fat, signaling the imperative for you to redouble your efforts and check your food diary and portion sizes.

Joshua Trentine is president of Overload Fitness. Reach him at (216) 292-7569 and visit www.overloadfitness.com.

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