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Get Healthy and In Shape: 15 Diet Myths Debunked!

Get Healthy and In Shape: 15 Diet Myths Debunked!

Let’s be honest, we’ve all tried a crash diet now and then to try and shift a few pounds. Not all of them work, some do, though it’s never a long-term change, but why is that? We all know that diets are bad for us, but with no clear explanations for all the misconceptions that surround them it’s no surprise that we keep trying every new fad diet that come out through the media. I’m going to explain some of the myths that surround diets and give you an understanding of the right way to lose weight.

1. Going on a diet is the quickest way to lose weight

In the short term, your will power during a diet will help you shift a few pounds. Whether it’s from a liquid diet, smoothie substitutes or calorie deficit, in the beginning it will work. However, this change is only temporary – it’s not permanent. Christopher Gardner, an assistant professor of nutritional science at Stanford University School of Medicine, said: “A diet won’t work if you think of it as doing a different thing for a while and then you’re going to stop doing it.”

This mentality is what stops us from shifting the weight permanently. We should be aiming to adopt a completely new lifestyle as a whole, not just for the duration we keep up the latest fad diet.

2. Eating small meals will boost your metabolism and you will burn more calories naturally

The majority of foods we eat don’t have any impact on our metabolism. Things like caffeine may slightly and only temporarily increase your metabolism, but even this increase is not enough to have an effect on weight loss. Eating regularly helps keep your metabolism working consistently and this is good for you. It will stop your body from feeling hungry as it won’t be worried about not getting any energy from food. Large gaps in between meals can confuse your body, leading to unwanted cravings and unnecessary calories.

The only thing that’ll help you burn more calories is muscles – so get moving!

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3. Too much pasta will make you fat

Ever tried a carb-free diet? I have! I now know better though. Carbohydrates don’t make you fat, it’s the extra calories you consume as a result that do it. Like, for example, the sauces or condiments you add to the dish to make it taste better, not to mention the amount of pasta you’re actually eating. Eating pasta in moderation, like most foods, will not make you fat. Just be aware of portion control and try not to have it every day!

4. Caffeine can help you lose weight

Somewhere along the way came the assumption that drinking caffeine can suppress our appetites when we’re feeling hungry. Theoretically it can, but this isn’t exclusive to caffeinated drinks. Water will do the same thing, and drinking four to seven cups of water a day won’t lead to anxiety, sleeplessness or an increase in heart rate or blood pressure, whereas comsuming the same amount of coffee might.

If you want a hot drink, try green tea – there are countless flavours to choose from and they’re much better for your health too!

5. Milk can help you lose weight

I read once that calcium helps the body break down fat more efficiently, thus leading to more weight loss. This doesn’t have any scientific evidence to back it up. A few studies in 2000 showed that dieters who consumed dairy lost more weight than those who didn’t, but there was no explanation as to why this happened.

6. Don’t eat after 8 p.m.

Ever heard the saying “double calories at night”? Many dieters believe that you burn more calories in the morning and when you eat at night the food sits in your system and then turns to fat. But calories cannot tell time. Mary Flynn, Ph.D., a research dietician at the Miriam Hospital in Providence notes, “Your body digests and uses calories the same way morning, noon, and night.” The misbelief may have come about because you obviously move around more in the morning and throughout the day than in the evenings, so you may have less of an opportunity to burn your intake off. Just be aware what it is you’re actually eating in the evenings and ask yourself if you actually need it.

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7. Don’t eat protein and carbs together in the same meal – it’s too much!

This misconception relates to the enzymes the body uses when we digest food. Apparently eating foods that require the same type of enzymes aids digestion and evidently helps with weight loss. Your digestive system can actually handle a variety of food all at once. Christopher Gardner says, “There is no proof that eating protein and carbohydrates separately aids digestion or weight loss.”

So eat up, mix up and just enjoy your food!

8. To lose weight you need to cut down your calorie intake drastically

I’m not going to say drastically cutting calories won’t make you lose weight, because it will. But the damage it does to your body is not worth it. Not to mention that maintaining a calorie deficit of however much for the rest of your life is quite considerably unrealistic. This means the inevitable will happen – you’ll pile back on the pounds when you go back to how you ate before.

It’s not about eating less, it all about eating more of the right things.

9. Diet foods help you diet

We believe labels like “low fat,” “low carb,” “no added sugar,” etc. make losing weight easier. The truth is these labels don’t always equate to low calories and certainly don’t equal nutritious meals or snacks. Recent studies carried out by Robert Lustig have suggested that when the fat is taken out of foods and replaced with artificial sugar replacements that are low in calories this is actually much worse for our health than the stuff removed in the first place.

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My advice? Stick to healthy foods that are natural, and that you can trust.

10. Eating fats make you fat

If you’re trying to lose fat, then why eat it, right? Wrong! Fat is not the enemy per se. Fat-rich products like cakes, chocolate bars, sweets, etc. won’t be good for you as a whole, let alone your waistline. Good fats on the other hand are essential for maintaining good cholesterol, keeping your arteries clear and your health in general in check. Fats also help with the absorption of certain vitamins and phytonutrients (compounds in plants that help promote good health).

You just have to be careful which fats you’re eating. But remember: dark chocolate is good for you!

11. Snacking is a bad idea

Not many diets promote snacking. They mostly dictate what we can or can’t eat, the amount of calories we should limit ourselves to and to control portion sizes. What they don’t tell us is how to handle the food we want in between meals, and because of this we think that snacking isn’t good for us and that we shouldn’t do it if we’re trying to lose weight.

In actual fact, snacking in between meals can actually help us eat less and beat off the urge to overeat or binge later. The only thing to be wary of it what it is you’re snacking on. Make it something healthy. Try a fruit salad, nuts or even go adventurous and have an apple or banana with some peanut butter! Just make sure you’re enjoying the food you’re eating.

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12. You can eat what you want so long as you exercise

Some of us find it hard to eat the foods that are commonly associated with diets, so we compensate for a bad diet by overexercising.

Unfortunately, you can’t work off a bad diet. You need to be willing to make a lifestyle change. The fact is, your metabolism slows down as you age, and as a result you often have to either eat less or exercise more to avoid gaining weight. There is a common saying that abs are made in the gym but earned in the kitchen, meaning you have to back up your exercise with the right foods.

13. Cholesterol is bad for you

When we hear the word cholesterol, we automatically place a negative stigma on it. But there’s both good and bad cholesterol. That good cholesterol helps to build cells and make vital hormones that are essential for a balanced diet and healthy well-being. And that bad cholesterol is what builds up in your arteries and causes serious health risks.

14. Vegetarians can’t build muscle

People assume vegetarians just eat leaves and salads all the time and they struggle to gain muscle because they don’t eat meat. But meat is not the only source of protein. Cheese, nuts, pulses and grains all contain protein, and when eaten right can deliver the same benefit for gaining muscles as meat does. While protein is an essential part of a balanced diet, too much of it can cause damage to the kidneys. This is because the body can only store a certain amount of it and too much can cause long-term side effects. So as mentioned before, take the “in moderation” approach to food and you’ll be fine!

15. The scale is the only way to measure progress

Many diets focus on getting to that goal weight. They advertise losing seven pounds in four weeks and to have regular weigh ins to track progress. It’s really not the best way though. While it can be an indication of progress, your weight will fluctuate daily, weekly and monthly. This is because when you exercise you will be burning your fat but simultaneously you will be building your muscles. You may believe that muscles weighs more than fat but it is simply less dense, meaning one pound of muscle takes up less space than one pound of fat. So, how can you measure your progress? Simple. Take your own measurements: waist, arms, legs, neck, bust, chest, etc. This will help you have a clearer picture of your progress without getting fixated on a number.

I hope by reading this you’ll look into diet myths in more detail and consciously make the decision to not get caught up in them. The only real way to lose weight and keep it off is to eat healthily, exercise and be good to yourself.

More by this author

Effective Ways To Stop Negative Thoughts From Getting You Down Get Healthy and In Shape: 15 Diet Myths Debunked! 10 Things Only People With Orthorexia (Eating Disorder) Would Understand When You Start To Pick Up Running, These 13 Amazing Things Will Happen 15 Simple Exercises and 20 Easy Recipes That Keep Your Heart Healthy

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Published on November 14, 2018

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

  • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
  • mental blocks
  • lack of motivation
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • moodiness, such as irritability
  • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
  • reduced immune system function
  • blurry vision
  • short-term memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

Causes of Fatigue

The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

  • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
  • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
  • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

Thyroid disease

An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much sleep 
  • Alcohol and drugs 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
  • Poor diet 

Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

  • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
  • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
  • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
  • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

Psychological Causes of Fatigue

Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
  • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
  • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

1. Tell The Truth

Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

  • How you feel
  • What time of day it is
  • What may have contributed to your fatigue
  • How your mind and body reacts

This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

2. Reduce Your Commitments

When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

4. Express More Gratitude

Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Focus On Yourself

Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

7. Take a Power Nap

When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

8. Take More Exercise

The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

9. Get More Quality Sleep

To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

10. Improve Your Diet

Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

11. Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

12. Get Hydrated

Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
[2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
[3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
[4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
[5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
[6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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