Can eating nutritious foods remove toxins from your body and kick-start your metabolism? Should you do endless strength-training repetitions to lengthen your muscles? These are just examples of some of the diet, fitness, and weight loss myths that celebrities – and celebrity trainers – have recommended, despite the cries of protest from doctors and nutritionists who simply don’t agree.
So how do you separate fact from fiction? It may be impossible to cull all the wealth of poor advice supported by celebrities, but knowing some of the key myths is important to help you on the road to a healthier lifestyle.
Celebrity Diet Myths to Ignore
Myth #1: Toxins Lurk Everywhere, But Cleanses Can Get Rid of Them
Actress Gwyneth Paltrow is well known for her ultra-petite physique, and in a newsletter posted on her website, she revealed one of her diet secrets: cleansing. To keep her body cleansed, she sticks to a strict, very low calorie vegetable-based diet to remove so-called “toxins” from her body. To aid in toxin removal, she also claims to use gentle laxatives.
But it’s not just to lose a few pounds, reveals Paltrow. She claims removing these toxins also make people “feel” better, though she does not say how.
Cleanses, or “detox diets,” have never been scientifically proven to remove toxins from the body. Numerous health organizations and hospitals, including the Mayo Clinic, have criticized detox diets as being ineffective and scientifically unsupported. Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., a registered dietitian for the Mayo Clinic, says that “there’s little evidence that detox diets actually remove toxins from the body. Most ingested toxins are effectively and efficiently removed by the kidneys and liver and excreted in urine and stool.” She also notes that detox diets are unsafe and can lead to side effects such as dehydration, fatigue, nausea, or dizziness.
In addition, taking laxatives can lead to dehydration, as well as mild abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. Repeated, long-term use of laxatives can cause the digestive system to become addicted, making it difficult to have a bowel movement without taking laxatives. This diet is also very low in calories, falling far below the minimum recommendation of 1,200 calories a day.
The Bottom Line
Although you may “feel” better after a cleanse, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s actually healthy for you. This diet makes you eat less than the minimum daily calorie recommendation, and suggests the use of laxatives that can cause diarrhea or abdominal discomfort.
Furthermore, eating too few calories can result in rapid weight loss, which can result in muscle mass loss, in addition to fat loss. This isn’t a good thing, because less muscle means a slower metabolism.
Myth #2: Don’t Run to Get Cardio Exercise – It Bulks Up Your Muscles
Most women would rather slim down instead of bulk up, so many of us choose running or the elliptical over a weight training session at the gym. But celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson claims this is one of the worst things you can do to slim down, according to The Telegraph.
“Running gives you an ugly butt,” claims Anderson, “because, as with every other type of exercise, using the same muscles again and again will build too much muscle in certain places and bulk you up, and a bulked-up bottom is not a pretty one.”
Obviously, Tracy hasn’t watched any marathons lately. And perhaps she doesn’t understand how muscle hypertrophy works. Hypertrophy is a a term used to describe an increase in muscle cells, and only results from muscle-enhancing exercises. Running is a cardiovascular exercise (not muscle-enhancing) except in the most extreme circumstances.
“To see glute hypertrophy from running alone, one would have to run uphill for long periods of time, eventually pulling an increasingly heavy load behind them as a method of adding progressive overload,” explains Jess V., a certified advanced personal trainer. It’s unclear why Tracy thinks cardio causes muscles to become bigger, but her reasoning is definitely not rooted in anything taught by any major personal training organization.
The Bottom Line
If you’re worried that running will bulk you up, don’t. It’s not a muscle-building exercise, and even marathon runners don’t get bulky from repetitive running. Bulking up typically results from having too much body fat combined with muscle mass – not simply running a couple times a week. In fact, running can help tone you up by helping you burn more calories, which helps reduce your body fat.
Myth #3: To Stay Skinny, Avoid Carbohydrates at All Costs
While most diet experts claim a healthy, calorie-controlled diet can help you stay slim, entertainer Cheryl Cole believes avoiding carbs is the key to her skinny bod. To stay slim, Cole claims to avoid carbs, such as pasta and bread.
“I’ll try not to eat carbohydrates,” says Cole, via Now Magazine. “But I believe you should pig out once a week. I usually pig out on a Sunday because that’s my hangover day.”
Although many people have lost weight by eliminating carbohydrates, cutting them out completely isn’t necessarily the best or the safest way to lose weight.
According to the National Institutes of Health, eating fewer than 130 grams of carbohydrates a day can cause partially broken-down fats, or ketones, to build up in your blood stream. This can lead to a condition called ketosis, which increases your risk factor for gout and kidney stones.
Additionally, completely eliminating carbohydrates can cause you to develop nutritional deficiencies, since many carb-containing foods carry essential nutrients and vitamins, such as vitamin C and K.
The Bottom Line
Eliminating carbohydrates from your diet can lead to unhealthy consequences. Instead, adopt a healthier eating regimen: Eat a variety of whole grains, fresh produce, and lean protein to lose weight. Don’t forget your sources of good fats too, such as olive oil, nuts, and peanut butter.
Myth #4: To Avoid Getting Bulky, Lift Light Weights With High Repetitions
Some women are afraid to pick up weights, fearing that just one weightlifting session might make them bulky. But celebrity trainer Jackie Warner – who has trained actress Anne Hathaway and Beatles alum Paul McCartney – claims you can avoid the bulky look by exercising with light weights and high repetitions. But is this true?
Weight training with light weights just doesn’t work if you want to tone up, and may even add bulk to your physique, according to Rog Law, a CSCS-certified personal trainer and author of RogLawFitness.
“The ‘toned’ look comes from decreasing body fat and maintaining (or increasing) muscle mass, which can effectively be done through heavier strength training and proper nutrition,” says Law. In fact, it’s nearly impossible for women to get big muscles by lifting heavy weights because they have very little testosterone, the hormone responsible for adding bulk. Law even claims using the low-weight, high-rep approach can cause women to have larger, not smaller, muscles.
The Bottom Line
Instead of sticking with the three- or five-pound dumbbells, focus more on your overall nutrition and strength training habits. Getting that toned look is the result of a good nutrition program and consistent strength training, such as weightlifting using heavier weights. Lifting heavy is defined by lifting weights that you can only lift with significant effort for up to 12 repetitions at a time.
It’s important to remember that just because a method is popular doesn’t mean it’s right. Instead of buying into fads to lose weight, such as taking herbal weight loss supplements, take a more moderate, sensible approach: Improve your nutrition with superfoods, eat less, and move more. Eating according to a calorie-controlled plan, getting your fill of healthy produce and whole grains, and making an effort to exercise everyday can lead to improved health, and, in time, a slimmer waistline.
What celebrity fad diets or tips have you used to lose weight? Did it work for you? What other myths do you recommend avoiding?