“Hi my name is Molly and I am wrong.”
That’s not exactly a phrase than any of us want to say very often. Realizing that you may be wrong about something is tough, and actually admitting it out loud is even tougher. Especially when people often turn to you for advice, whether it’s regarding training or nutrition or business or life or relationships… admitting that you have changed your mind about something you once believed and defended it with all your heart and soul can be Earth-shattering at times.
But you know what?
I think it’s one of the most important lessons that we can learn in life and in lifting. Having the ability to be open to accepting new information, especially if it doesn’t agree with your current philosophy, is what keeps our industry growing and becoming more successful every day. I am not saying it’s easy or even that I always do it gracefully, but it’s important! Below I am going to share with you 9 things that I held a strong belief about at one time, that at some point over the last several years I have come to realize is not exactly true. Enjoy.
P.S. I should mention that this article was inspired by this article from the always brilliant, Mike Boyle. Thanks Mike!
1. What I used to think: Whole grains are a fantastic source of nutrition and very good for you.
We all grew up learning about and memorizing the USDA food pyramid in school. You know, the pyramid that included 6-11 servings of breads, cereals, and grains every day while you avoid fat/oil like the plague and consume it only “sparingly.” I was totally on board with it despite being a junk food junkie and not following it at all. Once I got into the world of health and fitness, I still thought those foods were fine to eat as long as you were getting enough protein and some healthy fat. For years I recommended that my clients subbed out white rice, pasta and bread for whole grain rice, pasta, and bread. Then in 2009 I was diagnosed with several issues including Hashimoto’s (autoimmune hypothyroidism). Over the last 3 years I have experimented with many nutrition changes to try and get healthy. 15 months ago, I gave up gluten for good and I feel much better and my antibody levels have leveled off (they had been climbing like crazy every time they were checked). Keep in mind that I rarely ate gluten in the 2 years before I gave it up. I would generally just consume it on my “cheat day” or in trace amounts in other foods (soy sauce, salad dressings, etc.). My business partner was also diagnosed with ulcerative colitis a couple of years ago, and he was forced to change his diet as well, including giving up gluten. Soon after that, we started noticing how many of our clients have autoimmune disease as well…lupus, eczema, dermatomyocitis, rheumatoid arthritis… it was everywhere. At that point we began recommending that those clients (or any other client looking to lose weight and/or feel better) try a Paleo Diet for 30-60 days and see how they felt. After 30-60 days, they can add those foods back in a re-assess. The overwhelming majority of them had major problems when they added gluten back in, even in the form of whole grains. Some of them got bloated and began exhibiting never-before-seen symptoms of IBS, some broke out in rashes, some had their joint pain return, almost all felt incredibly fatigued… the results were impossible to ignore.
What I think now: Whole grains are not a fantastic source of nutrition and many people don’t handle them well.
Yes, I realize I opened THAT can of worms. =) Let me start by saying that I think that there are some people that handle grains just fine. In the past, I have actually gotten wonderful results in terms of my body composition when consuming a diet that had plenty of whole grains. However, that was before I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease and these days I am way more sensitive to what foods go in my body. I still consume some grains from time to time, mostly white rice and corn, and don’t seem to have an issue with them. My suggestion to you will be the same as my suggestion to my clients… go 100% gluten, wheat, and grain free for 30-60 days. While you’re at it, remove pasteurized and homogenized dairy, soy, and sugar as well. Increase your fruit, veggie, meat, and fat consumption and see how you feel. After 30-60 days of being STRICT, try adding some of those foods back in one by one and see how you feel. You should be able to tell immediately if those foods are problematic for you or not. I know 30-60 days can seem like an eternity… but it’s not. It’s worth finding out now so that you can have your health in the long-term.
2. What I used to think: Fish oil is the be-all end-all in supplements and you should take a ton!
When I first read about taking fish oil, everyone was saying it was a wonder supplement and I remember reading HERE that Charles Poliquin recommended some people take up to 45 grams a day! After all, it had a ton of health benefits and no known downsides, right? WRONG!
A few years ago when I was suffering from some major health issues I decided to go see an Integrative Medicine Doctor and she looked over my nutrition plan and supplement regimen. At the time I was only taking about 15 grams of fish oil a day but she told me that was way too much. I thought she was crazy until I had extensive testing done (blood, urine, and saliva). The results came back and showed that my cholesterol was so low that I wasn’t optimally making hormones, and I had some major fish allergies despite not eating fish very often at all. I also realized that fish oil had made my blood so thin that it was the likely culprit behind some cuts that I had that took over 9 months to heal. Yes, 9 MONTHS! Lesson learned!
What I think now: Fish oil should be used in moderation and sources should be rotated.
I am still a proponent of Omega-3 supplements as they have many wonderful benefits, but now I recommend them in moderation. There has been a lot written about krill oil lately and how much more potent it is than regular fish oil, how much higher it is in antioxidants, etc. I have read arguments from both sides, including the argument than krill oil is more sustainable than other fish oil, and to be honest, I am not quite sure what to believe yet. In any case, I rotate salmon oil, cod liver oil, and krill oil (as well as rotate brands) every couple of months in an attempt to cover my bases and to try and avoid developing allergies again. One note: I do save the cod liver oil for the winter when I am getting less sun since it contains vitamin D. In the grand scheme of things it may be a negligible dose of vitamin D, but I do it anyway.
3. What I used to think: You absolutely had to eat 6 meals a day to have fat loss success and to retain muscle.
For YEARS just about everyone in the training community was recommending that their clients eat 6 small meals a day. Many of us believed that eating 6 times a day was crucial to “feed” your muscles, keep your metabolism boosted, and keep your blood sugar stable. I remember if I ever got to the point of feeling hungry, I could just picture my body cannibalizing all of my hard earned muscle tissue! I was just sure than going more than 2.5 hours without a meal would be disastrous. A little over 2 years ago, my friend and business partner, the late Wesley Silveira (aka Iron Addict) introduced my boyfriend and me to what he called the Metabolic Rebound Diet. It was a variation of Ori Hofmekler’s Warrior Diet, but it was designed for strength and physique athletes. You can imagine our skepticism when he told us about it. In fact, if it had been anyone else in the fitness industry who had told us about it, I would have probably written them off as a loon and not had much to do with them after that. But because we trusted Wes so much, we gave it a go and MAN it was amazing! After a couple of weeks, daytime hunger subsided. I felt so free being able to go anywhere and do anything during the day without worrying and stressing about my next meal. Then I noticed my energy was through the roof! My workouts were better, I was more alert, and I felt so energetic and stable (at least compared to how I had been feeling). Then came the results. I will be honest, for a while I got really sick of clean eating and started a pint-a-day Haagen Dazs habit. Yes, a pint. Pretty much every day! So what happened? I got leaner. Yes, leaner. Eating a pint of Haagen Dazs every day. It wasn’t an overnight transformation, but I was slowly leaning out despite my Dulce de Leche habit. Eventually I hit a plateau and maintained at approximately 16% (as measure via Bod Pod). I think that measurement was a bit low, but either way… it was fantastic. I was getting leaner, stronger, had more energy, and I was able to be more lax with my food choices. The best part? We have a manual coming out sometime very soon that will outline exactly how to follow this plan and get the same results. I will keep you updated!
What I think now: Periods of fasting are very beneficial to the body and should be utilized intelligently.
Now I routinely go 12, 16, or 20 hours without food (I haven’t done the hardcore 24 hour fast yet, but I will eventually). From what I have read, intermittent fasting can increase the production of growth hormone, increase insulin sensitivity, help with nutrient partitioning, and improve your response to stress, and from personal experience, it improves mental clarity, gives you a break from thinking about food, and increases compliance. There are many resources out there that discuss intermittent fasting and they are great! There is Eat Stop Eat, The Renegade Diet, and The Warrior Diet, just to name a few. Like I mentioned above, we will also be coming out with a manual VERY SOON, so keep your eyes peeled. I feel I should also mention than my pint-a-day habit has gone by the wayside. It was fun while it lasted, but I know it wasn’t great for my health, and that’s my number one concern. I’ll miss you Dulce de Leche! See you on holidays and special occasions!
***ADDENDUM: Apparently I need to clarify that the above statement, “Who know skipping breakfast and eating Haagen Dazs was the way to get lean?!? ;-)” is a JOKE. If you read ANY of my other articles you would know that I am a huge advocated of eating whole, unprocessed foods (especially organic and local) and avoiding sugary, processed, chemical-laden crap. The entire purpose of my Haagen Dazs story was to prove how effective intermittent fasting had been for me, that despite eating a less-than-stellar diet, my body fat decreased, my muscle mass increased, and my performance increased. The HD habit has fallen to the wayside now, and while I definitely still include treats on a weekly basis, I avoid gluten 100%, and 90% of my food is squeaky clean. *****
Stay tuned for my next installment of, “Stupid Crap I Used to Believe,” er, I mean… “9 Things I Have Changed My Mind About, Part 2!”