8 myths about diet, exercise and sleep

Here are eight assumptions about diet, exercise, and sleep that don’t pass the sniff test.

Myth #1: Popular diets are everywhere, so they must work

“That kind of long-term restriction leads to weight gain, not weight loss, and often leads to weight cycling,” said Nina Taylor, education manager for the National Alliance on Eating Disorders.

Going on and off a diet is called weight cycling or yo-yo dieting, and studies have linked that eating pattern to higher body fat, blood pressure and cholesterol, all of which increase the risk of coronary heart disease and death sudden cardiac arrest in women.
Eating a plant-based diet, watching your sugar intake, and limiting junk food are all great ways to add years to your life, research has shown.

Myth #2: It’s okay to bring your smartphone to bed

Who doesn’t want to check their social media one last time before the lights go out? But research has linked excessive smartphone use at night with trouble falling asleep, reduced sleep duration, daytime tiredness, and even mood disorders.
When you use your phone, you’re flooding your eyes with blue light, which shuts down the production of melatonin, that’s the hormone that regulates your biological clock. Experts suggest banning any LED spectrum light for a full hour before bed.

Bottom line: Don’t bring your cell phone and its harmful blue light to bed. Use an old alarm clock to help you wake up.

Myth No. 3 Social media can inspire you to diet and exercise

Research shows that young people believe that watching exercise and diet videos on TikTok, Facebook or other social media will inspire them to be a better version of themselves, Taylor said.

“They think that will motivate them to exercise or diet,” Taylor said. “However, what that can lead to is body dissatisfaction: social comparison and a lot of body and weight concerns. Those are all risk factors for developing an eating disorder.”

Experts fear that body dysphoria has increased during the pandemic as more young people turned to social media while also facing social isolation and disrupted routines, Taylor said.

“Disordered eating is often a coping mechanism,” he said. “It’s a way of feeling in control and dealing with difficult emotions.”

Intuitive eating is a natural way of listening to your body’s signals about hunger and fullness, which experts believe establishes a healthier way of eating. Some call it the “anti-diet.”

Myth No. 4: Hitting the snooze button helps you sleep longer

Sleep myths that may be preventing you from getting a good night's rest
As morning approaches, your body naturally approaches the end of its last rapid eye movement or “sleep” cycle. Hit the snooze button and your brain falls back into a new cycle of dreams, experts say. When the alarm goes off a few minutes later, you’re probably in the middle of that cycle and waking up groggy. You will also stay groggy for longer.

Pro Tip: Put the alarm across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off. (And no, you can’t tell Google or Alexa to turn it off. That’s cheating.)

Myth No. 5: You can lose belly fat with crunches

Exercise actually burns fat throughout the body, not just the part of the body targeted by the workout.

“You can do an exercise to increase the strength of a muscle, but you can’t reduce it to get rid of fat,” said Dr. Angela Smith, past president of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Experts suggest increasing cardiovascular exercise to burn fat. Strive for a balanced exercise routine by varying exercise intensity to include high and low intensity training.

Myth No. 6: It’s better to stay in bed with your eyes closed when you can’t sleep

Staying in bed longer than 20 minutes if you can’t sleep is one of the worst things you can do, according to sleep experts, because it trains your brain to associate bed with sleep deprivation. Doing it can lead to chronic insomnia.

“It’s counterintuitive, but spending time awake in bed turns the bed into a dentist’s chair,” Michael Grandner, a clinical psychologist and sleep expert, previously told CNN.

Instead, get up and do something boring, like folding laundry, until you feel sleepy. Be sure to keep the lights dim and don’t check your smartphone or laptop.

Myth No. 7: I have to exercise or diet all the time to change my body type

There is a belief that exercising or dieting all the time can change your basic body type, Taylor said. “Especially among the younger age groups, the feeling is ‘if I dieted better or exercised more, I would make my body look a certain way.'” The reality is that there is a wide variety and diversity of body types that are all normal and healthy.”

Bodies come in all shapes and sizes due to our genetics and other factors.

Genetics hold the key to how exercise might affect your body, Smith said. “If your parents are over 6 feet tall, you probably won’t be successful as a gymnast, for example,” she said. “Some of this might be determined by the shape and size of the muscles, and some of it might be determined by the hormonal balances it’s been treated with at birth.”

The idea that everyone can lose or gain weight or develop an ideal body image doesn’t make sense, Taylor said. “There will always be body diversity. After all, we would never say, ‘You should be taller’ or ‘You should be shorter,’ would we?”

Myth #8: Bodybuilding Supplements Advertised on Social Media Really Work

High school and college kids may feel like they need weight-training supplements after seeing the products advertised on social media, said Dr. John Xerogeanes, chief of sports medicine at Emory Orthopedic & Spine Center and professor of orthopedics at Emory University. School of Medicine in Atlanta.

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“The biggest problem I have with my patients is supplements,” Xerogeanes said. “Some influencer is marketing something that is complete garbage, and all of a sudden the kid is like, ‘Hey, I can take this supplement and it’ll give me abs.'”

That’s a problem, he said, because the US Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate the supplement industry.

“It might say one thing on the label, but you don’t really know what’s in it,” Xerogeanes said. “Manufacturers may put other minerals or even stimulants in their mix, which is why some high school and college athletes test positive for drugs.”

When working with college teams, he said, “I’m telling them, if you’re going to make any supplement, we need to see that supplement, and we need you to test it independently.”

Research shows that if you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, you’re not likely to need supplements unless you’re pregnant, elderly, or have a specific dietary limitation.

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