Each year my family has a big get-together for Christmas. I’m talking about 30 people or so! So naturally, in addition to the good food and miscellaneous shenanigans (like the one year someone broke a chair in a competitive game of spoons), there is always lots of conversation. This year, as I was chatting with my  uncles, the question arose, which is better, weight training or cardio? Of course, they may each have their place, but my emphatic response was “weights!” to which the counter argument was, “but weight lifting makes me gain weight.”

Seriously? This silly argument again?!

It seems to me that there are still plenty of misconceptions around weight loss and fitness that are messing us up in our pursuits of better wellness and vitality!

In honor of New Years and a fresh slate in 2016, here are 3 big misconceptions to set straight:

You can out-exercise a poor diet.

When it comes to health and weight, nutrition is tremendously more important than exercise. Don’t get me wrong, exercise is important. It allows us to strengthen our hearts and other muscles in order to keep moving, doing the things we enjoy, and remain independent into our elderly years. But if you had to choose the most impactful thing to focus on, improving your diet would be it.

The human body is an intricate web of biological systems that requires proper fuel (in the form of vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, phytonutrients, and water) to run. Without proper nourishment, this “machine” will not be able to function properly. Various deficiencies and overdoses lead to imbalances which can throw the entire system out of whack, and no amount of exercise will fix it.

Simply put, movement is great, but it is not fuel, and it will not nourish us in a way that will allow us to thrive. And on that note, we come to my next point . . .

Calories matter.

The concept of energy balance (i.e. calories in vs. calories out will determine our weight) is a notion relied on heavily by the food industry to allow us to justify eating foods that are otherwise not so great for us. “Yes it’s junk food, but it fits into my calories for the day so it’s okay.” Hate to burst the bubble here, but, going back to my first point, what we eat matters!

We cannot simply count calories with disregard to the quality and nutrient value of the food if we wish to remain in good health.

Moreover, calorie counting is tedious and most often inaccurate. It is far more effective to focus on eating high-quality, nutrient-dense foods until we feel satisfied than to worry about exactly how many calories we are eating. These foods will help to balance our hormones and reestablish proper function in the body, which will allow us to maintain a healthy weight without stressing about eating a certain number of calories.

Weight gain is always bad.

In the scope of public health and epidemiology, weight is a very important factor. Calculating height and weight is simple, non-invasive, quick, and cheap. And for many people, a higher BMI (a ratio of height to weight) can be problematic as it often signals a higher level of body fat which, in turn, is often correlated with numerous health issues. The trouble here, however is the generalization of “often” and “for many people.”

The truth is, there are also a great many exceptions to the standard generalization. When it comes to determining our own personal health, BMI is damn near useless! It gives us no insight into the distribution of fat in our bodies, or our ratio of fat to lean muscle. Lean muscle keeps us strong and capable as well as boosts metabolism, but it is more dense than fat and therefore can make us appear heavier to the scale. Thus, when weight training and losing inches, it might appear that we are in fact gaining weight. And this is not bad! Weight gain is only bad when it is attributed to fat gain (and, I might add, when you do not actually need to gain fat).

The bottom line? Ditch the scale, because it is deceptive and weight is irrelevant.

Though these are only 3 common misconceptions, I believe that ditching them will be ever-so-helpful to anyone working to improve their health, fitness, or body composition in 2016! Do you have a health resolution for the New Year? Share it in the comments below or on my Facebook page here (making your goals known is a great way to stay accountable 🙂 )