Local experts weigh in on popular fitness tips — the ones that work, and those that don’t

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published January 16, 2013

 Bloomfield Fitness co-owner and personal trainer Anita Gandol, right, breaks a sweat with client Linda Irani of West Bloomfield.

Bloomfield Fitness co-owner and personal trainer Anita Gandol, right, breaks a sweat with client Linda Irani of West Bloomfield.

Photo by Donna Agusti

Now that 2013 is in full swing, many people are trying to make good on New Year’s resolutions to get fit. Though plenty of people will find success in their new health regimen, others might fall short because of fitness tips that turn out to be little more than common myths.

Over the years, Anita Gandol has heard plenty of misleading diet and exercise advice. She and her sister, Lisa Harbourne, are co-owners of Bloomfield Fitness personal training studio in Keego Harbor, which specializes in senior fitness instruction. She said one of her biggest tasks when working with clients is to debunk all of the myths they’ve heard from people around them. Even common workout terminology can get a bad rap, Gandol said.

“So many people use the word ‘tone’ instead of saying you’re building muscle because so many women are afraid of muscle,” said Gandol. “You have to build muscle to get toned. There’s a lot of misinformation about what exercise does, in general. They also say, ‘This exercise sculpts your muscle.’ What they’re saying is that you’re building muscle, and then you have to lose body fat to see the definition. A lot of people think the exercise, itself, will give you definition, but it’s a combination of building muscle and losing fat.”

Another common health myth Gandol often comes across is that people trying to lose weight must cut all fat out of their diets. That’s just not true, she says, explaining that keeping healthy fats, such as fats from salmon, avocado and nuts in your diet, can not only aid weight loss but improve skin, hair and organ function.

Those fitness fables are the same ones that Dorothy Menard has to set straight each time she meets a new personal-training client at Snap Fitness in Harrison Township. Like Gandol, Menard has to convince her clients that resistance training doesn’t necessarily build huge bulges, but instead can burn fat and form lean muscle.

“A lot of women say they only want to do cardio. If you do cardio and resistance training, you’re going to lose the weight quicker,” she said. “They’re worried about bulking up. I tell them, ‘You would have to quit your day job and completely change your life to be like someone from a (body-building) magazine.’”

She also has to tell her clients that exercise alone is not enough to achieve fitness goals.

“I also get asked which ab exercises to do to get a flat stomach. You can do all the crunches you want to do, but if you don’t get that layer of fat off, you’re not going to have abs.”

Dr. Tracy Juliao agrees that diet is an important part of any weight-loss plan. In fact, as director of psychology within the weight-control program at Beaumont Health System, Juliao spends much of her day telling patients just how essential a healthy diet is and that eating right isn’t as difficult as so many people think.

“I think the most common myth that we hear all the time is, ‘I’m just too busy to eat right,’” she said. “Things like veggie burgers, portable tuna meals or even Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine frozen meals make eating right convenient and easy, when you’re busy.”

Juliao recommends her patients take a little time once a week to prepare some easy meals and snacks for the duration of the week, such as assorted raw vegetables or fat-free and sugar-free yogurts. Despite what many may think, she said healthy snacking can actually help some people lose weight by keeping hunger low and preventing overeating later.

There is one diet “myth” Juliao hears often, though, that she said isn’t a myth at all.

“It’s long been thought that your stomach shrinks when you eat less. It’s true,” she said. “When you overeat, your stomach expands, but not permanently. When you go back to eating less, your stomach returns to its regular size, which is approximately the size of a clenched fist. (When that happens), you’ll feel fuller with less food because your stomach is smaller.”