A Complete Exercise Plan to Get You Started and Keep You Going
If you’re like most American women, you would probably like to lose a couple of pounds. Maybe you’ve got some big occasion looming — a reunion, wedding, a special party — and you want to look thinner. So you follow this step-by-step plan:
- Go on a diet — maybe a tough-to-stick-with fad diet or an eat-almost-nothing starvation diet.
- Lose some weight — the quicker, the better. Remember, that special occasion is only a few weeks away.
- Go back to your old prediet ways — hey, the party’s over.
- Gain weight. Get down on yourself. Eat a pint of ice cream or a bag of cookies — or both. Then …
- Repeat step one.
It’s a vicious cycle – and an unhealthy one. The key to a better-looking body isn’t trying the flavor-of-the-month diet, fitness experts say. These kinds of diets can actually fool the body into holding onto fat in preparation for a long fast.
“The body’s single task is to stay alive,” said Becky Touber, a Southern California fitness trainer and former nationally ranked natural body builder. “If the body thinks it’s going to starve, it won’t give up the fat. Instead, it’ll become catabolic and eat it’s own muscle, which prevents you from achieving that lean look.”
Lose a Dress Size in 8 Weeks
The key is to break the diet-binge cycle by following a realistic, healthy diet (Touber recommends treating yourself to one “cheat day” a week) and by making regular, doable exercise a part of your lifestyle.
“First of all, don’t be fixated on the scale. Weight is a meaningless number,” said Joan Price, a Northern California health and fitness trainer and writer whose specialty is helping beginners get lively and make fitness a habit. She is the co-author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Online Health and Fitness,” (Macmillan, Alpha Books, 1999, $18.95); and the author of “Joan Price Says, Yes, You CAN Get in Shape!” (Pacific Press, 1996, $17.95).
“You’ve got to come to the realization that this is your life,” Price said. “The goal is to get fit and stay fit — for life.”
It’s a goal that’s very attainable, experts say. First of all, nutrition — eating the right amounts of the right foods — plays a big part in how we look and feel. But it’s only one part. The other big part is exercise. Exercise is the only healthy way to burn fat and tone and tighten our bodies. We’ve all heard the expression “move it or lose it!” When it comes to our bodies, we’ve got to move it to lose those unwanted inches.
Consider this: A pound of feathers and a 1-pound brick weigh the same. But the brick is smaller and tighter than a big mound of feathers. It’s the same principle with muscle and fat.
“As you tone and tighten your body, you build muscle. Muscle is leaner and looks better than fat. But muscle weighs heavier than fat,” Price said. “So you may work very hard, then get on the scale and find you haven’t lost any weight. And that’s discouraging.
“Instead, use a tape measure and the fit of your clothes to measure your progress because if you’re trying to tone and tighten your body, you’ll probably lose inches by burning fat and building muscle before you actually lose pounds,” she said.
Melyssa St. Michael, owner of the UltraFit Human Performance gym in Baltimore, Md., would have to agree. “One pound of muscle burns 20 to 30 calories while the body’s resting,” said St. Michael, certified nutritionist and personal trainer. “But one pound of fat only burns 8 to 12 calories at rest.”
The way to achieve this is probably a lot simpler than you think. It’s a combination of eating fewer calories than you burn, and consistently doing two types of exercise: aerobic and strength training.