Weight Loss

Weight-loss tips: A step-by-step exercise and diet guide

Weight-loss tips: A step-by-step exercise and diet guide

Photography by ©iStockphoto.com/Neustockimages Image by: Photography by ©iStockphoto.com/Neustockimages Author: Canadian Living

Weight Loss

Weight-loss tips: A step-by-step exercise and diet guide

The new year is in full swing and March break is right around the corner. That means it's time to reboot your fitness and eating strategies to achieve slimming success. With hard work and discipline, you can shrink your waist, trim your thighs and boost your energy.

We've asked the experts about which foods will fuel your weight loss and keep you satisfied, and what moves will get results in the least amount of time. Whether your goal is 10, 20 or 30-plus pounds, the time to get started is now.

Weight-loss goal: 10 pounds
Timeline: "You could lose five pounds on the scale in one day, but it wouldn't be healthy," says Kelsey Andries, a Calgary-based certified strength and conditioning specialist who has worked with Olympic athletes (such as Hayley Wickenheiser).

"Dropping weight rapidly is not realistic or sustainable. One to two pounds of fat per week is normal, so give yourself four to six weeks."

Eat: "Sustainable weight loss is all about killing cravings and resetting your metabolism so your body is a fat-burning machine," says Dr. Joey Shulman, a registered nutritionist, author of The Last 15 (Wiley, 2007) and founder of Shulman Weight Loss clinics.

"Cravings are a sign that your hormones are imbalanced. When your blood sugar is bouncing, your body's physiological response is to crave sugar, salt, fat and carbs for a quick energy fix. It is a vicious cycle," says Shulman.

The game plan? Shulman suggests avoiding all refined and processed foods that spike blood sugar – white flour, refined oils, fried food – and cutting back on booze (have a maximum of two drinks per week).

She recommends eating five times per day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks) and opting for lean protein, whole grains and veggies.

Perhaps the hardest, but also the most important, change needed for dropping pounds is to stop eating grains after 3 p.m. "You can still have carbohydrates, but eat them at breakfast or lunch."

Move: Slow and steady workouts are not the way to drop inches: You need to burn, baby, burn! To torch maximum calories, focus on interval training three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes. "You want moves that send your heart rate soaring, including combined strength and cardio moves," says Andries.

The pro endorses workouts that include a lot of lower-body exercises, such as squats and lunges combined with bicep curls and arm raises. "Your lower body has the biggest muscles in your body. By engaging them, you blast calories and fat quickly," says Andries. A key part of interval training is letting your body recover for a few days.

"Focus on endurance or flexibility exercises, such as walking on a treadmill, or doing a Pilates or yoga class the other days of the week."

Don't forget! Incorporate chill-out time. "When you're stressed, cortisol triggers the pancreas to create excess insulin, and that ends up being stored as belly fat," says Andries.

"Cortisol and insulin are best buddies. They chat with each other and plot to store fat," adds Shulman. You can reduce stress with meditation.  

"I tell my clients who have never meditated before that it's as simple as taking a 20-minute Epsom salts bath. The combination of warm water and Epsom salts will reduce inflammation and stress," says Andries.

And if that's not an option? Start with a conscious effort to centre yourself for a few minutes per day.

Close your eyes after each meal for two minutes to focus on deep breathing.

Dr. Joey Shulman's suggested meal plan
• Breakfast: Yogurt parfait (1/2 cup Greek or plain yogurt with 1/2 cup blueberries, 1/4 cup bran and a sprinkling of ground flaxseed or walnuts)
• Morning snack: Apple with low-fat cheese
• Lunch: Turkey wrap
• Afternoon snack: Nonfat 12-oz latte or 10 to 15 almonds
• Dinner: Chicken stir-fry

Weight-loss goal: 20 pounds
Timeline: A healthy weight-loss rate is one to two pounds per week, so shaving off 20 pounds will take 12 to 16 weeks.

Eat: The number one thing that will keep you on track? "Plan your protein, because it's not as ‘grabbable,'" says Shulman. Protein is key to keeping you full and satisfied.

"I recommend a serving of three to five ounces of protein at every meal: Try cottage cheese or yogurt at breakfast, turkey or tuna for lunch and chicken or tofu for dinner."

In a recent University of Washington School of Medicine study, subjects who increased their protein intakes to 30 percent of their diets lost eight pounds of fat in 12 weeks. If not eating grains at dinner is a deal breaker, practise what Andries calls "nutrient timing."

"Try to eat starches after a workout: That's the best time. Don't eat them when you're not working out."

Move: A great way to step up the intensity of your workout is with plyometric training, which incorporates explosive strength moves with high-intensity cardio jumping.

"Burpees are an incredible way to do this," says Sammie Kennedy, creator and founder of Booty Camp Fitness. "They challenge a lot of muscle groups in one move."

Don't forget! "Diet matters from 3 p.m. onward. So many people start the day off great with a healthy breakfast, snack and lunch, then go off the rails after 3 p.m.," says Shulman.

The body thrives on routine. Doing things at the same time every day not only means you'll stick to it but also that your body will optimize its function.

"So going to bed early, drinking two litres of water, and exercising and eating at the same time every day will help you maximize your potential," says Andries.

The more ritualistic you are with your dietary and health habits, the more successful you'll be.

Weight-loss goal: 30 pounds or more
Timeline: A weight loss of 30 pounds or more will take at least 12 weeks. It's realistic to expect plateaus, so you should build them into your timeline to avoid disappointment.

"My clients almost always experience a levelling-off in weeks seven to nine," says Shulman.

Eat: To push past plateaus, Shulman endorses caloric cycling (also called "calorie zigzagging"), which means eating the same number of calories in a week as you would on your regular diet, but alternating how much you eat per day.

So if you're eating 1,500 calories per day or 10,500 a week, you could switch to eating 1,200 calories a day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and about 1,700 calories on each of the other days, says Shulman.

"You're toying with the formula, which keeps your metabolism on its toes," she says. "It's very effective."

Move: High-intensity workouts are important here, but your body is smart and gets really good at exercise quickly.

"You cannot expect to lose weight by going to the gym every single day and doing the exact same thing," says Andries. "I'm a big fan of high-intensity training that's done in a group setting, such as water aerobics, spinning or a boot camp."

Don't forget! "Fat is not going to make you fat," says Shulman. "Clients hear this ad nauseam in my clinic. Healthy monounsaturated fats found in nuts, seeds and other plant-based proteins are key to making you feel full."

Want to try something new? Coconut oil will whittle your waist. While it's technically a saturated fat, it is very different from the hydrogenated processed saturated fats in vegetable oils.

It's a medium-chain triglyceride, so it converts quickly to energy instead of being stored as fat like long-chain triglycerides, such as sunflower oil, do.

"I just incorporated coconut oil into my diet and I love how versatile it is," says Kennedy.

"It's delicious, antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial. I eat it on gluten-free bread or have a tablespoon on its own before I work out. You can also cook with it," says Kennedy.

Keep in mind that coconut oil is calorically dense (about 120 calories per tablespoon), so make sure you measure it.

Dry-brushing for healthy skin
Now that you've shed your excess weight, get your skin smooth and supple. We asked Heather Vounnou, the training manager at International Dermal Institute in Toronto, about dry brushing, a technique that can improve your skin's appearance.

Q: What is dry body brushing?
A: Dry body brushing, which is done in long, sweeping motions with firm pressure from your ankles up to your torso, sheds dead skin cells and improves skin texture and cell renewal, leaving skin soft. Plus it stimulates the lymphatic system. Lymph is a fluid that bathes our cells, bringing them nutrients and removing their waste.

Q: When should you dry brush?
A: Dry brushing should be performed on dry skin prior to a bath or shower, so you can wash away the freshly exfoliated dead skin cells afterward.

Q: How often should it be done?
A: Dry body brushing should ideally be done once a day. It takes approximately 15 minutes to do the entire body.

For more details about workouts, go to canadianliving.com/workoutglossary.

This story was originally titled "Better-Body Blueprint" in the February 2013 issue.

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Weight Loss

Weight-loss tips: A step-by-step exercise and diet guide