Even if you’re not an Olympic athlete, you can carry your own torch to fitness victory! Here, I share with you the two most powerful ways you can ignite your own internal blaze to fire up your metabolism and melt off that stubborn fat for good.

1. Don’t rely too heavily on cardio

One of my clients, a vibrant young executive assistant, wanted to drop 60 pounds and came to me for weight loss advice. She did great on the diet plan but insisted on doing her own thing at the gym. She loved her routine on the elliptical machine—she wanted to read while she exercised, so she carved out that same hour day after day after day. And it worked… for a while. After shedding the first 40, she hit a plateau that just wouldn’t budge. She cut out 200 additional calories and tried stepping up the pace on the machine, but after a week she just felt horrible and frustrated.

My client isn’t the only one to have experienced this scenario– her body simply reached its limits for fat burning. And the reason is because she didn’t have the skeletal muscle to support the burn. Cardio can get you part of the way to your goal, but not the whole way. The problem is, overdoing cardio can work against you by promoting muscle loss, increasing risk of overuse injuries, and causing muscle imbalances.

Don’t get me wrong—cardio workouts (exercise involving increased heart rate like jogging, swimming, cycling, tennis, and of course the trusty treadmill, elliptical, spinbike, and stepper) are awesome; they stimulate circulation and strengthen your heart, both of which are necessary to support your most vital internal life support network.

But if you want to get to your goal of trim and fit, you need to mix things up. And the good news is, you can do more in less time and still lose more weight. This can be done, of course, with a proper strength training routine.

Strength training is effective for weight loss because with all that stimulation and building of muscle tissue, you shift the burn in your favor by burning fat and keeping (or slowly building) muscle. In addition, your body continues to burn more calories around the clock when you do strength training; after cardio your fat burn rate drops much more quickly. And the cool thing is, strength training never gets boring. Literally hundreds of different moves are just waiting for you to try on the bench, at the rack, on the cables, in a circuit, and even on the mat. Check out Shredz Fit Club for a huge collection of short and informative exercise videos that teach you how to transform your workout to achieve the body of your dreams. Oh, and it’s free.

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So keep the cardio, definitely, but work in some strength training to turn your body into a fat combustion machine around the clock. Need some help designing the perfect program for you? Check out our 4-week shred promo to see if one-on-one coaching is right for you. 

Oh, and my client? She swapped out 2 cardio days for a HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)-weight lifting combo routine, which is the absolute fastest and most efficient way to burn fat and build denser, stronger muscle. She not only lost the 60 pounds, but she got so inspired by her own success that she’s earning her certification to become a personal trainer!

2. Focus on foods you CAN eat rather than those you can’t or shouldn’t eat.

I know it’s sad, and maybe scary, the truth is that we have to impose a calorie deficit in order to lose weight. It’s basic physics. To lose body fat, you have to take in less energy than you burn off. The good news is that it can be done in a way that creates a pleasant eating experience each and every day. Doesn’t that sound better than deprivation?

Let’s talk about satiety, or, satisfying your hunger. Feeling full and satisfied sets the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating. Feeling hungry or having cravings might work for a little while but it’s simply not sustainable for long term weight loss success. You can’t enjoy your new sexy body if you’re irritable and starving all the time.

To feel full on fewer calories, follow these three rules:

  • First, eat a ton of foods that are HEAVY and have lots of VOLUME but few calories. We’re talking about foods that have a lot of water and/or fiber. What foods do you think I mean? I bet you guessed. Vegetables. The #1 example being, of course, salad. How else can you consume literally 2 pounds of food for less than 300 calories? Raw veggies can’t make you fat, even if you try. There are hundreds to choose from, they are crunchy and tasty, there’s virtually no limit on quantity, and they can be served a million ways with other foods and seasonings for max enjoyment. They cleanse your digestive system, keep you regular, taste great, and add years to your life. Not in the crunching mood? No problem. You can have a similar effect with vegetable soup. You can eat 3 cans of veggie soup for the same calories as a small sandwich, and guess which one fills you up more? Make your own or choose a store-bought variety based in broth and with no pasta or rice (beans are OK). Try eating a giant salad (skip the croutons, cheese, etc.) or a huge bowl of veggie soup every day. You’ll be able to enjoy other foods in smaller quantities, feel satisfied, and lose weight. That’s how to win in 3 ways!

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  • Second: You’ve heard it before. Eat protein at every meal. I know, the advice isn't new. But here’s a twist: The food doesn’t have to be ONLY protein; it just has to contain a few grams. For example, if you want the whole egg, go for it; you don’t have to just eat the whites. And it doesn’t have to be meat or protein powder. Remember the healthiest sources of protein come from nature and also have protective nutrients like fiber and antioxidants. Nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, tofu, soy products, vegetables (yes, veggies have protein!), and some whole grains are all protein sources that not only help you feel satisfied, build muscle, and burn fat, but they also protect against disease. You don’t need to eat “a protein” to get protein!
  • Last but not least, allow tiny portions of foods you LOVE but were told to avoid. So if you LOVE and crave pizza but it’s not on your plan, try this instead: when you’re really in the mood for pizza, share a slice with someone (take the much smaller “half”) and move on. To be able to say “I can eat anything I want” is truly empowering, and it’s a secret to PERMANENT weight loss success. And here is a fact that people discover when they really think about it: The first 2 bites of a “forbidden” food are the best. After that, the satisfaction factor rapidly declines. Next time you indulge in dessert, think about it... are bites 3 and 4 as truly marvelous as bites 1 and 2? I bet they're not. So remember: when you’re craving something, allow it, but with a 2-bite maximum. Eat slowly and mindfully and fully enjoy every moment of the experience. Make it part of your healthy, planned meal. And while you’re losing weight, limit this “cheat” to once a day. After you’ve reached your goal weight, you might discover you can be a little more flexible here and “cheat” 2 or three times a day. I have clients who do this – one enjoys two bites of a starchy food that she makes for her children for breakfast plus one small spoonful of ice cream every night after dinner. After this habit takes hold, you’ll never feel like you’re on a “diet” again.

Results

by Dina Aronson, MS, RDN

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