It’s that time again. New year, new you. Losing weight and getting in shape may be the most popular New Year’s resolution. What is the best approach? Should you go with the Quick Fix or the Slow Burn? You may have heard that changing your lifestyle is better. Living healthy is always a good idea, but the Slow Burn might not be right for impatient people (like myself). In order to stay motivated, I need to see results fast. In my decades working as a trainer, I’ve concluded that motivation is by far the biggest reason people fail to meet their fitness goals.
Whatever approach you choose, this is what you need to know. Because the Slow Burn advice is great to live by no matter what, I’ll start with that.
The SLOW BURN: This method entails incrementally changing your lifestyle to get in shape without suffering. The goal is not to see the pounds drop in the first week, but rather to lose them over the next several months. Each week you’ll make one dietary and one exercise change. Let’ s start with diet. The first week you’ll vow to drink lots of liquids throughout the day. While water is best, tea and coffee count too. Lots of people walk around dehydrated, which makes it unnecessarily hard to lose weight. Not only does it make you eat when you’re really thirsty, but it makes you bloated. To counter-balance dehydration, your body holds on to excess water. My dehydrated clients often lose a few pounds just by adjusting their water intake. It’s best to drink the most early in the day. Drink at least a liter before noon if you get up early, sip another throughout the day. If your urine is pale yellow, you’re not dehydrated (unless you take medication that darkens it). Week Two you change another habit. I recommend training yourself to eat breakfast if you don’t already. Yes, you can train your stomach to tolerate food in the morning, just start small and increase the portions as it gets easier. The quote “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” by American author and nutritionist Adelle Davis is a great rule to live to remain slender. Week Three you can stop or cut your alcohol intake by half. Week Four something else, like ensuring you get enough sleep. If you’re tired, you’ll be more inclined to eat, especially bad carbs, to stay alert. Get enough sleep!
Exercise is easier to adjust. Week One vow to work out at least three times for 30 minutes. If you already do, increase to four or five. Week Two, focus on increasing either intensity or duration. For example, if you walk, include bursts of jogging or walking uphill on the treadmill to make it harder. If you prefer, start with duration instead by adding ten minutes each week until you get to sixty. After about six weeks, consider changing the workout to something your body isn’t used to. For example, substitute walking/jogging for the elliptical or spinning. Always include full-body strength-training.
The QUICK FIX: This approach is great for Type A people who only have a few pounds to lose, or for people with more who must see results quickly to stay motivated (as they change their lifestyle to keep losing). The key to the Quick Fix is that you must be ready to suffer. (You must adhere to the advice given in the Slow Burn all at once to see results. You may already live by some of those habits, which will make it easier for you.) I’ll use myself as an example here. My goal is five pounds in two weeks. Over the cold months, I typically pile on a few pounds. To lose them, I adjust my diet by starting to count calories, allowing myself about 2,000 calories/day. I don’t count any veggies like tomatoes, leafy greens, cucumber, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli etc. Other than that, you must count all calories, even the milk in your coffee. Yes, it sucks, but so does having a muffin top. 2,000 may seem like a lot, but keep in my mind that I’m a very active person. I also have the same amount of muscle as I did 20 years ago because I strength-train regularly, so my metabolism is good. Typically, I eat between 2,500-3,000 calories/day. I prefer to exercise extremely hard as opposed to starving myself. If you find it easier to cut calories instead, do that, but don’t go under 1,000 for more than two weeks. You’ll screw up your metabolism, making it less efficient. I almost alway go to bed hungry when I do the Quick Fix. If I’m starving, I eat an orange or a small apple.
For exercise, I focus on running six miles and I include as many intervals as I can. Intervals burn more calories overall and don’t break down muscle. The problem with intervals is that they’re painful, but I don’t mind suffering as long as I’ve slept well. If you do them right, you’ll be exhausted and drenched in sweat when done. Don’t tell me you don’t sweat easily; I
don’t either, only when I push myself enough. Everybody sweats a lot when they push themselves. Because I already have lots of muscle, I’ll do far more hard-core cardio as opposed to strength-training. Unless you’re like me, I recommend you do half full-body strength-training (using your entire body in each exercise) and half hardcore cardio like running or spinning. I must work out at least an hour/day five or six times/week in order to reach my goal, and I must be drenched in sweat when done. If I don’t reach the point of suffering (and stay there several minutes), I’m not doing it right and I won’t lose as much and neither will you. On my off days, I do chores and walk, so my body can recover.
While the Quick Fix will make you shed the pounds, remember that it’s easier to injure yourself as you also push yourself much harder. If you’re unconditioned, pick the Slow Burn approach.