By: Larry Gruber, CSCS, MES
It’s now April. A time when rain showers bring way to flowers. A season that strikes fear in all Americans when we realize just how much we owe the government on April 15. It’s the month of French Quarter Fest, Patriot’s Day, and the much-celebrated Boston Marathon. And, it’s the month that we put our winter clothes in the back of the closet and bring those summer clothes front and center. That simple act of pulling our bathing suits out of winter storage can be scarier than writing those checks to the state and federal governments.
This is the month when many of us begin scouring the web in search of that perfect diet to get us in shape for the summer. However, does dieting really work? I’ve had many clients who have told me about this year’s great, revolutionary diet or about a diet in Europe that is all the rage and how people are losing a lot of weight on these plans. Let’s analyze for a moment why any diet actually causes people to lose weight. Basically, a diet restricts caloric intake because diets, by their nature, limit the items we eat. When there is a caloric deficit (less calories taken in versus calories expended in normal activity plus exercise), we lose weight. Even the man who ate nothing but McDonald’s for two months lost weight because the foods he was permitted to eat was limited, so he ate less. A plan like the Atkins Diet takes an entire macronutrient (carbohydrates) out of the picture. So, your food choices become less and less. When this happens, people will eat less and lose weight.
Now, let me ask you a question. How many times have you been on a diet and then gained all the weight back? The purpose of this question isn’t about bringing up past failures, but to show you that dieting itself doesn’t get us the end result for which we are searching. When you lose weight on a diet, you lose both body fat and muscle. Then, when you have achieved your goal, you go back on a regular eating plan and most of us end up gaining that weight back. Realize, when this happens, we gain back fat, not muscle, which skews our body fat percentage even more so that we are, in reality, fatter than when we actually began the diet. To prevent this from happening, we need to learn how to eat healthy on a day-to-day basis, and dieting doesn’t teach us this. When we re-introduce the entire Whole Foods or Rouse’s grocery store back into our life, panic ensues because now our food options are unlimited again and most of us go back to our pre-diet habits. Don’t diet. Break those bad habits.
I know I’ve painted a fairly bleak picture. However, allow me to clear away those cloudy skies for a sunnier view. Think about what your ideal weight should be–the weight that, through proper diet and exercise, you can maintain without extreme measures for years to come. Unfortunately, this means the size we were when we were 18 is probably not a realistic weight for us in middle-age (did I just call myself middle-aged?). The next thing I always have my clients do is keep a food diary so that together, we can analyze what they are eating, how much they are eating, and when they are eating it. Then, I like to introduce one or two changes at a time so that my clients may acclimate to those. By slowly integrating change into their day-to-day diet, they gradually become healthier and slowly lose body fat. A one to two pound weekly loss is what is recommended for healthy weight loss, and to keep that weight off. Also, exercising, especially resistance training, will help maintain the integrity of your skin and muscle mass as you lose weight.
When analyzing a client’s food diary, I look for a myriad things. To begin with, are you having a sensible breakfast to begin your day? Are you eating periodically throughout the day–approximately every three to four hours? Both of these will actually help to speed up your metabolism and help you burn more calories. Are you limiting your intake of sodas, fried foods, cheeses, mayo, and fatty spreads and sauces? Do you substitute cakes, cookies, and ice cream with yummy alternatives such as fresh fruit, yogurt, and crunchy vegetables? Are you drinking plenty of water throughout the day? And, are you giving yourself the pleasure of one “free day” per week?
Dieting (the verb), doesn’t work. A healthy diet does. I urge you to think of exercise and a proper diet as a welcomed life-style change. Just as we have to brush our teeth every day to prevent cavities, we have to be consistent with working out and eating well in order to lose body fat and to keep it off. So bring on those warm, sunny, humid southern days. Unpack those bathing suits and book that Destin hotel room. This Chicago boy is excited about summer. And, if you need a little assistance in getting excited, just call me and let’s work together to get you looking great, feeling awesome, and moving like you’ve never moved before.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – LARRY GRUBER – CSCS, MES, ACE-CPT
Physical fitness used to be just a pastime for me, until more and more friends began asking for my opinion concerning their fitness regimen. In 1999, after a successful restaurant management career in some of Chicago’s finest restaurants, I became a certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise and the National Academy of Sports Medicine. I’m also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
As a personal trainer, I strongly feel that exercise should be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. I structure the workouts so they are fun, combining traditional weight training with functional training, cardio-respiratory training and flexibility training, all aimed at helping you look, feel and move better. In order for the sessions to be successful, the personal trainer/client relationship must be a very interactive one, requiring constant feedback from both parties. I want and need your opinions and suggestions.
After training for 13 years in Chicago, I made the move south in search of warmer weather. I’m so excited to be part of such a vibrant city, and I can’t wait to try its world famous restaurants. Thanks so much for welcoming me to New Orleans!!