I have noticed, throughout my training years that the main problem with most clients is not lack of motivation or not trying hard enough to change their lifestyle but lack of consistency in maintaining it. Most of my clients have a great resolve in losing weight and stay active by eating well and sensibly. Most clients, if not all, work especially hard during our sessions. The effort and the hard work are there. What is missing is consistency. When I arrive at a client's house or gym, most of you, while wearing a heart rate monitor, are guaranteed to burn from 300 to 800 calories in one session, depending on your weight and heart rate range. You work hard, your legs feel like Jell-O and your arms are shaking by the end of the session. You had yourself a good work out and your metabolism is at high speed trying to fix the damage. If you are following a diet/workout program, you eat "clean" for the rest of the day (a diet high in lean protein and complex carbohydrates) and within your calorie requirement to either maintain or lose weight. You know you have been "good" for that day. If you are generally serious about your lifestyle change, you might follow the same routine for 3 or 4 days, and some of you will send me an email with a detailed food diary of how well you are "behaving." This usually happens from Monday through Thursday evening and usually with new clients. By Friday night, however, an interesting phenomenon seems to repeat across the board... all I hear (in terms of food diary) are crickets... The weekend parts of my clients’ food and/or exercise diaries tend to mysteriously disappear… You are all afraid to write down and acknowledge what actually went on during those days. This is where you seem to be getting in trouble. The weekend cheat days can throw all your resolve and hard work away. While you are reluctant to write down the damage and let me know about it so we can discuss it, your body will not let you off the hook as easily. The scale, not me, will tell you that what you have been doing is not working. My job is to help you get there, so the weekends have more important information for me as a trainer, than the days you have been "good." THE MATH OF WEIGHT LOSS If it takes 3,500 calories to lose one pound of fat, you will need to create a deficit of 500 calories daily for a week, in order to lose one pound. Training twice a week might get you down 800 to 1,000 calories, but you still have a lot more calories to go. You can solve this equation by either subtracting calories from your usual diet or adding more exercise. Lets suppose that we figured out that in order for you to lose a pound of fat a week, you need to burn 250 calories a day and consume 1,600 calories daily, which creates a deficit of 3,500 calories per week off of your usual diet and activity level. You burn all the 1,750 calories for that week and eat well bellow the 1,600 calories for 4 days. However, on Friday you go out to eat and have bread before your meal, appetizer, a main course, drinks and some dessert, which is a good 1,500 to 2,000 calories above what you already ate for that day. Than the next day you have pancakes with syrup and butter, or eat out again, or eat whatever your vice is, because you convinced yourself that you worked hard during the week and deserve a treat. However, as I have seen over and over again, the weekend can add up to as much as 5,000 extra calories (if not more). Now, if you add all your calories for the week and divide by 7 days, suddenly, you realize that your daily intake was actually 1,900 to 2,000 calories (not 1,600), which, even though you worked out hard, makes no difference on your deficit. At this rate, you are lucky you are not gaining weight. Now, add to that the occasions you do not even have time to work out…. or maybe you convinced yourself that the training sessions were hard enough that you don't need to put on your sneakers again for that week. The latter is a special tricky part. You do not have to work out as intensely as our sessions for the remaining of the week to see results. Most of you get discouraged thinking you should be pushing really hard all the time. The reality is that simple things like walking the dog, cleaning the house or car, gardening and grocery shopping add up to the weekly calorie deficit. As long as your heart rate is above 100, you can start counting. DEVICES TO HELP YOU GET THERE Most Polar Heart rate monitors have a calorie counting feature that is directly related to your weight, height, age and heart rate. Those devices are more accurate than the calories burned that most cardio machines will read. Here is a link: www.polarusa.com/us-en (look for F4 or similar). Another interesting device is the body bugg. This device counts your daily calories (you sleep with it) and lets you know how much of your deficit you have already accomplished for the week (it's like an annoying personal trainer on your wrist) www.bodybugg.com DAMAGE CONTROL Another important aspect that needs to be addressed is the damage control for when you are not consistent. As with any lifestyle change, you will have lapses and relapses. You will be steadily "good" and suddenly a vacation or holiday will throw you off the hook. A lot of you will unhealthily hit the gym with a biggest loser style, imagining that the greater amount of physical activity will fix the problem, only to notice that the sudden rise in intensity and duration of an exercise routine will only leave you feeling hungrier and more tired.
My solution to damage control is still consistency and moderation. Burning a crazy amount of calories in one day might help you with water loss, but the long term effects of weight control and weight loss happens one day at a time. After a particular reckless weekend, sedentary vacation or holiday, I recommend trusting your body by returning to your normal consistent routine of exercise while being extra vigilant with your food intake. By being vigilant with food intake means that you choose foods that are closer to nature (if you cannot name where that food came from, it is far from nature; e.g. protein bars), that you only eat when you are hungry (ask yourself: "am I really hungry?" and only eat when you are - learn to recognize the feeling), and that you stop when you are full (you should not leave the table full, but satisfied - learn to recognize the difference). To summarize, consistency and damage control are the rules of the game for a long-term lifestyle change. The Biggest Loser show can be a great inspiration to lose weight and hit the gym, but it is not realistic for most of us who work hard and are not isolated in a ranch without treats on weekends with family and friends. Keeping yourself active daily and eating sensibly (by not overeating or under eating) will slowly change the scale, if not your measurements. If you learn to have faith in this simple formula and trust that change takes time and should be done slowly, you will see results.