Getting Started in Fitness

Posted: August 3, 2011 in Fitness

One of the most common questions in diet and fitness is “how do I lose weight?”  Sometimes, it’s followed up by “fast” or “quickest” because we has a society want immediate results.  Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as “fast weight loss” without taking risky short-cuts or cutting off body parts.  To address those questions, I’ve developed a sort of canned-answer that includes most of the common questions.

The Basics

Healthy and safe weight loss comes from knowing how many calories you burn in a day, and calculating the calories of what you eat in a day. It means combining a healthy and nutritious diet along with good, intense and regular exercise every week to maintain a calorie deficit of about 200-500 calories per day. This will result in an average of 1-2 pounds lost per week.

To determine what you burn, seek out any number of on-line calorie calculators, which will ask you your height, current weight, gender, age, and general activity level. Check out a few different ones and you can come up with an average since the results will probably be different.

To track what you eat, take a few minutes to look at the nutrition information of various foods. Many Web sites offer approximations of nutritional content for popular foods. Sites like:

Online tools such as these can help you track both your daily burn and daily intake as well as offering additional tips and communities for keeping up to date on what you need to do, both in diet and exercise.

Working Out

When considering exercise, look to exercises that move you. That means making you sweat and making you work hard. Get at least 20-30 minutes of a good hard workout in, 3-4 times a week or more. Leave at least one day for total rest for your body to recover, though, and get 6-8 hours of sleep per night.

Include weight-lifting. Weight-lifting increases muscle strength and density and also helps support bones and joints. The one thing to note, though, is that there’s no such thing as “I just wanna tone up.” That often means that the person wants to achieve that lean, fit look without going into the often-feared grotesque bodybuilder types. Unless you’re going specifically into bodybuilding, men and women cannot and will not achieve that by just lifting weights.

That “fitness model” look that’s so often shown on TV infomercials and on the covers of various magazines and fitness products — the “toned” look — comes from intense exercise (which includes heavy weight lifting) and strict adherence to good diet. Don’t assume “toning” means “working out less”; that’s just an easy excuse that’ll do you no good.

Fat loss occurs all over the body at the same time. There is no such thing as “targeted weight loss” or “spot reduction.” Fat can accumulate unevenly around the body, like snow drifts in winter. But like snow melts all at the same rate when the weather warms up, so does fat loss occur evenly. It only seems to decrease more slowly in the “trouble spots” like the belly and arms because there was more accumulation there to begin with.

Everyone has six-pack abs. Most of us just have a layer of flesh hiding it.

Expectations and Pitfalls

When beginning a diet and exercise program, it is common to lose a larger amount at first. The rate of loss will then slow down a few weeks in, as the body readjusts to this new program you’re putting it through. This is normal and no reason for discouragement or despair. When the body adjusts, it’s time to readjust your diet and exercise. Stay off the scale for the first month, and focus more on how your clothes fit.

Remember to keep your calorie deficit within that 200-500 daily range. Any more than that will mislead the body into thinking that there isn’t enough food coming in, so it will hold onto what it has left. The more you work, the more you need to fuel up.

Once you’ve developed the right patterns for diet and exercise and gotten into the proper mentality with realistic expectations, then you can branch out and focus on more specific goals.


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