Here's why one personal trainer purposefully packed on 90 pounds, how he got his lean body back, and his simple diet-and-eating plan to help transform your body. By Holly Corbett, REDBOOK.
Man on a mission
Trainer Paul "PJ" James was counseling overweight clients on how to slim down, but at 176 pounds of lean muscle, he had no idea how it felt to carry extra weight. With two-thirds of Americans now overweight or obese, he wanted to understand firsthand the struggled of someone trying to lose weight. To do this, he intentionally gained 90 pounds in order to take them back off. James hit 264 pounds before returning to his healthy weight, and shares his journey in his new book, Take It Off, Keep It Off. Try James' real-world tips to shed points -- and keep them off for food.Get moving in the a.m.
"Start every day with 15 minutes of cardio intervals -- such as brisk walking outside or on the elliptical -- before breakfast," says James. "Doing cardio on an empty stomach is scientifically proven to burn fat." He suggests alternating between one minute at a fast pace and one minute at 60 percent capacity.
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Focus on fat loss, not weight loss
This is so important because fat is linked to stroke, diabetes, cancer, and more. If you focus on dropping lots of pounds quickly, you're apt to lose water weight as well as muscle. But if your aim is to build muscle and lose fat (rather than pounds), you'll make long-lasting changes to your body's shape. That's because even though muscle weighs more than fat, it's more compact and boosts your metabolism by torching calories all day long.
Do a little at a time
If you try to make a lot of changes all at once, you're apt to get overwhelmed and give up. Take the pressure off of yourself and increase your chance of success by making small tweaks. "Tell yourself you only have to show up to the gym today rather than lift weights for 50 minutes or run three miles on the treadmill," says James. "The hardest part is just getting there. Making a commitment to show up makes exercise a habit." Also try making one small dietary tweak a week, such as cutting out artificial sugar.
Cleanse your palate
"I hate the word 'diet' and instead tell clients to 'eat clean.' Clean eating is more about making lifestyle changes and forming new habits." This means choosing unprocessed foods like fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains like long-grain rice, and lean proteins like fish instead of fast food or anything with a label. "Fueling yourself with the right food is key for transforming your body," says James.
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Worth the weight
You want to work out smarter, not harder. It sounds counter-intuitive, but spending hours on the StairMaster won't transform your body. "Working out too hard doesn't help much with fat loss because you burn fat more efficiently at a lower heart rate," says James. Instead, aim to lift weights two to four days a week (as well as doing your 15-minute morning cardio sessions). "Pumping iron pushes you toward your goal faster than spending hours running," says James.
Have the most important meal of the day
"Most of us understand how important breakfast is because studies show people who maintain weight loss are regular breakfast eaters, but few of us make the time to actually eat in the morning," says James. Make breakfast your biggest meal of the day: Be sure to eat a combination of protein, fat, and healthy carbs, such as oatmeal with protein powder, milk, and sliced bananas. You should be eating less calories and minimizing carbs as the day progresses.
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It's all about the protein
If you're looking to lose weight and build muscle, give lean protein the prime place on your plate. At first, devote a little more than half the space to foods like flank steak, grilled chicken breasts, white fish, and tofu. Fill another third with whole grains, and the remaining portion with fats. "Eating a lot of protein fuels and maintains muscle mass to transform your body," explains James.
It's easy to mistake thirst for hunger, so be sure you're drinking plenty of water all day long. "If you feel hungry, drink eight ounces of water and wait twenty minutes to see if the cravings have passed," says James. It takes willpower, but it will help you begin to better understand your hunger cues and derail emotional eating.
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"If you start cutting out candy bars and soda but don't replace some of those calories that you're accustomed to with nutrient-dense foods, you're likely to reach for sugar during an afternoon slump," says James. Aim to eat three meals and two protein-rich snacks a day (such as Greek yogurt drizzled with honey or salted edamame). Eating often keeps you satiated so you're less likely to give in to your cookie or chips cravings.
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