Here is the “skinny” on how to reduce body fat and build muscle to look and feel gorgeous, strong and healthy! One of the most attractive attributes of the female body is its radiance. If you were drawn to this website, you probably already know that a skinny, limp and weak body is not sexy and no fun at all! It speaks of emaciation and dullness (i.e. lack of energy) while a slim, toned, flexible body with open posture, a body that is full of energy and imbued with confidence turns heads. The good news is that this is very achievable and you CAN create it with the right knowledge, strategy and determination.
Now, even if someone would hand you a magic process to get slim, it is likely that you would not follow through or stick with it for the rest of your life if your reason for getting in shape – your WHY – is not clear or important enough. For your ultimate fitness success, your WHY for getting in shape must resonate with your deeper Self and serve your body as well as your mind.
I also want to emphasize another important factor – you must be doing it for yourself and not to please someone else; otherwise, eventually, you will end up sabotaging your progress. I discuss these reasons in the Mental Conditioning articles, as well as my upcoming book Women’s Perfect Body Program.
Step 1: The WHY. Take a few minutes by yourself and write down your underlying reason(s) for creating your healthy, vibrant, beautiful body. A quick tip: state your reason in a positive form, for example “I love feeling energetic, happy and radiant” or “I want to enjoy a long and happy life with my kids”, etc. (NOT “Because I do not want to be fat and tired.”)
Read your reasons everyday, make them part of your daily intentions/affirmations; this will keep them alive and continue to inspire and empower you. If you don’t feel inspired by your reasons after a few days or weeks, dig deeper – you haven’t discovered your real, underlying reason(s), the ones that brings up emotions, the ones that will get you up in the morning. Your positive emotions are the power that will imprint your intentions deep into you subconscious mind and drive you to your success. The stronger your emotions when you think of your reasons, the closer you are to the real WHY that motivates you.
Two Types of Fat
There are two types of body fat: visceral and subcutaneous. Subcutaneous fat is the fat under your skin; visceral fat, however, surrounds your internal organs. Visceral fat is more resistant and challenging to melt. It is also the most dangerous to your health. The reason is: the body stores toxins in visceral fat to keep harmful elements away from its vital organs. For this reason, the first and foremost requirement to reduce visceral fat is to get rid of toxicity in your life. Toxicity is anything that your body considers harmful. For example, anything that you may be allergic to, preservatives, chemicals, etc. that may be either in food, water, air or skin care products. Perhaps the greatest toxicity comes from mental and emotional stress and negative thinking. Yes, negative energy creates some of the most toxic chemicals in the body. As long as we are exposed to the toxins, the body will not want to release visceral fat. Therefore:
STEP 2. Detox. Eliminate, or at least minimize, your exposure to toxins. Many successful athletes practice meditation, mindfulness, inspiration and positive mental conditioning to achieve their personal best and gain a competitive edge. Also, make sure that you get enough sleep to allow the mind to process unresolved mental algorithms. You can read about focused meditation practice in the article “Meditation can change your mind AND body”.
In order for your body to release visceral fat, you need to address and release any negativity that you harbor, either consciously or subconsciously. By negativity I mean: negative thinking, judgement, depression, worrying, fearfulness, etc. Negativity is easily the most toxic element to the body and it must go! Isn’t this great that in the process of becoming slim and beautiful on the outside you are also creating a beautiful, clear and happy mind? The Mental Conditioning module of Women’s Perfect Body addresses reconditioning of the mind to overcome poor mental and emotional habits and create a positive, balanced, healthy and happy mind.
STEP 3. Nutrition that melts fat. In addition to limiting overall calorie intake, the kind of calories that we put into our bodies can help to burn fat or promote its storage. It has to do with the chemical reactions during the digestion process. The way the body converts food is not straightforward; for example, eating fat does not automatically translate into storing body fat, and avoiding fat does not automatically mean that the body will get lean. Nutrients that enter the body get broken down and the body creates new elements for its use.
Some people have faces that are puffy and have a feel of doughnut dough – the stale roundness and paleness, present even in olive and dark skin complexions. This is often due to eating foods that are high on the glycemic index. High glycemic index foods are easy calories and get absorbed quickly into our blood stream. They do not require the body to break them down because they are already processed. Sugars, fruit juices and simple carbs (i.e. bread, pasta, rice, starchy vegetables like potatoes) fall into this category. Once they enter the blood stream, they provide easy energy that is accessible for mental and physical activity… without having to tackle the body’s fat reserves. In addition to hampering the body’s ability to burn fat, these foods cause spikes and drops in insulin, thus creating craving for a continuous sugar fix, a vicious cycle of providing the body with easy calories of the lowest nutritional value. If you crave simple carbs and sweets, you know first hand how hard it is to break this habit. This is because high glycemic foods are extremely addictive and eliminating them triggers withdrawal. My strategy of dealing with this addiction is like dealing with any other addiction: try replacing the food in question with healthier choices for a short time, then quit substituting altogether; or, if the addiction is particularly strong and you are a go-getter, just go cold turkey! Also, discover and address the triggers – your health and fitness are worth it.
Insulin spikes caused by high glycemic foods throw the body off balance hormonally. Hormonal imbalance, in turn, prevents the body from releasing fat. As you know, the hardest time of the month to resist high glycemic foods is before and during menstruation; also, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, i.e. the times of biggest hormonal changes. Sticking with foods that are low on the glycemic index during those times, no matter how tough it might be, is the only saving grace to not throw the body deeper into the vicious cycle of cravings and fix, that cause even more hormonal imbalance.
To aid your body’s ability to access fat cells as fuel and accelerate fat burning, say NO to these foods: sugar, sweeteners, fruit juices, simple carbs (bread, pasta, rice, starchy vegetables like potatoes). The exception is a natural sweetener like Stevia, which is an herb, non-caloric and does not cause insulin spikes. Once you have achieved your ideal body fat percentage, you can have a small amount of whole grain sprouted bread in your diet (one/two slices per day). This is because any grain, even whole grain, will make your body resist releasing fat because even at its best, grains are still comparatively easy calories (high glycemic index), so keep it to a minimum in order to maintain optimum body fat composition. (The exception are competitive endurance athletes with a super-fast metabolism.)
A guideline for fat melting nutrition:
Say NO to:
- Fruit juices
- Simple carbs (bread, pasta, rice, starchy vegetables, like potatoes).
- Keep to a bare minimum or completely forgo: artificial sweeteners, preservatives, gluten, saturated fat and caffeine.
Say YES to: low glycemic index foods!
- Complex carbs: raw veggies and whole fruit
- Lean protein
- Good fats (extra virgin oils such as: olive, sesame, grape seed, almond, etc.). NOTE: When you heat up the oil during cooking, its molecules convert to become saturated fat, so eat your oils RAW, i.e. UNCOOKED)
Say YES to:
- Spices! Spices will make your meals much more satisfying and you will less likely crave sweets after meals.
Say YES to:
- Water! Drink lots of it between meals (not with the meals). Do no drink water with meals because water dilutes digestive juices, which would minimize the absorption of nutrients. By chewing your food more completely, you will not feel the need to drink as you eat.
Say YES to:
- Vitamins and supplements! Much of the “hunger” that we feel is due to a lack of sufficient vitamins and minerals in our diet. We often overeat because the body is craving the nutrients that it needs to function and maintain optimum energy.
STEP 4: Exercise to build muscle and burn the fat.
People who have more muscle mass burn more calories faster. When you are on a calorie-restricted diet, you are at a greater risk of losing muscle mass. For these reasons, it is important to incorporate resistance exercises that will help you build muscle and burn more fat.
One of the common myths is that if you do resistance or weight exercises, you will become too muscular or bulky. This is only true for men – their high levels of testosterone help them to bulk up. Since very few women have such high levels of testosterone, it is very unusual for a woman to become bulky. Most of us, even when we do intensive weight training, will gain definition and form without becoming too muscular.
A few basics:
You build muscle by breaking down your muscle tissue through weight or resistance training. This is the reason you feel sore after a weight training session. Your body will rebuild the muscle to support the increased demand. Therefore, if you continue increasing the weight or resistance that you use over time, your body will continue creating more muscle. If you use the same weights, your muscle mass will simply be maintained.
Tips to maximize your muscle building through exercise:
- DO: always warm up for just a few minutes (6-8 min) and do some functional stretching to loosen up before weight training.
- DO NOT: do a full-blown cardio session before weight lifting. Do your cardio at the conclusion of the workout instead, or on alternative days.
- DO: weight training that works your large muscles, like quads, gluts and legs.
- DO: slow down! You will build more muscle by slowing your speed of weight lifting. It is much more challenging to do a weight routine at half your normal speed. Going slowly, you may not be able to use as much weight and likely will only be able to do half the reps – more results in less time!
- DO: focus on perfecting your form. Better form = more effective muscle building. Note: For the best results, ask someone to spot you, or look up the proper form for your exercise in a credible book or Internet site and watch yourself in the mirror as you workout.)
- DO: mix your weight training with cardio in a circuit format: get your heart rate up with a cardio warm up (6-8 min), do 5-10 minutes of heavy weight training, then back to cardio warm up to get your heart rate up, then back to weight training. Circuit workouts are very popular with professional trainers and excellent conditioning for endurance, in addition to muscle building.
- DO: add weights to your regular routines. Do you like to dance at home? Do it with your dumbbells. Like aerobics? Bring the dumbbells with you.
- DO: take your dumbbells with you when you go for a run.
- DO: bring your resistance bands with you when traveling. They are extremely lightweight and can be used even in a small hotel room.
- DO: add functional body weight training. Take advantage of your own body weight: pushups/pull-ups, squats, jumps and frog leaps. Too easy? Use one arm push ups, or one leg squats.
- DO: add variety. The body is genius in adapting! It quickly learns to perform exercise in the most efficient way to burn fewer calories. To keep getting optimum results and burning more calories, change your routine around every few days. Create a “surprise” factor for your muscles. For example, change the order of the exercises in your routine, or, if you jog a couple of miles 4-5 times per week, add side skips to your jogging, chose a different route that has more hills, or do sprint runs in combination with launches. When performing launches, do them s-l-o-w-l-y with a good form. Bring dumbbells for extra fun!
- On a busy day, DO: several short workouts (10-15 min) throughout the day. As long as you get your heart pumping, several shorter workouts keep your metabolism humming throughout the day.
STEP 1: Dig for your real WHY – the reason behind wanting to build your perfect body, lose fat, etc.
STEP 2: Detox! – to allow your body to release fat.
STEP 3: Nurture your body with food that helps to melt fat.
STEP 4: Exercise to build muscle and burn fat.
Go THE EXTRA Mile:
- Laugh a lot! Spend time with friends just having fun. Releasing stress also means releasing fat from your system.
- Sign up for a challenge like a marathon, mountain climb, whitewater rafting, martial arts class or another adventure that rocks your boat.
- Get a life coach. A good coach will:
- Keep you inspired
- Find the hot buttons that keep you down
- Help you overcome poor mental programming
- Keep your feet to the fire
(Worth every dollar of your investment!)
Affirmation for the day:
When I feel the burn in my muscles during exercise, I am just getting started. I love the feeling of toughness. Challenge inspires me. I become stronger every day and push further than ever!”
ENJOY THE GLOW!
Article and Affirmations by Mila Diamond
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