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The Miserable Story of How I Lost 25 Pounds in 6 Weeks

Hot Gains Editor

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Whatever form your particular regimen takes—a revamped diet, a rigorous exercise program, or some combination thereof—if it really works, you are probably going to hate every minute of it.

Trigger warning: This essay contains mentions of eating disorders and calorie restriction. Please proceed with caution.

“I’m concerned,” said Amy Gorin, a New York-based nutritionist. I had just finished telling her about my efforts to lose weight: 25 pounds in six weeks. She did not approve of my chosen methodology, and she was not alone.

“Wow, that’s a lot of weight in a short period of time,” said Ginger Hultin, a Seattle-based registered dietician and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“Did this all really happen?” asked Rebecca Scritchfield. She’s a nutritionist in D.C., and author of a book called Body Kindness. “It would be rare for me to hear everything you described, and for somebody to come see me and say that they don’t have any problems or concerns whatsoever. That would just not normally happen.”

“I’m definitely not a fan,” Lauren Harris-Pincus, a nutritionist in New Jersey, told me.

What has them so concerned? In part, the pace of my weight loss, sure. But also, the fact that I told them the key to succeeding, for me, was suffering.

Here are some things to know about me: I’m 36, and about six feet tall. I would describe my body type as “skinny, but with a belly.” And I had back surgery in April to fix a herniated disc. For most of my adult life, I’ve fluctuated between 165 and 185 pounds. But when I weighed myself after a physical therapy session and a light workout on Saturday, September 8, I saw I had crept up to 188.

I should pause here to say some very important things. I know 188 is not an unreasonable weight for someone like me. It is, after all, just a number. This is not about how much you “should” weigh, or what you “should” look like. I don’t think those things matter for most people, as long as you’re happy with how you feel. If you are one of those people, you can stop reading right now! You have already found your holy grail.

But I wasn’t happy. I felt unhealthy, and I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. In my 20s, my beer belly was “cute,” as one ex-girlfriend put it; now, in my late 30s, it was not. Slowly, I stopped wearing clothes that outlined my muscles, which seemed to have melted away from the bones on which they once sat. I realized I hadn’t gone skiing in years—an activity I used to love. Now, I didn’t think I’d be very good at it anymore, and had quietly decided I didn’t want to find out.

For years, my girlfriend and I had started off our days with a smoothie, not as a weight-management strategy but as a quick and reasonably-healthy breakfast on our respective ways out the door: One banana, two dates, a cup of unsweetened coconut almond milk, a scoop of peanut butter, and a fistful of spinach. Nutritionally, it’s a little like eating a salad, but tastes more like drinking dessert. The next day, I went from downing this 500-calorie concoction in the morning—and eating whatever I wanted at all points in between—to having a smoothie for both breakfast and dinner. For lunch, I had a bowl of soup or a small sandwich. No more Thursday morning bagels at work; no more flanks, ribeyes or New York strips; and definitely no snacks.

I felt hungry all the time. I went to bed hungry. I woke up hungry. The only time I wasn’t hungry was after a smoothie, and that fleeting moment of satiety never lasted. The parts of my brain that had once been reserved for “What should I have for dinner?” were now occupied only by hunger and, in a cruel twist, trying not to think about being hungry.

Time slowed to an agonizing, glacial pace. When you eat three square meals and as many snacks as you please, your day unfolds in measurable chunks, none of them more than a few hours. But when your “meals” take only minutes to prepare and consume, passing the time between tiny lunch and liquid dinner starts to feel like filling a pool with a garden hose: You can see the water going in, and you know, intellectually, that the pool level is increasing with each passing minute. But it still isn’t enough to swim, and it seems like it never will be. For the rest of the afternoon, the only thing you can do is stand there, staring at the bottom, thinking about how badly you want to do a cannonball.

Nights were not quite as hard. (A pair of caveats: I didn’t want the routine to get in the way of my social life, so occasional dinners with friends went on as planned. For the same reason, I didn’t give up alcohol, although I’m a light drinker.) I addressed occasional evening stomach rumblings by popping cans of La Croix. Going to sleep hungry felt like an accomplishment—like I was making progress. And in the morning, I felt like I had earned that breakfast smoothie, even though I knew I’d be hungry soon after finishing it. Blend, sleep, repeat.

A weird thing happens when you start drinking most of your food. At first, you miss chewing. After a week, the thought of swallowing any more green sludge was nauseating. The goop had nasty habits of sticking to the side of my Vitamix and dripping onto my counter, highlighting dark-green specks of semi-blended spinach floating in a sea-foam green cloud of health.

Then, the very idea of chewing starts to horrify you. Smoothies are so easy. The thought of laboring through a chopped salad for lunch—my only solid food on most days—started to feel exhausting. On rare dinners out at restaurants, I chose entrées based primarily on how I expected my jaw to feel after all the boring chewing had concluded. A separate horror began to gnaw at me: What if I’ve become incapable of ever enjoying a ribeye again?

Another caveat: What I’m about to share is not for people who struggle with eating disorders. It’s also not for people who are unable to change their bodies through diet and exercise, whether due to medical reasons, or some other complicating set of circumstances. It is also not for people who don’t want to change their bodies at all. (Again, you have the grail! Good for you.)

For everyone else: If you want to make a meaningful change to your body, there is only one dependable path, and that path is suffering. Whatever form your particular regimen takes—a revamped diet, a rigorous exercise program, or some combination thereof—if it really works, you are probably going to hate every minute of it.

Think about it this way: Why are your habits, well, your habits? Because they are easy to develop, and comfortable to maintain. For me, it required no effort to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and it felt comfortable to skip the gym in favor of the latest David Attenborough nature documentary. But when I wanted to change my body, I had to change those habits. That was hard! It’s hard to be hungry when you’d rather be eating; it’s hard to knock out 40 minutes on the bike when you’d rather be watching Planet Earth II on repeat.

There is a lot of money riding on you not believing this is the case. The weight loss industry is a $66 billion business. Half of all Americans say they’re trying to lose weight, and about 45 million of them start diets every year. Most of these efforts, studies show, will fail. Yet for those legions of beleaguered calorie-counters, nearly every nutritionist and weight loss expert I spoke to offered the same reason for hope: It’s easy, in fact, to achieve the results you’re chasing, as long as you carefully follow their method—which, besides being easy, is affordable, too. How convenient!

“No, you don’t have to suffer! Suffering isn’t a necessity,” Trudie German, a certified personal trainer in Canada, assured me. “At some point, you have to stop suffering. Why do you want to keep suffering?“

“I don’t think it’s necessary to suffer,” Liz Arch, a life coach and yoga teacher, told me. “We can put this idea on ourselves that we have to suffer in order to get to whatever grand goal we’re trying to meet, but I don’t think we have to suffer. I think there’s an easier, gentler path.”

“I actually think that’s actually the problem with most diets—that people believe they have to suffer to get the results,” said Ayse Durmush, a lifestyle coach and syndicated radio host.

A related reason that humanity’s weight loss hivemind, over time, has not asymptotically approached perfection: Science keeps learning new things about the body, which the industry then packages into a new product for sale to a new cohort of dieters. In reality, any ephemeral consensus about what “works” is less important than whatever message resonates with consumers at that particular moment. In the 1940s, studies linked high-fat diets to high cholesterol levels and heart disease. By the 1960s, low-fat diets were popular. By the 1980s, the medical profession, the food industry, and even the U.S. government were touting the low-fat lifestyle as a proven method of combating the burgeoning obesity epidemic.

Today, we know (or at least we think we know!) more: that some fats are good and other fats are bad. Eggs, dairy, sugar, carbohydrates—practically everything we eat, aside from, say, raw kale—have all gone through similar hero-goat-hero progressions. Even among experts, opinions differ based on the last thing they read, or where they got their certification, or what worked for them once upon a time. “If you talk to 100 people about what kind of diet they recommend, you’ll get 100 different answers,” said weight loss expert Scott Schmaren. (For the record, he believes the true key to success lies somewhere in the manipulation of one’s subconscious.)

What the health and fitness industry is selling, in other words, isn’t your long-term happiness; it’s the latest selection from its collection of programs. And how do you get people to buy in? You promise in the marketing materials that the experience will be fun and comfortable and successful throughout—even though it almost certainly cannot be all those things at once.

When I Google “help me lose weight,” both of the top sponsored results make a similar, sunny pledge. First, an outfit called Sweet Defeat proclaims that its product “makes it easier to live a healthier lifestyle by stopping sugar cravings in seconds.” Perhaps customers of Sweet Defeat have had a different experience, but I’ve never experienced a “craving” for anything that magically disappears without the imposition of a lot of willpower.

The other result is for Noom, a lifestyle startup—think Weight Watchers for millenials—that invites you to start your weight loss journey by filling out a 30-second personal assessment. As I go through the online form, I see what looks like a social media post from an allegedly real person, which has already received several “likes” despite appearing “1 minute ago.” (It is an authentic post, Noom president and co-founder Artem Petakov told me, though he admits the vintage is inaccurate.) “I don’t feel like I’m deprived of any food,” a user named Candace assures me, a prospective customer who hopes to unlock the secrets to her success. “I’m enjoying myself, and my family has noticed my weight loss.”

When I ask about the company’s marketing practices, Petakov says that Noom has studied the best messaging to secure the buy-in of people who will be successful with its program. And the company sent me studies claiming that its methods result in lasting weight loss for more than half its clients. “It’s important not to make it seem too easy, but also important not to scare people off too much,” Petakov explained.

After I answer a few more questions about my height, weight, habits, and lifetime fitness goals, another marketing message pops up on the screen. Its tone is cheerful, almost congratulatory, even though I haven’t done a thing yet: “Sticking to a plan can be hard, but Noom makes it easy”—and for only $32.25 a month.


A few weeks into my adventures with smoothies, I decided to experiment with intermittent fasting: A few days a week, I skipped breakfast and lunch altogether, and ate a normal dinner. The hunger stemming from this layer of my regimen came in intense waves at first, and so I did something many of us do for temporary relief from self-induced anguish: I complained. (Usually over G-Chat, mostly to my now-fiancée, and always in the form of melancholy proclamations that I was not going to make it home alive that night.)

But once my stomach’s growling subsided—perhaps once it realized no relief would be forthcoming—I started to feel great. At the office, it seemed like I could concentrate better, as if an elemental survival instinct had kicked in, and only typing faster and working harder would help me escape danger.

Small reductions in weight can result in large reductions in metabolism, studies have shown, meaning that as you lose weight, it gets harder to lose more weight. I thought I might be able to fight off this phenomenon by walking and biking and going to the gym more often. But a recent study of Biggest Loser contestants indicated that physical activity did not prevent a significant drop in metabolism. It might have helped; it might not have mattered all that much. I don’t know.

Nevertheless, after six weeks of regular fasting, diligent smoothie consumption, and a renewed dedication to scrounging up time in which to stay active, I weighed myself again. 163 pounds. I had thought—or at least hoped—I was making progress, but until this point had resisted the temptation to check, and frankly, I didn’t expect the news to be this good. I felt incredulous and elated at the same time, like (I imagine) how one reacts when they realize all six numbers on the Mega Millions ticket they hold match the sequence on TV. I called my fiancée, and then called her on WhatsApp when she didn’t answer there, and then tried her work number when she didn’t answer there, either, until I finally reached her, breathless, to recount what I had just seen.

This wasn’t only about the number on the scale. My body was trimmer, and I felt lighter and healthier and happy with myself. People were noticing, too. The first person to notice was me, mostly because my pants were falling down. I went out and got two notches added to my belt; I also bought new pants.

Here is the story of Lauren Harris-Pincus, a registered dietician and one of the many skeptical experts with whom I spoke. During her senior year of high school, she went on what she calls a “suffering diet”—a calorie-restriction regimen not unlike the one I went through. “I was so sick and tired of being teased and tortured, and I wanted a new life where I wasn’t heavy. It was a survival instinct,” she said “I grew up in Livingston, New Jersey, and everyone was wealthy and perfect. I’m not a fan of suffering because it steals joy from your life, and I don’t think it’s necessary.”

Harris-Pincus tells me her diet so affected her metabolism that even today, she carefully monitors her calorie intake to maintain the fitness level she wants. It is a telling indictment of her industry’s promises that she accomplished her goals only after deciding that she was willing to suffer—a method she wouldn’t advocate for you, even though it worked for her.

It worked for me, too. After a few weeks of liquid meals and food-free afternoons, I found I had learned to embrace the suffering, because I could see the weight coming off. I derived a real sense of satisfaction in completing my routine, like a machine unaffected by appeals to emotion and/or the allure of microwave pizza. It is the same transformative dynamic I’ve heard described by friends who endured the pain of getting a tattoo; they knew it was a necessary prerequisite to enjoying a long-sought-after reward.

“Diet and exercise are not the key. The key is the picture you have inside of your head—how you see yourself,” Scott Schmaren told me one day. (He’s the subconscious guru, remember.) If weight loss were truly that simple, he would be a billionaire—and to my knowledge, he is not—but he might have a point: When I didn’t want to go to the gym or do that last set of leg lifts, I told myself I was the kind of person who did that last set and squeezed that last rep. There were days when I ate more than I intended, and others when I shortened a workout I should have finished. But I stuck with it, even though everything about the experience, to use a technical term, sucked.

Do the experts think I can keep it up?

“Radical changes in short period of time are possible, but not sustainable,” health coach Aurimas Juodka wrote to me. “It’s easy to lose weight putting people on crash diets, but eventually, they’re going to fall back to their old ways.“

“People will get sick of two smoothies a day,“ said Scritchfield.

“Can you sustain that? I would say probably not,” said Christal Sczebel, a certified holistic nutritional consultant.

As I write these lines, it’s six months since I launched myself into this mostly-smoothie diet. I’ve now lost 36 pounds, down to 152. I’m still eating less than I used to, but I don’t really think about it much. Resisting the mindless, boredom-driven urge to have a snack feels normal; it’s just part of my new routine. And I’m doing things I would have avoided before all this took place. On the first day of our honeymoon in Costa Rica this past winter, I bruised my ribs learning to surf. (It didn’t stop me from surfing for four straight days. Surfing, it turns out, is a lot of fun.)

My new goal is to put on some muscle. I lift weights now, and I recently bought my first-ever enormous vat of whey protein powder. And when the “suffering” still tests my resolve, I remember those who said I could never lose weight without the benefit of their expertise, and who hustle hard every day to get more customers who will pay to have stevia-sweet nothings whispered in their ears. I smile, and stuff some more spinach—and maybe an extra scoop of protein—into the blender.

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Use Time to Create More Tension With This Arm Workout

Hot Gains Editor

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If you want to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your arm day workout, just slow down.

While you’ll build plenty of size and strength by progressively ramping up the weight you use when you work out, you can also adjust the speed of your movements to create more time under tension to challenge your muscles. This is a smart method to ratchet up the difficulty and effectiveness of your routines if you’re stuck traveling without a full gym, or you only have one set of small dumbbells at home.

Trainer Charlee Atkins, C.S.C.S. uses tempo to give her clients an extra challenge—and to make them think a little more about their workouts to keep them from just going through the motions.

“Before you go getting crazy and implementing workouts, you find off Instagram, try this small change: time,” Atkins says. “By changing the tempo of your exercises, you’re effectively changing the amount of time under tension. You can vary your time in workouts by moving slower in the eccentric or ‘lowering’ phases or merely holding an exercise isometrically for a few breaths before releasing the position.”

Whatever you decide to do, the trainer believes the best workouts are the most simple, like this straightforward dumbbell routine that gives your biceps, back, and shoulders some work. All you need is a set of weights to take on the workout—check out this adjustable set from Bowflex if you want to do it at home.

Perform each exercise for 6 to 12 reps. Progress through each movement slowly, and pause for a count at the sticking point of each rep.

  • Bent-Over Row
  • Biceps Curl
  • Half-Kneeling Overhead Press
  • Bent-Over Triceps Kickback

Run through the circuit 3 times to complete the workout. Remember, timing is key here—you lose out if you try to rush. Want to learn more moves from Atkins? Check out our series full of her workout tips, Try Her Move.

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America’s Hottest Gyms You Should Know About

Hot Gains Editor

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Today’s best new gyms are about more than just weight loss and muscle. They build community, mental strength, and athleticism, and they push you into workouts that often barely feel like workouts. The wisdom they share can still transform your body, but it may transform you in other ways, too. 


ELIMINATE ANY EXCUSES

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Quadruple amputee Tony Lampkin, a USA Paralympics hopeful, lifts weights using a special Active Hands strap.COURTESY ADAPTIVE TRAINING FOUNDATION/ DIANNE M WEBSTERADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW

Adaptive Training Foundation

Carrollton, Texas

A workout at the Adaptive Training Foundation’s 20,000-square-foot gym doesn’t start with your traditional full-body warmup. Instead it starts with 15 minutes in something that founder David Vobora calls a “recharge room,” a small space where clients release frustrations about any recent struggles.

Only after this period do they step onto the training floor and touch weights. This, says Vobora, is the best way for his gym to help its clientele, wounded and disabled military veterans and others living with physical disabilities who are looking to redefine their lives. “After war,” he says, “these people need more mental training than anything.” Clients of the nonprofit gym, which is free for anyone with a physical impairment, get both mental and physical training that’s designed for their situation. Vobora built his gym specifically for the physically disabled, so anything that can aid their fitness is here. Those who can’t grip a bar because of injury are outfitted with an Active Hands strap, a specialized device that attaches to the wrist and closes around weights or handles. The wheelchair-bound routinely have weight sleds attached to their chairs, and anyone who can’t stand up to use a machine is given a resistance-band chest support to lean against.

This is the gym the country needs, Vobora says. “America doesn’t need more gyms,” but more than 40 million Americans are physically disabled, he adds, so “we need more gyms to open their doors to those who have been left out of fitness.” So far, 160 veterans have completed the Adaptive Training Foundation’s initial three-month program.

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Kris Briggs, an Army sergeant who was hit by an IED 12 years ago, trains at the Adaptive Training Foundation gym in Carrollton, Texas.COURTESY ADAPTIVE TRAINING FOUNDATION/ DIANNE M WEBSTERADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW

TRY THIS MOVE: Get in plank position on the floor, a towel under your toes. Drag your knees in until they’re below your hips. Return to the start. Do 10 reps.

EARN YOUR MEMBERSHIP

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The Maximus Gym

Murray, Utah

This isn’t your average gym hustling for members.
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Owned by tough-guy trainer Bobby Maximus, best- selling author of Maximus Body, Maximus Gym lets anyone work out once, but only focused people are invited to become members. If Maximus regulars notice you’re not training hard, you won’t be invited back. Intimidating? Sure. But it breeds what Maximus calls a “championship culture.” “You’re going to be exposed to more than sets and reps here,” he says. “You’re learning what truly makes champions and causes change.”

TRY THIS MOVE: Pick an exercise for the end of every workout—say, pushups. Do a few reps the first time. Add one rep every workout. “Microgoals are attainable,” says Maximus.


TRY A BASIC BODY SHOP

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The Kitchen

Beverly Hills

All you really need to get in shape? A garage. Need proof? Check out where Justin Timberlake, Kate Upton, and Bradley Beal train. They drive up a small hill to a 16-foot-by-12-foot garage that houses the tiniest elite gym you’ve ever seen. The Kitchen is at the forefront of a different brand of personal training. Rather than working out his clients on a crowded gym floor, MHadvisor Ben Bruno, C.F.S.C., does it in this secluded space. You control every bit of your experience, from the music (hate metal? ditch it) to the selection of equipment. Create the gym you need.

TRY THIS MOVE: Hold dumbbells at your sides. Walk uphill. Hinge forward after each step, then straighten up. Do 10 reps.


BUILD MORE THAN MUSCLE

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Detroit Body Garage

Detroit

AT DETROIT Body Garage, power cleans help raise money for charity. Community workouts—group fitness sessions open to all comers—are part of owner Terra Castro’s quest to aid her neighborhood. Profits from these sessions go to local organizations like the Michigan Humane Society. Gym members also regularly turn out en masse to, say, clean up area trash. Castro hatched these projects shortly after Detroit was named America’s most unhealthy city in 2017. “I’m doing my part to change that statistic,” she says.

TRY THIS MOVE: Stand in athletic stance, a resistance band around your ankles. Keeping it tense, step to the right with your right foot; follow with your left. Take 10 paces in each direction.


ROW YOURSELF INTO SHAPE

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CityRow

Portland, Oregon

Ever since CrossFit popularized the Concept2 rower, group rowing classes have been on the rise. But no gym handles things like CityRow, which uses the quieter, custom-built WaterRower. You alternate between intervals on the rower and dumbbell strength work. The blend is so popular that CityRow, which debuted in Manhattan in 2014, will open new locations in Denver, Atlanta, Dallas, and Boca Raton this year. “We’re offering a low-impact workout that’ll build strength without breaking you down,” says Hollis Tuttle, director of instructors, New York City.

TRY THIS MOVE: Do this circuit: Row 200 meters. Do 10 deadlifts, 10 dumbell rows, and 10 pushups. Do 3 rounds.


PAY YOURSELF TO TRAIN

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Reebok HQ Fitness

Boston

Taking up two floors and 30,000 square feet of an eight- story renovated Army storehouse, Reebok’s in-house gym leaves the company’s 750 employees no excuses. They pay $75 a month but get a $7.50 credit every time they take a class or just work out on their own. (The gym is also open to the public for $300 a month.)

New 15-minute, 20- minute, and 30-minute workouts are posted daily, so lack of time can’t be your excuse, either.

TRY THIS MOVE: Short on time? Squeeze in this workout. Go hard for 2 minutes on a rower, spin bike, or treadmill; do 1 minute of burpees; do a 1-minute plank. Rest 1 minute. Do 4 rounds.


LIFT YOUR OWN WEIGHT

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The Gravity Vault

Radnor, Pennsylvania

What if a workout was just plain fun? It’s an idea that’s increasingly the focus at the new wave of climbing, parkour, and American Ninja Warrior–style gyms.

At the Gravity Vault, you’re not lifting weights (although you can do that in a corner of the gym). You’re scaling massive, textured rock walls 40 feet high, firing up your core and forearms in ways even bodybuilders don’t expect. That was the vision that owner Zach Barber always had for a gym. You make friends, too. It’s not uncommon to be ten feet up, unsure of how to progress, and have somebody use a laser pointer to show you a hold you missed. It takes a village to take on the Gravity Vault’s toughest routes. That’s half the fun.

TRY THIS MOVE: Start in a high plank. Shift to a side plank, then an opposite-side plank. Hold each for 30 seconds; do 3 sets.


CREATE MUSCLE WITH VR

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Mayweather Boxing + Fitness los angeles

Los Angeles

Floyd Mayweather’s days as the world’s finest pound-for-pound boxer are over, but he’s still putting all that ring knowledge to use in his latest project: kicking your ass into shape. At the boxing legend’s new gym, when you want to spar, you don’t always need a partner. Instead you can put on an HTC Vive VR headset, a weighted vest, and weighted gloves with resistance bands attached and step into the ring to begin a 12-week virtual- boxing program, with a digitized Mayweather as your trainer. (You can also skip the gloves and vest to get started.)

“There’s mitt work, bag work, and full sparring once you’re up to that level,” says programming coordinator Reid Silverman. Virtual Floyd pushes you through zero-impact drills, so you break a sweat without battering your joints. Not that you’re stuck doing only VR training. A 60-minute group fitness class called Championship Boxing lets you go at a real bag for 12 rounds, again borrowing from the ideas that Money himself used.

TRY THIS MOVE: Learn the Mayweather situp: Do a situp. Lean forward, press up through your heels, and stand. Throw a right jab. Squat and return to situp position. Repeat, throwing a left jab. Do 15 total reps.


SLOW DOWN TO SPEED UP

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The Movement

Minneapolis

Mastering your body includes knowing when you aren’t moving properly—and correcting the issue. Walk into the Movement and you’ll see the office where the on-site physical therapist works with all members. (The first PT visit is free.) A coach may notice you laboring in a deadlift and, if needed, send you to the PT to see if there’s a problem. “That communication keeps you healthy,” says founder David Dellanave.

TRY THIS MOVE It’s called the Jefferson deadlift. Stand over a barbell, right foot in front of it, left behind it, knees bent. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, torso at a 45 degree angle, core tight. Straighten your legs, lifting the barbell. That’s 1 rep; do 4 sets of 5 to 8 per side.


YOUR ULTIMATE HOTEL GYM

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The Aria

Las Vegas

The Aria, Las VegasYou won’t find a more tech-ed out hotel gym than the one in the halls of the Aria. Driven by brand new Technogym gear, every single weight machine can connect to your iPhone and track your workout, calculating everything from reps to calories burned to the rhythm and pace of your reps. It’s a game-changer for OCD trainers who want to know everything about their traveling clients’ workouts. Not into weights? The Aria’s Technogym-powered cardio equipment is just as nuanced, with treadmills and ellipticals that also connect to your iPhone and track performance. And rowing fans will love the Technogym Skillrow machine, which is sturdy enough to survive the most powerful of rowing strokes but smooth enough that you’ll still feel like you’re on the water. Expect other hotel gyms to follow the Aria’s lead and eventually deliver more connected experiences.


PUMP UP YOUR PILATES

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SCULPTHOUSE

Nashville

Katherine Mason knows exactly how the bench-pressing crowd views Pilates. “Men usually think it’s for women,” she says. Her solution: Blend the Pilates Megaformer with a vicious CrossFit mainstay, the nonmotorized treadmill. “Guys think our combination of machines is interesting,” she says. The mix gets guys sweating like crazy first, then zeroes in on their abs when they’re fatigued, a challenging formula you can’t help loving.TRY THIS MOVE: Struggling to focus? Find five things you can see, four you can touch, three you can hear, two you can smell, and one you can taste. Your focus will return.

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This Guy Lost 35 Pounds and Got Ripped Thanks to a Simplified Diet

Hot Gains Editor

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After unhealthy eating habits led to weight gain, William Underwood set a goal of losing roughly 30 pounds.
• He started by counting calories and committing to a strict vegetarian diet of mostly plants and eggs, all while running and lifting up to five days a week.
• As a result, Underwood underwent a dramatic 35-pound weight loss transformation and hit his goal weight.

William Underwood had taken a radical move: The 27-year-old from London, England, had picked up with his girlfriend and moved to Paris, France, where he later began working for an English school. “I fell out of healthy habits and started to put on a few extra pounds,” he says. Even with a vegetarian diet, he was eating too much for someone spending so much time at a desk. Flipping through his phone, he saw some old pictures of himself; realizing just how much weight he’d gained, he promised himself a change.

That was in February 2019. Underwood weighed 196 pounds, and declared that by September he’d be down to 168. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d slimmed down; entering university as a teenager, he weighed 270 pounds—by the time he finished, he was at 154. “I thought if I had made so much progress 4 years earlier,” he says, “why not try to do it again? I saw it as a challenge for myself.”

Underwood started by calculating his maintenance calories to establish the caloric deficit he needed to his hit goal weight. He broke it down: 30 percent of his calories from carbs, 30 percent from fat, and 30 percent from protein. He tracked it all with MyFitnessPal; as a vegetarian, his diet was mostly plants and eggs.

He didn’t use a trainer—being new in Paris, he didn’t have any gym buddies, either, so it was up to him to stay motivated. (One trick: taking pictures of himself every Monday after the gym, so he could see his progress.) He upped his workout time to five weight sessions a week, with cardio two to three times. He’d hit the weights for about an hour in the morning before work, with 30 minutes of cardio after work. The schedule fit his daily routine, making it that much easier to implement—and to stick with.

It wasn’t always easy, Underwood says. His diet meant burning fat reserves; he also had to give up butter, a personal favorite. “I think another challenge you face when doing something like this is to not become over-obsessed,” he says. He wanted to enjoy himself despite the challenge, not torture himself with a strict regimen. “Luckily I also had my girlfriend there to keep things in perspective,” he says.

In about eight months, he lost 35 pounds, exceeding his goal. Most of his friends back home in England didn’t know what he’d been up to. But he did send his mother a before-and-after photo so she could see his accomplishment. “As any good mum would,” he says, “she said she was worried I was wasting away and prescribed some more food!”

Looking back, he’s proud of his results. “I improved my organizational skills, which helped with things out of the gym in my personal life and work,” he says. “I also feel I learned a lot more about self discipline and delayed gratification.” And ultimately, he enjoyed himself—something he emphasizes for anyone looking to follow in his footsteps: “Make sure you have fun doing it. If it makes you miserable to do it, what is the point?”

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