Weight loss is more than just counting calories

SUSAN FISHELBERG grew up on processed food and the promise of nutrition packaged for speed and convenience, so it’s no wonder she quickly developed a weight problem as a child. She spent her adult years trying to shake those pounds, falling time and again for the quick fix and “miracle” cure.

Fishelberg counted points, ate premade, portion-controlled meals and gobbled up 100 calorie snacks that were passed off as “healthy” and “natural,” though she had no idea what exactly was in them. She kept her calories as low as 1,000 per day. She hit the gym with reckless abandon.

It all worked – for awhile.

When the pounds inevitably began to creep back, she worked out harder.

“I would get up every day and work my butt off, figuring that’s the way you lose weight,” says Fishelberg, of Plainview, N.Y. She attacked the elliptical trainer with a vengeance, pushing her heart rate until she felt nauseous.

Fishelberg finally decided to talk to a personal trainer and nutritionist at Life Time Fitness. Their advice shocked her: She needed to slow down, and eat.

Metabolic testing showed that Fishelberg, who is petite but about 17 pounds over her desired weight, needed to increase her calorie intake and decrease the pace of her exercise. She was starving herself fat on diet food.

Fishelberg is not alone. Almost one-third of U.S. adults are overweight, another third are obese. Americans spent an estimated $46 billion on diet products, much of it wasted on prepackaged food and fads. Forbes Magazine examined menus from the most popular diets and discovered dieters also spent 50 percent more per week on food, ($85 compared to $54), but 97 percent gained all the weight back in five years.

Now Fishelberg thinks she’s found the key. Working with her Life Time trainer and nutritionist, Fishelberg underwent an assessment that measures a person’s resting oxygen rate to help them tailor their exercise to fit their body. With the help of Life Time experts, Fishelberg received a personal program – she won’t call it a diet, it’s a new healthy lifestyle – and in 13 weeks has lost 11 pounds and, more importantly, 5 percent of her body fat. (You should consult with a physician before starting any diet or exercise plan).

Fishelberg has replaced packaged foods with organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fish. She takes herbal supplements to help with stress. A typical day’s menu might include a protein shake for breakfast, a snack of organic beef jerky and pistachios, a lunch of tuna, avocado, salad and a tortilla, another snack and salmon and broccoli for dinner.

“I’m no longer saying, when can I get off this diet,” she says.

Now on her new program, Fishelberg has learned that “I don’t have to kill myself. My trainer sends me emails telling me what kind of cardio to do every week, and how many minutes I should work in each zone. Sometimes she says, ‘I don’t want to see you in the gym on Monday, and Tuesday I only want you doing yoga.’ I feel happy.”

Stories like Fishelberg’s are common according to Tom Nikkola, director of nutrition and weight management for Life Time Fitness.

“The misconception is that it’s just about counting calories,” says Nikkola. “When people rely on processed foods, such as frozen or packaged meals, as the foundation of their diet, it’s pretty hard to make a conscious decision to improve consumption habits because most of those foods are designed to keep you eating them – and craving more.”

“There is also the outdated concept that a healthy diet is a low-fat diet,” he adds. “When people are eating a lot of low-fat foods, their blood sugars are going to be up and down all day, and that’s going to contribute to cravings. Instead, if they would just focus on eating quality foods, they would be a lot more satisfied.”

Nikkola says people need to understand how their metabolism works to lose weight efficiently. “There are a lot of factors beyond just the foods we consume that affect metabolism.” For example, if someone is diabetic or pre-diabetic, “they are not going to burn fat the way they should. Digestion, sensitivity to gluten and dairy may also play a role. And for most people, the most important of those factors in weight issues is stress. Stress stimulates cortisol, which can stimulate cravings because it burns more sugar. It can also break down muscle tissue.”

That’s where Life Time’s nutritionists and lab work comes in. “With myHealthCheck, we can conduct saliva testing or blood testing in order to truly understand how an individual’s metabolism is behaving. Once we understand what’s going on inside and outside, we will construct an individual’s exercise, nutritional and lifestyle plan,” says Nikkola.

That’s what distinguishes Life Time Fitness from the competition.

Tom Manella, senior director of personal training, says too many think all they have to do is exercise more because their diet is pretty good. “You can do 40 miles of running a week, peak cardio, and have your body waiver just five pounds,” he says. “If you start running around the lake and your cortisol was already high from a stressful job, you can get worse.”

Most other programs see weight loss as a one size fits all, but Life Time sees everyone as having unique challenges. “No matter where you are at, you need to know where you are at.”

While Manella believes Life Time’s trainers are tops, you can find trainers anywhere who can show you how to do a quality push up or squat. What separates Life Time Fitness is the “assessment battery.”

“I always say, once you achieve your weight loss goal, what’s the next step? If you’ve lost 50 pounds, your whole body has changed. Those are the easiest pounds to lose, the worst are your last 10. You need a lot of tweaking and teasing. I always ask, if you just want to lose five more pounds, is the juice worth the squeeze?

“The question Life Time trainers ask, and members should ask, is what you are doing now work for the rest of your life? Our goal is to educate people enough to exist without us.”

According to Nikkola, “People are always looking for the simple solution. It would be easy for us to sell the idea that if you just do our exercise program and eat our food and supplements you’ll be good to go. That’s what a lot of conventional weight loss programs are centered around. People have been sold way too much on the quick fix or magic pill.”

You don’t have to tell that to Raheel Siddiqui, who didn’t find success until he joined Life Time’s T.E.A.M. Weight Loss program. A doctor’s warning about his health and a friend’s guest pass to Life Time Fitness in Maryland saved Siddiqui’s life.

Siddiqui is a big guy, 6’4”, and loved to play basketball. But when his weight crested 390, he was too winded to compete, and he faked injuries on the court to rest.

During his visit to Life Time Fitness, Siddiqui saw a poster for the T.E.A.M. Weight Loss program. He attended three sessions that week and lost three pounds. Excited about the success, he went every day the next week and dropped 14 pounds, so much he had to synch up his belt a few notches.

“The feeling was amazing,” says Siddiqui, 26. “It was like there was a fire inside of me.”

Siddiqui said the key to keeping his fitness momentum was the range of activities offered at Life Time. “You can do group fitness classes, pilates, yoga, basketball, racquetball, it’s endless,” Siddqui says. Life Time Fitness didn’t feel like a gym. Rather, it became an almost daily entertainment destination. “Everything I want to do is there,” he says.

Joining T.E.A.M. Weight Loss was the key, he says. He began writing everything he ate and drank in a journal, which he presented at T.E.A.M. support meetings for review. That meant some drastic changes in diet, but they were less painful than he anticipated because his nutritionist helped him pick plenty of healthy foods that satisfied his hunger.

One of Siddiqui’s habits was to watch football on Sundays with his brother and order a large pizza. After joining T.E.A.M., Siddiqui began ordering a small, thin-crusted pizza and eating only two pieces.

Needless to say, it has worked more than Siddiqui could imagine. In one year, he has lost 150 pounds and 14 waist sizes. His neck has gone from a size 20 to 17. His shirt size was as high as XXXL. He recently bought one in a medium.

“Off the rack. A medium! It actually feels kind of weird,” he says. “As much as I enjoy the compliments about how I look, my health was the most important thing.”

Like Fischelberg, Siddiqui had tried the fads and frauds, but none offered a comprehensive approach that included the nutritional, physical and emotional elements of weight loss.

“Life Time blows them all away,” he says.

Learn how Life Time Weight Loss can help you lose the weight for good. Visit lifetimefitness.com/weightloss. (ARAContent) â– 

About the Author