Habits, Not Diets, for Lasting Weight Loss – Part 1 of 4

I’ve seen it time and again where a new client gets really excited about working on improving their nutrition, but they fall off the wagon after a few weeks (or days!). Intuitively, they understand what to do, but they have a hard time executing consistently.

I’ve been a personal trainer in San Jose for over 25 years. During that time, I’ve helped hundreds of people improve their nutrition for lasting weight loss. I’ve also seen some people really struggle to maintain or persevere with their weight loss plans.

Failure to execute consistently usually happens due to a few common themes:

1)    Changing too much too rapidly

2)   Failing to plan or think ahead

3)   Maintaining a non-supportive environment

4)   Being unaware of food triggers

If you’ve tried and failed at incorporating healthier eating into your life, I’m guessing you may have gotten hung up with one or more of these situations as well.

Walk with me here over the next few days while I offer you some solutions to each of these 4 habit change hold ups.

Let’s start with Habit Change Hang Up #1 — Changing too much too rapidly.

SOLUTION: Work on ONE change at a time

What I’ve seen from coaching hundreds of people over the years is that too much change all at once is just too stressful for most people. It’s that “diet mentality” where you decide that come next Monday, everything is going to change.  For most of us, all that change is unsustainable. Having to think about and focus on all those different things you need to change is downright stressful and fatiguing. 

Rather than change everything all at once, I coach my clients to work on one change at a time.  It’s not nearly as fatiguing.  Now, you’re not going to lose 20 pounds in two weeks doing it this way.  However, focusing on one change at a time, you’re likely to end up with a sustainable new lifestyle habit down the road instead of one more failed diet.

I work with my clients to choose one habit change that will likely net the best outcome for the client as well as choose the habit that the client is most likely to stick with.  Once we’ve made significant progress on making that habit part of their lifestyle, we move on to another habit to improve.

Here’s what I suggest you to do so that you don’t fall into the “too much too soon” trap: Choose one thing you can do to improve your overall nutrition starting tomorrow. Work on that and only that for the next month.  That one thing will be your only focus.  You don’t have to be perfect at it in order to be successful, but I want you to be mindful of it every day.  Focus on implementing that one habit daily. Be really, really consistent at that one thing.

This one habit change may be subtracting something from your lifestyle or adding something to your lifestyle.  An example of subtraction would be taking out your daily soda or decreasing the amount of fast food you eat.  An example of addition would be adding in additional water every day, or perhaps making sure to eat 3 more servings of vegetables every day.

Once it’s become easier to maintain that habit and you’re confident you can, challenge yourself to work on implementing another new habit.

Like I said earlier, this won’t net you massive weight loss in a week, but it might just net you permanent weight loss down the road because you will have changed the choices that you make on a daily basis.

If you’re struggling to change your nutrition, try my “one habit at a time” suggestion and let me know how it goes!

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week where I’ll go over the solution to Habit Change Hang Up #2 – Failing to plan or think ahead. I’ve got some ideas I think you’ll like!

San Jose Boot Camp: The 30-day Challenge

San Jose boot camp 30-day challengeIt is said that it takes 30 days to solidify a new habit or behavior change. As I write this post, it is Monday, August 1st. It’s the beginning of the week, and the beginning of a new month. August has 31 days, so it seems like a great month to put this “30 days” theory to the test.

I am challenging all the members of our Campbell and San Jose boot camps to make  a commitment to work on just one simple behavior change all month.  I decided to throw to challenge out to all readers of this blog as well.

What is one small thing that you could change in your current lifestyle this month that would lead to better fitness down the road?  The ideas are endless–but you instinctively know what you need to change :-).


Here are some ideas to get you thinking……

• If you’re currently sedentary, pledge to add moderate exercise to your schedule on a consistent basis two times per week this month.

• If you’re currently exercising and you’ve hit a plateau, challenge yourself to do a “different” style of exercise once each week or to consistently add in a 4th, 5th or 6th day of exercise.

• If you’re trying to lose weight and you drink alcohol or soda, decrease your intake of calorie filled drinks like blended coffee drinks, juices, or alcoholic beverages by 60% each week.

• If you’re trying to lose weight and you eat out a lot, challenge yourself to eat no more than 2 “commercial” meals each week this month.

• If you eat the same things day in and day out, challenge yourself to eat one new fruit and one new vegetable each week this month

• If you’re trying to lose weight , challenge yourself to decrease your portion sizes by 20% at dinner each night this month.

Increased veggie consumption is promoted at San Jose boot camps

Very often, when we’re trying to lose weight or get in better shape, we go hog wild and try to change everything in our lives all at once. We over-exercise, we under-eat and we deprive ourselves. For many of us, it’s a 180 degree turn from our normal routine. An approach like this, although it may provide some immediate results, is doomed to fail because it is so foreign to our normal way of doing things.  Eventually the “other shoe” drops and we revert to our normal routine.

Although results won’t come overnight, long term results are often realized by taking smaller steps toward better nutrition and fitness. I believe that long term results come from consistently applied change—not quick fix diets or overbearing workout routines that you couldn’t ever stay on for more than a few weeks.  The ideas I’ve listed above are ways to work on improving your lifestyle in smaller steps. Work on just that one thing all month. That’s it! Just one thing.

Then, come September, tackle one more thing.  If you practice this “30-day Challenge” with yourself each month, you could be living in a totally different body next year at this time!


Healthy, fit people practice a healthy lifestyle most of the time.

Healthy lifestyles aren’t always learned. But they can be adopted one step at a time.

Today is August 1st, 2011.  What ONE thing can you do consistently this month to be healthier, fitter, happier or more energetic than you are today??

Be an action taker and commit to change!  Please post here and share the 30-day challenge you will give yourself.


Committed to your success.





How To Build The Ultimate Circuit Training Workout For Rapid Fat Loss

In the past, the cornerstone of most resistance training workouts has been performing exercises in a straight set format. Essentially, this means you perform a certain number of reps for a certain number of sets of  a given exercise, and then you rest anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes based on your training goals before repeating this set/rep combo again. This is actually a traditional body builder program.  There’s nothing really wrong with it, and most “regular” folks you see at the gym are doing just this type of a program.  If they’ve got 60-90 minutes to get their strength workout and their cardiovascular training in,  and they’re getting the results they want, well then, they should probably keep doing what they’re doing!  However, there is a quicker way to get a great workout in.

A much more effective and time-efficient approach to ordering your exercises is utilizing the alternating set format. Here you’ll perform one exercise, rest for a very short period of time, then perform another non-competing exercise, rest for a short period of time, and so forth. Alternating sets allow you to work different areas of your body when you would otherwise be resting with the straight set format. Plus, by working another area of your body with a non-competing exercise you allow your body to recover from the previous exercise(s). The result is improved training economy and density: more work accomplished in less time, the cornerstone of any sound fat loss program.

There are several ways to perform alternating sets outlined below:

1.)   Supersets: Alternate between two different non-competing exercises (e.g. upper body and lower body such as push-ups and lunges). I really like this format and use it for my personal training customers in San Jose, as well as for many of my own workouts.

2.)   Trisets: Alternate between three different exercises (e.g. push, pull, and lower body such as push-ups, rows, and lunges).

3.)   Circuits: Alternate between four or more different exercises

Though supersets and trisets are excellent alternating set options, I believe circuit training is by the far the best option for time-crunched recreational exercisers who want to boost their metabolism and decrease body fat . That’s one reason why we  incorporate a strength/cardio circuit into about 90% of our monthly bootcamp workouts in San Jose and Los Gatos.  They incinerate calories, as well as develop lean muscle and cardiovascular endurance.

Here’s an example of a 6 station cardio/strength circuit:

Exercise#1- Jump rope

Exercise#2- Dips

Exercise#3- High knee jog in place

Exercise#4- Pull-ups  (if you don’t have a pull up bar, you can do an inverted row at home by putting a broomstick across two chairs)

Exercise#5- Fast lateral shuffle

Exercise#6:  Push ups

Exercise at each station for 1 minute, and take a 10-15 second recovery break between each station.  At the cardio stations (1, 3, and 5) you’ll go “all out” for one minute.  At the strength stations (2,4, and 6), perform sets of 8-12 repetitions of the exercise, and then take a brief rest.  Beginners might get in 2 sets, advanced folks might get in 4 sets during the 60 second time frame (due to less rest time).

Perform this circuit up to four times for an excellent fat burning workout.

The key to creating the optimal hormonal environment for fat loss is to perform each exercise with maximal intensity while separated by brief rest periods in order to accumulate a high volume of total body work in the shortest amount of time possible. Circuit training provides for the best of both worlds and is thus simply unmatched for simultaneously maximizing fat loss and lean muscle gain.

When you’re short on time (and who isn’t these days!), nothing beats a high intensity circuit training workout.

Committed to your success,


The best way to get results at boot camp

We’re off to a great start with June boot camps.  I see lots of energy and enthusiasm in classes.

A special welcome to Nancy B., Leslie, Nancy S. and Emma at our boot camp in Campbell!

We had a big turn out yesterday at the Campbell boot camp for our free body fat testing service, and I’ve got campers from the Willow Glen “boomer” boot camp reserving spots for testing next week.

Once you’ve gotten your results, what do you do with them?   I suggest you write out a goal you’d like to achieve in 10-12 weeks. Make sure your goal is measurable.  For example, measuring whether you’ve become more “toned” will be hard! But re-measuring your waist or hips, or how many push ups you can do is more concrete. Be specific.  

Once your goal is set, write down what you will do to achieve it.  Again, be specific. Instead of writing “I’ll eat better” or “I’ll exercise more” try defining, very specifically, what that means for you.  What, exactly will you change in your eating habits? What exactly, will you do outside of camp for additional exercise?

It might seem tedious to write all this stuff down, but research shows time and again that what gets measured gets managed.  If your goals are written down and you post them where you can see them, they’re at the top of your mind more often.  You’re more likely to maintain focus.

In fact, our theme for the month at the Willow Glen “boomer” boot camp is “FOCUS”, with the intent being to focus on what you DO want.  Not on what you DON’T want.

What you focus on gets done!

Jackie and I have goal sheets in our boot camp box at all classes.  Please feel free to ask for one if you’d like to use one to help you get the results you want from camp.

Committed to your success,