Life Audit

Recommit to Fit

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Jim Karas

Jim Karas is the author of the health and fitness workbook Flip the Switch (Random House), and The Business Plan for the Body, a New York Times best seller. A graduate of the Wharton School of Business and a high school gym flunkout, he is now the owner of Solo Sessions Personal Fitness Training in Chicago. He also appears regularly on ABC’s Good Morning America.


Maria Christina Stewart

POSITION 2L, Cumberland School of Law, Samford University, Birmingham, Ala.

WEIGHT Substantial weight gain in last year

GOAL To lose weight, feel better and regain her self confidence

Maria Stewart never thought much about her weight. Then came last winter.

Stewart tried on some of her winter clothes, and they were, well, snug in all the wrong places. “This was a first for me,” Stewart says. “I have never, ever had an issue with my weight.”

But Stewart now has an issue with her weight. A big one. And she knows that the changes in her life over the past couple of years have a lot to do with it. For starters, she divorced, remarried and moved to Birmingham, Ala., to start law school.

All of the free time she once had to exercise and live a healthy lifestyle has given way to early morning con law classes, toting pain inducing backpacks and long nights of studying. When she does find that rare moment of down time, her husband and the couch are far more enticing than an aerobics class or free weights.

But the student lifestyle has taken its toll. Stewart’s energy levels are sagging, her concentration is shot, and her self confidence is nearly shattered. If she does not take control now, she fears her old self may be forever lost. “Law school is very challenging and competitive. My challenges will mul­tiply as I begin my search for a permanent position and later as I practice law. I need to be able to hold my head up high and face these challenges, confident that I can handle whatever comes my way.”

Life Audit Health and Fitness expert Jim Karas has a three part plan for Stewart to get her mind, body and spirit back to the place she both wants and needs them to be.

Snacking Sabotage

To start, Karas wants Stewart to focus on her diet. Since time is at a premium, Stewart has begun reaching for the quick and easy instead of the healthy and lean. Karas says that these kinds of eating habits have contributed to her weight gain. Without realizing it, Stewart may be consuming as much as 3,500 calories a day by eating fast food, caloric coffee drinks and vending machine snacks.

Karas wants Stewart to halve her daily caloric intake to about 1,500 calories. Doing so is not as difficult as Stew­art might think. If she can fit regular grocery store visits into her schedule, she can have plenty of portable, low-cal­o­rie and easily prepared foods on hand to make a part of her regular meals.

Rec­om­men­da­tions include low fat yogurt and cottage cheese, canned tuna, bagged and washed lettuces, and soy or veggie burgers. She also should buy some healthy and low calorie “backpack foods” to munch on, like boxed raisins or baby carrots. And, Kar­as says, she needs to watch her liquid calories. Water, diet sodas, and coffee and tea with skim milk are all fine. All other liquids need to be eliminated.

Also, Karas says, “Never skip a meal. It only leads to binging.” He’d rather she eat a 200 calorie energy bar for lunch instead of waiting until dinner where she might consume two or three times as many calories to sate her built up hunger.

The next step in Karas’ plan for Stewart is exercise. Be­cause Stewart used to work out five days a week for as much as two hours at a time, she knows how to work out and how valuable regular exercise is for a weight loss plan. She just does not have that same luxury of time anymore.

But Stewart does not need two hours or even an hour to exercise effectively, Karas says. To lose weight, feel better and get back in shape, she needs only 30 minutes to 40 minutes at the gym, three to four times a week. If she can find time on both weekend days and one or two weeknights to hit the gym, her exercise needs are covered.

Karas believes most people—and women especially—are too focused on cardiovascular exercise as a weight loss mechanism. Instead, Stewart needs to concentrate on strength training.

Stewart should spend 10 minutes doing a “hard warm up” on the cardiovascular equipment of her choice and the next 30 minutes on strength training with machines or free weights. “The key is to work hard,” Karas says. “Keep your heart rate up, and perform no more than 10 repetitions—just keep moving.”

No matter how hard Stewart works out or how many calories she cuts out of her daily diet, Karas says she also needs to change her attitude about improving herself.

“There are many things in life that are out of control. One thing that is in our control is what we eat and wheth­er we find the time to exercise,” Karas says. “Between her marriage, her move and law school, things have gotten out of whack. The key is how to put them back into balance.”

Stewart admits that she feels guilty about taking time for herself to exercise when she has so little time to spend with her husband. In the past, she has tried to get him to exercise with her. But since he is less enthusiastic about fitness, her attempts to exercise usually give way to other things.

Karas says Stewart cannot expect her husband to exercise with her. “If he is not into it, so be it. But do not let him drag you down.”

Instead, Stewart needs to realize that taking time for herself to lose weight, get fit and regain her self confidence should not induce a guilt trip. “All of us need to realize that spending a little time on ourselves is not selfish. On the contrary, it is smart.”

Life Audit Hot Tip: Step on It

Is that scale collecting dust in the corner of your bathroom? Step on it, says Life Audit health and fitness expert Jim Karas. Don’t fall into the trap that weight does not matter. It does. So, if you are serious about losing weight, get on that scale once a week and weigh in. “They will not let you pass the bar without a law degree,” he says. “And you won’t lose the weight without a scale.”


Game Plan

It’s as easy as one, two, three: l Step One: Diet.

Count your calories. Avoid fat laden convenience foods. Stock up on portable, low fat, healthy foods to reduce caloric intake.

l Step Two: Exercise.

All it takes is 40 minutes, three to four times a week. Focus on strength training with a short, intense cardiovascular warm up.

l Step Three: Attitude.

It’s OK to spend time on yourself. It’s the key to a strong, healthy and confident new you!

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