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What’s the best way to take weight off?

Ask a Pro — Diane Stibbard

Coach, Personal Trainer, and Two-Time Canadian Duathlete of the Year

Diane Stibbard - two-time dualthlete of the yearQ: I’ve put five pounds on over the holidays. What’s the best way to take it off?

A: It’s easy to gain a few unwanted pounds over the Christmas holidays. We eat and drink more than we normally do, including goodies we wouldn’t normally have. People who gain weight during the holidays often try to drastically reduce their calories when the season is over. But starving yourself is the worst thing you can do. When you restrict calories from your daily food intake, your body stores more calories to ensure it has what it needs. What happens then? You gain weight.

The best way to tackle any unwanted weight gain is to focus on both diet and exercise in a balanced and consistent way. If you’re an early-morning exerciser, eat a small piece of fruit or some yogurt to top up your fuel before your workout. Right after exercising, eat a healthy balanced breakfast with some lean protein and complex carbohydrates and top that up with a little healthy fat (nuts, coconut oil).

Starting your day that way will help to kick-start your metabolism. When you sleep, your metabolism slows down. If you eat soon after you wake up, or right after your morning workout, you’ll increase your body’s ability to burn calories and lose added pounds. When you skip breakfast, you may be hungry by mid-morning and then it’s easy to reach for muffins, bagels or other quick-fix highly-processed foods loaded with saturated fats and extra calories.

If you have a hard time eating solid foods early in the morning, have a good healthy shake instead. It’s a great way to get the right kinds of calories without feeling like you have to force-feed yourself. Below is one suggestion for a healthy shake.

1 cup water
1 cup almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk or 1% dairy milk
1 cup berries or 1 piece of fruit
½ cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon of nut butter

Start your day with these fat-burning calories and you’ll be well on your way to eliminating those unwanted pounds. The next step is to ensure that you keep your body running efficiently until lunchtime. If you’ve eaten adequate and nutritious calories at breakfast, you’ll only require a small snack mid-morning. Keep it simple. Try any of the following: a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit; a small apple topped with a piece of cheese or some nut butter; or, if you like veggies and dip, a small container of hummus and carrots.

Lunchtime can be a challenge if you haven’t packed a lunch or aren’t home during the day. The best choices are simple carbohydrates in the form of vegetables, topped with lean protein, and healthy fats such as avocado and olive oil.

When you’re trying to lose weight, the afternoon can be the hardest time of day. If you haven’t eaten the right amount and types of calories during the first part of the day, you may be hungry, sleepy and even a little irritable. The best pick-me-up foods for this time of the day are a small amount of healthy fat, and simple carbohydrates such as fruit and/or vegetables, for example, two ounces of cheese with a piece of fruit, Greek yogurt with nuts, or a small fruit shake with nut butter.

Dinner time seems to be the easiest time of the day to choose good-quality food. However, if you haven’t eaten enough quality calories throughout the day, you may have a tendency to overeat at dinner. Instead, choose a lean protein, and fill your plate with crunchy vegetables over a small portion of steaming rice or a starchy carbohydrate vegetable, such as sweet potato or squash. If you cycle or work out after work, you will definitely need an afternoon snack to ensure you are properly fueled. It’s easy to skip a workout if you’re too hungry, so eat frequent small portions of food throughout your day to make sure you have enough energy to exercise.

In addition to fueling your body with the correct types of fat-burning foods, schedule your workouts as you would schedule a meeting. That makes exercise a priority. The higher priority you give your rides, weight-training sessions, or yoga classes, the more consistent you’ll be about finding time for them. Below are two quick and easy fat-burning cycling workouts you can add to your weekly routines.

1. 10 minutes easy spinning to warm up
4 minutes at easy intensity
3 minutes at moderate intensity
2 minutes at high intensity
1 minute to spin flush and recover
Repeat the sequence
10 minutes easy spinning to cool down

2. 10 minutes easy spinning to warm up
5 minutes at moderate intensity
1 minute at high intensity and high-cadence sprint
Repeat 3 to 5 sets of the above
10 minutes easy spinning to cool down

To recap, my key points for losing weight are: Eat small frequent meals to fuel and satiate your body, be consistent with your exercise, and include moderate- to high-intensity workouts to help your body burn unwanted fat.

Training for a two-day cycling eventDiane provides training programs for recreational and competitive cyclists, duathletes and triathletes, including nutritional counseling and personal training. Does your company need a fitness consultant? Get in touch with Diane to discuss fitness seminars for corporations

You want personal training but don’t live near Diane? No problem. Diane does email and telephone consultations. To learn more, visit Diane’s website or contact her at

Check out Diane’s e-programs: Keeping Fit in the Off-Season and Training For a Two-Day Charity Event For the Time-Starved Cyclist.

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