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3 Canadian Fitness Experts Get Real About Weight Loss

What should women understand about exercising to lose weight? Are spot-target workouts effective? Are cheat days okay? Three Toronto-based fitness trainers reveal what they really think.

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canadian fitness experts weight lossPhoto Credit: Tobias Wong

Jennifer Lau, principal founder and Nike master trainer at Fit Squad

Growing up, Lau always appreciated the way being active and living a healthy lifestyle positively contributed to her physical and mental state. Passionate and driven to share this with others, she decided to dedicate her career to empower women through strength training. (Try Lau’s strength-building resistance band workout.)

What are the major misconceptions about losing weight? 

“One of the major misconceptions about weight loss is that you can target exactly where you lose weight. Unfortunately, we are not able to spot-train that way. Each of our bodies are different, meaning where you lose and gain weight will be different from someone else. We are naturally predisposed to gaining weight in certain areas, and your body will choose to lose weight where it wants to.”

Is there anything we should understand about our bodies before trying to lose weight and tone? 

“Addressing any injuries before training is very important; you want to ensure you are performing movements safely and effectively. If you are new to strength training, consult a personal trainer for an assessment and to learn the proper techniques before embarking on your fitness journey. Also, what you do outside the gym plays a large role in your weight loss journey. High stress levels, inadequate sleep and poor digestion will negatively effect your weight loss goals.”

How do we know if our goals are achievable? 

“A healthy and sustainable weight loss goal is one lb. per week. Keep in mind, one lb. is equal to 3,500 calories. That being said, you will either need to eat 3,500 calories less or burn 3,500 calories more in a week. More often it requires a combination of both.

Also, think back to the last time you were your goal weight and reflect on what you did then in comparison to what your current lifestyle is now. How were your stress levels? How well did you sleep?”

What are the mistakes most people make when working out to lose weight?

“Being too extreme in the beginning of your fitness journey is a common mistake people make. You want to ensure you are able to sustain your health and fitness routine for a long time. Remember: consistency over intensity! Those that train and maintain a frequency of three times per week for six months will yield better results than someone that trains and extreme diets seven days a week for one month.”

Thoughts on “cheat days”? We hate that term! When can comfort foods be enjoyed?

“We typically suggest clients indulge in their ‘comfort’ food after maintaining compliancy to their nutrition program for a month. Avoiding terms such as ‘cheat meals’ will help us create a positive relationship with food (i.e., guilt associated with bad food choices). I wouldn’t suggest gamifying your nutrition program (i.e., rewarding good nutritional habits with bad foods), but to practise intuitive eating instead. This includes paying attention to how certain foods effect your digestion, mood, and energy.” (Have indigestion? These may be your secret weapon for healthy digestion.)

What advice would you have for anyone trying to lose weight?

“Focus less on weight loss and more on moving better, feeling better, and living better. As you increase your physical performance ability, the aesthetic factors such as increased lean muscle and decreased body weight will just be an added side effect.”

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canadian fitness experts weight lossPhoto Credit: All Day Fit

Cassie Day, CEO and head of personal training at All Day Fit

After the passing of her little brother, Day used strength training as an outlet and safe space to get through her grief. “I used it as a tool to transform my entire life, and I wanted to help others do the same,” she says. The outcome? All Day Fit, a wellness community that empowers people to become their best self. “We teach you how to deadlift and squat like freakin’ champs, the importance of sleep, how to manage stress, grow your mindset, love your body, and build a deeper connection with yourself and those around you,” says Day.

What do you think are the major misconceptions about weight loss?

“The biggest misconception about weight loss is that we all have to lose weight. Everyone is striving to be thinner because society tells us the ‘ideal body’ and ‘healthy body’ are thin. This is absolutely not true! Health comes in all shapes and sizes.”

What should we understand before working out to lose weight?

“Sustainable weight loss is a challenging journey, and understanding and knowing your ‘why’ is important. And always remember: what works for one person will not necessarily work for you.”

How do we know if our goals are achievable? 

“In our signature program, Strong Academy, we set SMART goals with our clients. During our three months together, we set an outcome and process goal for them to work towards, with our support. My recommendation is to ask yourself if your goal and the steps needed to achieve it are sustainable. Ultimately, you want to be chasing sustainable results.” (Here are some more tips on how to achieve your health goals.)

What are the mistakes most people make when trying to lose weight by exercising?

  • Doing copious amounts of cardio.
  • Dialing into fitness and nutrition but forgetting about sleep and stress management.
  • Removing macronutrients from your diet.

Thoughts on (and feelings about) “cheat days”? 

“Cheat days are everything that’s wrong with diet culture. At All Day Fit, we don’t use the language ‘cheat days’ or ‘bad food.’ The longer we concoct ways to ‘cheat’ around the things we are programmed to fail at, the longer diet culture will persist.

Comfort foods can be enjoyed whenever you want them. Food is a celebration of culture, family, tradition, joy, memories, physical and emotional nourishment, and love and connection.”

What advice would you have for anyone trying to lose weight?

  • Eat a variety of colourful, nutrient-dense food as much as possible
  • Start strength training
  • Walk everywhere
  • Plan ahead
  • Seek social support (i.e., find a wellness community near you!)
  • Stay positive and learn to love the process

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canadian fitness experts weight lossPhoto Credit: Barry's Canada

Karina Vee, founding trainer at Barry’s Canada

Unfulfilled by her corporate job, Vee turned her “happy place” into her full-time career. But even as a fitness professional, teaching over 300 people a day, she still finds there to be some pressure when it comes to how she’s “supposed” to look. How she deals with that pressure? “I have a regular exercise routine and follow the 80/20 rule with my diet (see below),” she says. “It’s not hard for me to maintain my body—but more importantly, I truly feel amazing!”

What do people get wrong about losing weight? 

“I think the biggest misconception about losing weight is that if you reach your goal, your life will change and you will be consistently happy and fulfilled. Yes…to a certain extent. But I believe wellness is so much more than your physical appearance. It’s about the relationship you have with yourself and your daily thoughts; it’s about the personal relationships you have with others; it’s about self-care and what do you do for yourself weekly that helps you relax and shut your mind off. When there’s a healthy balance between all aspects of your life, weight loss will come from the right place.”

How should we assess our goals and ensure they’re achievable? 

“If you practise self-love and really love your body for what is, you can have realistic, achievable goals.

To have a better relationship with yourself, try this exercise: write down five things you love about yourself, then make a signature affirmation. Read them over every single day—it’s magic!”

What mistakes do people make when exercising to lose weight?

“A mistake people tend to make is that they neglect their nutrition because they work out, when nutrition is actually 80 percent of your results. People have the mindset: ‘I worked out today so I can treat myself.’ Rather than saying, ‘I worked out today so I’m going to fuel my body with wholesome nutrients.’ If everyone had that mindset, it would be a game changer.” (Here are some healthy post-workout snack ideas.)

How important are spot-targeted workouts?

“I don’t think spot-targeted workouts are as important as nutrition. I believe you need to work on what you eat first, and once you start seeing results, you can then focus on spot-targeted workouts.”

How do you feel about “cheat days”?

“I am 100 percent a believer in cheat meals (not days). I personally follow an 80/20 rule every week, where 80 percent of my meals are healthy and 20 percent are ‘comfort’ foods (although I’ve made most of my healthy meals feel like comfort food).

Cheat days are good for the soul and will keep you motivated to eat healthy once the week resets. Life is all about balance.”

What advice would you have for anyone trying to lose weight?

“I believe small changes get you big results. If you want to lose weight, and your goal is to go to the gym and start eating healthy, pick one thing to master and then move on. For example, go to the gym three times a week for 21 days, and once you’ve made that a ritual, reduce junk food consumption by 50 percent.”

Next, check out these simple ways to boost your metabolism.