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How to lose weight, according to personal trainers

Chris and Heidi Powell say it's not all about crushing it in the gym.

Husband-and-wife celebrity trainers, Chris and Heidi Powell, give new meaning to the term "power couple". The dynamic duo makes writing books, hosting TV shows, creating workout apps and raising four kids — all while staying ridiculously fit — look like child's play. The couple are probably best known as the former hosts of ABC's "Extreme Weight Loss", where they coached and coaxed dozens of contestants to reach and maintain unimaginable weight-loss goals. Now, they've translated their life-changing weight-loss regimen from show into a new iPhone and Android app they've aptly named Transform.

We met up with Chris and Heidi at studio in New York City to pick their brains about the things they wish their clients — both virtual and in-person — knew about how to lose weight and keep it off. And here's the thing: Yes, they've made their bones (and killer abs) in the gym, but some of their best get-fit advice is all about what you need to do before you even lace up your sneakers. Here are five things they want you to know about how to shed those extra pounds — for good.

1. Weight Loss (and Better Health) Begins With Water

Before you roll your eyes and say, "tell me something I don't know," consider this: One in 10 medical consultations for tiredness and fatigue can be attributed to dehydration. If you're dragging at 7:00 am, how are you going to get up and get your butt to the gym? What's worse, Chris Powell says, is "the mechanism in our brain that signals thirst is often mistaken for hunger," which certainly isn't going to help you win the battle of the bulge. If you have trouble drinking enough water, Powell points to his "10 Gulp Rule" as a surefire way to keep thirst (and cravings) at bay. "Every time a a water bottle touches your lips, drink 10 gulps before putting it down and you'll be well-hydrated all day long."

Image: Chris and Heidi Powell
Chris and Heidi Powell, celebrity trainers and creators of the fitness app Transform. Allison Tyler Jones

2. A Toned Body is Made in the Kitchen, Not the Gym

If you've read anything about health in the last five years, it has been this: You can't out-exercise a bad diet. And there a couple of reasons for that. One, exercise — not even an hour of SoulCycle — can compensate for a diet that's fueled by a nightly dose of Mexican food and margaritas. After all, those 528 calories you burned on the bike are quickly eradicated after two frozen margaritas, which clock in at 760 calories. And here's that second reason: When we exercise, we tend to use food-based rewards to treat ourselves for a job well-done.

"It doesn't matter how many crunches you do; if you're not eating right, you're never going to see those abs," says Heidi Powell. Of course, that doesn't mean you should scrap that exercise routine for a restrictive low-calorie diet. You just need to pay attention to what's fueling you — and your workouts. Experts recommend eating a well-balanced diet that features plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole-grains, and lean meats and dairy. "Nutrition drives weight loss and nutrition drives muscle gain," says Heidi Powell.

Weight training + cardio = the one-two punch for ultimate weight loss.

3. Try One Small Change at a Time, Not Two or Three

For many of us, going on a diet or recommitting to workout goals is an aspirational, rather than realistic moment. That Monday start date rolls around and we've instantly transformed into morning people, ready to down a gallon of water, blend up a protein shake and hit the gym before work. But, for most of us, that moment is short lived. "The biggest mistake that people make is that they take on way too much too soon. If you shrink down those lofty goals into just one smaller commitment at a time, you'll have much greater success," explains Chris Powell. So, try drinking more water one week, and then working in the better breakfast the following week. And there's a bigger payoff than just a lower number on the scale. A new study from Harvard found that making micro-changes to your diet significantly reduces the risk of early death. Those small changes "are the baby steps to lifelong change," says Powell.

Weight training + cardio = the one-two punch for ultimate weight loss.

Chris Powell

4. Weigh Yourself Right, Not Often

Having trained hundreds of people who have gone on to lasting weight-loss success, Chris and Heidi Powell have two words of advice when it comes to the scale: stay off. At least every day, that is. Heidi Powell recommends weighing yourself once a week — and keeping it consistent. That means, weighing yourself on the same day, at the same time, and in the same clothes — every time — for steady results. Why just once a week? Heidi Powell explains that "we lose weight in a saw-tooth pattern: one day we're up a couple of pounds and the next day we're down," which can be discouraging when you're focused on results. Science tells us which day you weigh in matters, too. A study found that we weigh more on weekends and less on weekdays so you may find that early or mid-week works best. "Weighing in once a week is going to keep you out of your head and keep your mind in the game where it belongs," says Powell.

5. You've Got to Do Some Weight Training

If you're not resistance training while you're going all-out on your cardio routine, you're losing muscle, says Chris Powell. And the more muscle mass we have in our bodies translates to more calories burned, even when we're not exercising. "If you're just doing cardio, you can lose about one pound of muscle for every four pounds of fat, which means you're basically losing your metabolism," Powell warns. To maintain your muscle, incorporate two or three days of strength training — think: weight lifting, squats, lunges, etc. — into your weekly mix. Chris Powell calls strength training and cardio the one-two punch for ultimate weight loss.


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