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If you were to stop by MBS Fitness at any given point in time, you’d most likely see one of two things on the tv screens in the cardio room: ESPN or the Food Network. That may seem a little strange for a gym, but that same mix spills over to the gym floor, where if trainers aren’t discussing lifting protocols, we’re talking about that great new restaurant that just opened, the versatility and virtues of Fage yogurt, or how to cook the best. Chicken breast. Ever.

Food and fitness are inextricably linked, that’s for sure. But what I never realized is how many die hard exercisers are also die hard foodies. There seems to be a transition now in place where real people are back to eating real food. What was once the land of supplements and protein powders and energy bars, is now this great community of shared food experiences that includes everything from pork belly to braised brussel sprouts. Years ago, I never would have guessed the merger would happen, but I’m certainly glad it did.

And while this new awareness continues to unfold all around us, there’s still some very basic truths we fail to recognize: Like that caloric deficit creates weight loss, and caloric surplus creates weight gain. There really is no magic bullet. Eating well almost always means incorporating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Contestants in HEB's Slim Down Showdown visit the Culinary Institute of America for healthy cooking advise. Photo by Tom Trevino.
Contestants in HEB’s Slim Down Showdown visit the Culinary Institute of America for healthy cooking advise. Photo by Tom Trevino.

So there are questions. Lots and lots of questions relating to food and health, with almost all of them geared toward fat loss. To help get through some of the muck, I touched base with Amanda Avey, a certified personal trainer and registered dietitian who not only talks the talk, but more importantly walks the walk, having dropped 70 pounds herself nearly two decades ago. I hit her with some of the common questions and scenarios that still roll around from time to time. Here’s what she had to say…

I’m fat and want to lose weight, what should I do?

Amanda Avey lost more than 70 lbs. over a decade ago. She's kept if off by eating real food and keeping active.
Amanda Avey lost more than 70 lbs. over a decade ago. She’s kept if off by eating real food and keeping active.

For starters, I recommend you write down a purpose statement, so that you have a very clear reason (or reasons) as to why you want to lose weight. From there we can work together to help you set small, incremental goals, one step, and one change at a time.

But I just want to lose this (points to belly), can you show me what exercises to do to lose that?

What i would recommend first is dietary changes. You can follow that up with supplemental exercise, such as sprinting, or other interval based training. If you want an envious midsection, you should know that abs are not made in the gym, they’re made in the kitchen. Dietary changes are a priority, with fitness coming second… No crunches necessary.

Shouldn’t I just stop eating bread and bananas because those are carbs and carbs are bad and carbs make you fat?

Absolutely! Just kidding… In my experience, things like bread can be a culprit to weight gain, as they can take away from eating higher quality foods. So carbs can play a role, but they are certainly not the final answer. Each person responds a little differently to different elements, so a diet tailored to your own overall health is what works best.

My friend is really skinny and is a vegetarian and does yoga all the time, so shouldn’t I just do that?

You can try it, but there’s no guarantee it will work for you… Your friend found what works best for her, but there’s really no one answer for every person. You have to find what works for you, and what your body responds to best.

My other friend takes raspberry ketones and lost weight, can’t I just do that?

The simple answer is no. Raspberry ketones are not a solution when a lifestyle change is necessary.

Can’t I just take fat burners or some of those pills I see advertised at supplement shops?

Nope. You’re still not addressing the problem of lifestyle. Ultimately, that’s what causes issues. Without addressing those behaviors, your not doing yourself any favors… No pill or supplement can compete with better lifestyle choices.

I have another friend is skinny and runs a lot, so maybe I should sign up for a marathon?

I would encourage you to start with a smaller goal and see how you respond to that activity. Running is not the answer. There’s more to it than that, and your friend probably has a lot more going on besides just running. Chances are they have a healthier lifestyle in general, which includes everything from dietary and sleep habits, to workout patterns and stress management, not to mention genetics.

Amanda Avey. Strong arms.
Amanda Avey. Strong arms, strong diet.

So then, what should I eat if I want to lose weight?

Eat real food! I encourage people to focus on a diet comprised of whole foods, centered around plants (fruits and veggies), and filling 20 to 30 percent of their plate with proteins, and the remainder with plant based carbohydrates. Avoid all processed foods, and limit added sugar to less than 25 grams a day. Do that, and you should see some pretty good changes take place… But that’s just a start. You should also monitor your energy and cravings throughout the day and tailor your program to your needs… That’s why no single diet works for everyone. People have to accept that health and wellness comes from a little detective work and experimentation. You have to do that in order to find out what works best for you, and to be successful.

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Tom Trevino is a writer, artist and wellness coach based out of San Antonio. His column, “The Feed,” addresses health and fitness issues and dispense practical advice for San Antonians attempting to wade through the often-confusing diet and fitness world. He holds a B.A. from the University of Texas, with training and certification from the Cooper Institute. He has a fondness for dogs, the New York Times, and anything on two wheels. When he’s not writing, training, or cooking, you can find him wandering the aisles of Central Market.

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