By: Monica Brant

I am in my mid forties and am about 30 lbs. overweight. I start my dieting each time by cutting sugary items and eating less (I heard eating less calories makes you lose weight). I actually start to weigh less but I become depressed and start eating again. Can you help?

I am sure you have heard before that old habits are hard to change. As you have said "each time" you have tried this process and it never seems to really work for you. So yes, I would highly suggest trying something new! My first suggestion would be to not shock your system by eating less. This introduces your body to "starvation mode" which translates to fat storage.

In my experience of competing (9 years worth) in fitness competitions, I have found that eating more calories actually leans me out nicely! Although these calories come from all the healthy food choices: chicken, fish, eggs, oatmeal, potatoes, peanut butter, and let's not forget a good quality protein powder (you could try Universal's Specialized Protein for Fitness-yummy!). If you eat more of the good stuff you will put your body into the etabolizing mode instead of the starvation mode! You will have to play with your calorie intake and see what works for you- mine is anywhere from 1600-2000 per day.

My second suggestion is to realize that stopping the sweet intake could leave you depressed and "cravey" for sweets! This might take you 72 hours or so to physically get over the sensation- if it persists then it might be a mental and you will need to proceed with another method- maybe eating less (than normal) sweets or substituting sugar for some artificial sweeteners in coffee/tea or drinking diet. Make sure you are getting plenty of rest too as this will affect your ability to be disciplined!

I've been told that it's best to work out in the morning, before you eat breakfast. What's the reason behind this?

In order to answer this question, allow me to qualify my position on a morning work out, as everyone's definition of "work out" may be different. For example, my preference upon waking is to pull on jogging apparel and a baseball cap, to apply sun block, to wear a heart rate monitor and sport sunglasses. Then out the door I go for 30-60 minutes of cardio in the form of brisk walk and/or jog.

I have found this to be an ideal way to burn fat. Assuming that I have eaten appropriate amounts of protein, carbohydrates and natural fat the previous day, then my body's metabolism process is in its prime time for the fat burning process! To clarify, let's backtrack a minute…after 6-7 hours of sleep the body has become depleted which means the carbohydrates consumed from the previous day have been properly used (hopefully we haven't eaten a whole pizza the night before!). Bear in mind that carbohydrates are noted to be the body's best source of energy.

Although protein and fat have some energy worth, this value is nowhere near carbohydrate amounts. If you were to jump up in the morning and quickly go for cardio in a depleted state of energy, the body would have to locate and metabolize energy from somewhere. This is where our stored energy comes into play! I hope we all know what stored energy is-FAT! Now imagine your body finding its stored energy (fat) to burn. How exciting!

I have heard that you have been running some distance and sprints to keep your legs in shape. Do you think that is better than leg training in the gym?

I have enjoyed both workouts tremendously. For years I have been training legs in the gym with a wide variety of exercises and routines thus finding gym workouts to be very productive. I have also found running to be quite efficient and have seen great results with this activity. Honestly I cannot say one is better than the other so I have to admit a program with both is probably best.

Currently I have been doing sprints at the track 2-3 times weekly and I have been very happy with my leg tone and strength. At this point I am not trying to gain any muscle, only keeping some shape and conditioning. I would recommend trying sprints for development and also to get a fresh change in your workouts. If you haven't been running lately you will need to start slowly and work your way up to a full workout, especially if you are going to continue to train in the gym with weights. Make sure you listen to your body and try to avoid "over training", get rest, and eat plenty of food for the extra workouts!

I have been trying to eat fat free or very low fat for a long time now. Recently I have been hearing that I should be taking in some essential fats- would you please give me some samples of healthy fat?

Regardless of your fitness level, it's extremely important to obtain a healthy balance of different fats (Essential Fatty Acids-EFAs). Personally I try to take in some healthy fats with every meal-usually between 3-10 grams.

For example, I eat one egg yolk per breakfast, 2 capsules of Flax 1000 (Universal Nutrition product) with whey protein shake for snack, avocado (1-2 oz.) with chicken and corn tortillas, and natural peanut butter or nuts with my next meals.

Keep in mind that nuts can be very addicting so it is best to take out the amount you want to eat and then put the can away! EFAs are important because they can actually help lower cholesterol levels and maximize fat burning. Also, they will help you to slow your rate of absorption during lo carb/ high protein dieting trends. Don't forget these good fats!!

I have a problem with my neck and back. I am not sure it is from training or work.. I work at a desk most of the day! Any suggestions?

I feel your pain! I actually have some similar pains in my neck and back! The best advice I have is to make sure you get up during the day and move around. Maybe even walk upstairs or around the block depending on your work situation. Posture is very important too! Maintaining proper back position could help. I try to remember to keep my shoulders back and down while sitting at the desk. If you are on the phone a lot make sure you have a proper headset so that you don't have to hold the phone with your shoulder/head! Talk about cramps!

Let's not forget the proper placement for your keyboard and mouse; you might need to do some research here and find what is most comfortable for you. Click here for a great article on posture website on ergonomics. Stretching during the day will help and when you finally get to the gym, make sure your warm up a good 10 minutes and stretch the muscles you want to train. Most people (me included!) do not give stretching the quality time your body deserves! Stretching relaxes muscles, relieves knots, and gives you a refreshed feeling.

The last suggestion I have is to dedicate a time each 10-15 days for a good, sports massage. Trust me when I tell you, this makes such a difference in your training, work, and off time! You deserve the body treatments and you will wish you had been doing it long time ago. Treat yourself sometimes

*Work It*