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Name: J

Question: I'm female, 5'11", 217 lb.. I would like to lose at least 40-50 lb.. I do mostly walking on a treadmill , can't run for very long. My heart rate is usually up to 155- 160 at a 4.0 speed , at a 2.5- 3 incline. How many days a week should I exercise and for how long, also any weight training tips would be appreciated. I have a home gym. I really need to lose the weight for health reasons and would appreciate any advice. Thanks  

Answer: The key for losing fat is always calories in versus calories out. Once you realize that this is the primary objective it get's easier to make informed choices on exactly what needs to be done. Go here for a detailed article on determining how many calories you need in a day. Generally you will target an approximate 500 calorie per day deficit.

Really you're asking a few very broad questions; essentially asking what complete diet and exercise program you should be doing, which requires a detailed assessment of your current nutrition and fitness levels, which is beyond the scope of the"Ask The Coach" forum. A persons exercise needs to be highly adaptable as well. Avoid cookie cutter programs. Develop the experience needed to continually amend your exercise, accounting for increases in fitness. You need to add intensity and duration to continue to get more fit, but adding too much too soon could cause burn out or injury.

I don't have any explanation of what you mean by "I can't run for very long." Is that 5 minutes? 60 minutes? Generally running is too hard of an intensity to start an exercise program with and in my experience most who add running at a beginner level start running too hard too soon. You don't have to run to lose weight, but working up to being able to tolerate and enjoy running is one of many good choices for mode of exercise.

If I had to guess, I would say you are probably starting too hard with running and need to build up to it. There are a number of hip muscle strength imbalances that many people have prior to running, or develop through rushing into running without following a progressive program that prepares the body for running.

Go here for info on heart rate.

Hours per day of exercise? This increases with fitness level. Generally one starts out easy with merely 10 minutes of a brisk walking pace, and over time works up to 45 to 90 minutes of cardio every day or every other day. Weight training 2X per week is very important, but again, start easy and build slowly.

The number one cause of not being successful with permanent fat loss, or even fat loss in general, is failing to completely change ones lifestyle. The challenge is more psychological than physiological. If healthy eating and exercise are not viewed as personal rewards, but rather chore orientated tasks that take you away from what you feel you really want to eat, then chances are you will be amongst the 95% of the population that fails.

The mismatch of where we place reward and feelings of accomplishment quickly leads a person back to the habits that caused the initial weight gain, as overeating has a habitually ingrained reward.

There is often short term success lasting anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, even up to a few years. Over the long term though, looking into the future greater than 5 years, nearly everyone who embarks on losing weight will weigh the same or more than when they started within 5 years or often much less time.

That's the reality check.

What to look forward to is the immediate success that occurs when you achieve a consistant calorie deficit. Make sure you don't go extreme with cutting calories, and stay far away from fad diets. It feels great to be satisfied after a healthy meal- guilt free satisfaction. Healthy living is very rewarding, but it can be very difficult to release ourselves from the rewards we are habituated to in unhealthy living.

Have confidence, the success rate is actually 100% with those who change eating and exercise habits permanently. So while the factual failure rate can seem daunting and needs to be realized in order to make realistic and achievable goals, you will succeed for sure if you make the right changes, and make the changes permanent.

Use eatracker, a Dietitians of Canada free online tool to assess your current food intake.

You mentioned you need to lose weight for health reasons, but I don't know what those health reasons are. Your health issues may require specific dietary and exercise advice or restrictions, so you should check with your doctor to find out.

More info on the Rhino Fitness Fat Loss page