One of the most common questions I get asked is “How do I lose weight with Pilates?”. The simple truth is that our body is like a Calorie Bank, that either adds or withdraws from our fat deposits based on the amount of calories we consume (deposit) versus the calories we burn off (spend). If we are consuming more calories than we are burning off then we will be adding to our fat deposits over time. If we are burning off more calories than we are consuming then we will be withdrawing from our fat deposits and gradually losing weight. So any exercise you do will be helping you burn off more calories and helping you tip the scales in the direction of weight loss. Having said that we can maximise the weight loss power of our exercise with a few key ingredients.
Increase Muscle Tone
Pilates is a form of resistance training that helps you build long lean muscles. Pilates will improve your muscle tone, improving both your overall strength and endurance. Improved muscle tone is one of the key ingredients for weight loss. Muscles burn more energy (Calories) than fat, therefore the more lean muscle mass your body contains the greater the calorie burning ability you have. Improving your muscle tone will help boost your weight loss efforts tremendously.
Muscle Car vs Scooter
Also importantly the more lean muscle mass you have the greater the amount of energy you will burn even when you resting or doing sedentary type things. I equate this with having a larger engine in your car. A car with more muscle like a sports car will burn calories faster even when idling, as compared to an economical little scooter with a smaller engine. We want to be like a sports car with more muscle tone to burn through greater calories during the day even when we aren’t exercising. This makes a huge difference to our efforts to lose weight.
Do I need to do Cardio?
Yes, absolutely! In fact the more cardiovascular type exercise you do the better. Cardio exercise is your main tool for burning calories and losing weight. We incorporate Cardio exercise as an essential part of our Studio Pilates sessions for our clients wanting to manage their weight. Also, our Bootilates Reformer classes in particular have a dedicated cardio segment to boost the amount of calories you are burning significantly higher. The general recommendation is to get at least 30 minutes of Cardiovascular exercise per day. However the days your are not performing Pilates (incorporating cardio and resistance training) you should aim for 45 to 60 minutes of pure cardio, such as walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, whatever you enjoy doing and can maintain at a sufficient level of intensity and duration.
Do I need to Diet?
I don’t encourage my clients to diet, unless they are consulting a professional Dietitician. Calorie restrictive diets may assist with temporary weight loss, but in the vast majority of cases over the longer term result in increased weight gain. The term Yo-Yo dieting has been coined over recent years to describe the fluctuations in weight from people who participate in restrictive dieting losing weight for a short while and then gaining back even more weight once they finish their diet. I think too much focus on calorie counting can also be unhealthy for certain people and needs to be utilised with some caution.
What I do encourage people to do is to make healthier food choices, become more educated about what is good to eat and what is not so good. Eating a balanced diet with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is by far the better option in terms of weight loss than jumping on the latest diet bandwagon. The Victorian Government website Better Health Channel is a good source of nutritional information and may be a good starting point. Also the Australian Dietitians Association website also has a range of nutiritional information which will be helpful in planning out a balanced diet.
Eating well does require some additional effort in terms of being organised with healthy food options for snacks and keeping the fridge stocked with seasonal fruit and vegetables, leans meats, and low fat or no fat dairy items. However the beauty of this approach is you will be developing long term life skills in maintaining a healthy diet which once they are established will become “normal” for you and easy to keep up. You never stop eating a healthy balanced diet so there is no feeling of restriction or sense of deprivation which occurs with dieting.
Dieting also has the twin negative effects of slowing your bodies metabolism, and changing your metabolism into starvation mode. Slowing the metabolism means that you burn less calories throughout the day. When your metabolism goes into starvation mode it thinks there is not enough food available and actively holds onto fat stores, breaking down lean muscle tissue as fuel instead of fat. This is a real double whammy as far as losing weight is concerned. We want to achieve the opposite by maintaining a high metabolism, to do this we need to eat regular small high quality low calorie snacks throughout the day, which effectively speeds up the metabolism and helps you burn more calories throughout the day and ultimately reduce our fat stores.