You may have packed on a few pounds over the holidays, but now's your chance to get your body back, with the help of elite trainer Tracy Anderson. The 38-year-old mom of two is famous for not only molding the shapes of Gwyneth Paltrow, J. Lo and other A-listers but also understanding the factors that prevent many of us from reaching our goals. "When I was struggling to lose weight after I had my first child, I realized I couldn't just get on a treadmill and then go home and eat pizza," Tracy says. "I had to become a complete package." She went on to lose 60 pounds.
|Set yourself up for success|
Establishing concrete goals (like these new year's resolutions) will help you succeed. "You can't just say, 'Oh, I want to start working out' or 'I wish I could lose weight,'" says Tracy. (Here are more examples of resolutions that won't work.) "You need to have a specific plan and a clear vision of what you want for your body." So often we fail to reach our goals because we're simply not focused on what we actually hope to achieve. Write down why you want to shed weight. Jot down the days and times that you plan to work out, then build them into your calendar so there's no excuse. And starting today, make sure your fridge is stocked with good-for-you picks. "The sooner you begin making healthier choices that work for you," Tracy promises, "the faster you'll start feeling 10 to 20 years younger."
|Make exercise nonnegotiable…|
"Working out is just like brushing your teeth," explains Tracy. "It's a routine that is essential to the body for overall health and longevity." When you treat exercising like it's a luxury, you are more likely to blow it off, she adds. And then your body won't look, feel or perform at its best. Find the best workout for you. …But ease into it
Maybe you're starting a new regimen or coming back after a big break. Either way, it's OK if you can't make it through the entire workout. "Whether you can do two reps or 20 isn't the point," says Tracy. "But you need to be honest. Ask yourself, 'Have I exhausted my body, or am I just being lazy?'" If it's the latter, plow on.
|Turn off the TV|
And the cell phone, too. "People are afraid to deal with themselves when they exercise, which is why they tune out," explains Tracy. "But to see changes in your body, you must connect with your muscles and stop simply going through the motions." That means silencing those attention stealers that often zap your energy: not just the TV and electronic devices but sometimes even the friend yakking while you're trying to focus on your form. Once you tune in, she adds, you'll be able to push yourself past your comfort zone.
|Don't be monogamous (to one workout)|
When you perform the same routine over and over (just running or only going to spin class), you create muscle imbalances. That's because you're constantly targeting the same areas in the identical way. "This compartmentalizes your strength," explains Tracy. Your legs tend to become excessively toned and bulky, while your arms remain undefined (sound familiar?). Another drawback: It leads to constant wear and tear on the same muscles and joints. To combat these effects, incorporate a range of exercises into your routine, ones that work all your muscles—even those small ones that are often neglected when you hit the gym.
|Forget one-size-fits-all diets|
Think of your body as a computer. To ensure that it's operating at peak level, you have to monitor and fine-tune it regularly. "Yes, a computer can function if there are a lot of bugs, but it doesn't function at its best," Tracy says. "The same goes for our bodies." Pay attention to what you eat and how it makes you feel. "If you're bloated or lethargic after you have certain foods, try tweaking your diet," she advises. Whenever possible, choose whole and organic foods ("as close to nature as possible"). Going organic doesn't have to be a budget killer, Tracy adds, because you can find organic produce in your supermarket's frozen-food section.
|Power up with protein|
Tired all the time? The reason for your diminishing energy level may be the lack of lean protein on your plate. "Eating protein is a better way to get fuel than loading up on extra carbohydrates," Tracy says. Her secret pick-me-up: "I make little protein bowls: I'll chop up ground turkey or chicken and sauté it in a pan with chopped onions, celery and red or green peppers." And meat doesn't have to be your only protein; here are 14 meatless protein sources
Eat small meals often
The last thing you want to do is show up at the dinner table absolutely ravenous. When you're in that state, good decision-making flies right out the window. Instead, "aim to eat several small meals every three to four hours during the day, with a rewarding meal you look forward to. For me, it's dinner," says Tracy. "This keeps your appetite in check as well as your body fueled throughout the day so that you never get to the wow-I'm-so-hungry-right-now point.".
|Enjoy "bad" food—in moderation|
There is no such thing as a "cheat day" or "cheat food," so go ahead and scratch these phrases from your vocabulary. "The word cheat has such a negative connotation," Tracy says. "If you are eating a primarily healthy diet that's filled with fruits, vegetables and lean protein, and if you're exercising regularly, there is nothing wrong with having food that is emotionally pleasing." Tracy's not-guilty pleasure: good old comfort food. "I like cheesy mashed potatoes," she says.
|Visualize exactly what you want to achieve|
One simple strategy that Tracy shares with her A-list clients? Picture your dream body so that it's clear in your head. "We are in command of what we truly want," Tracy says, "and if you create an image in your mind, then you're halfway to success."
"Eggs offer lots of benefits," says Tracy. They contain hunger-quelling protein and brain-boosting choline, and you can add any vegetable or herb to them for endless options. "I love egg-white frittatas," she says.
Including greens in your daily diet is imperative. Not in the mood for a plate full of veggies? Whip up a green juice to enjoy the same nutrients, such as vitamin C and magnesium. (Tracy likes a blend of kale, watermelon, cucumber and blueberry).
Dark chocolate boosts not only heart health but also your mood. That makes it an indulgence worth having. "I love chocolate," Tracy says. "And I can have it in small amounts as long as I exercise and make sure that the rest of my meals are sensible."
|Shut down your kitchen at 7pm|
After a long day, you want to unwind, right? So does your metabolism. "If you save up all your calories for one giant meal in the evening, you're more likely to store calories as fat." If you can't fight the late-night urge, have a light snack, such as cereal.