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When was the last time you heard a woman say, "I love my butt!" or boast that her thighs were her favorite body part? We thought so. Well, we helped these four women reshape their lower-body trouble zones with an individualized 12-week training program and the advice of New York City-based nutritionist Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD.
Her tips included eating a low-fat, low-sodium diet, getting enough protein, and snacking on fruits and veggies while watching portion sizes. Our subjects combined a healthier diet with muscle-sculpting strength moves and fat-blasting cardio to attack everything from saddlebags to cellulite.
They kept a log to record their experiences, and the results were impressive. Here's how they lost inches, shed fat, and got a new perspective on their lower halves.
Goal: Lose cellulite
Heather Told Us: "I jiggle all over my lower body but have no idea how to get more toned! I don't think I've worked out a day in my life."Before
Weight: 145 lb.
Body Fat: 27%
Weight: 133 lb.
Body Fat: 20%
"Since cellulite is the result of fat deposits, it's important to do a combination of cardio to reduce body fat and strength moves to tone muscle," says Tilita Lutterloh, a personal trainer at Equinox Fitness Club in New York City.
Heather exercised for 30 minutes two or three days a week on the treadmill, stairmill, or VersaClimber, and did two days of strength training that focused on the lower body, plus step-ups and agility drills to burn more fat while sculpting muscle. She also started eating more regularly and added protein and fruit to her diet.The Transformation
Week one: I never realized I had quite so many muscles that weren't being used. After my first two training sessions, I could hardly walk and bought the biggest bottle of Advil sold at the drugstore!
Week three: It's not easy getting up at 6 a.m. to be at the gym by 7. But I already have more energy, even during a really busy week at work. Yesterday, my trainer said that she thought that "my twin" had showed up at the gym because my form was so much better.
Week six: Halfway there -- I've lost 3 percent of my body fat!
Week twelve: I've lost 10 pounds, and my clothing size has dropped from an 8 to a 6. Best of all, my cellulite has definitely diminished. When I started, I used to feel sick after a few minutes on the treadmill. Now I can get through a 30-minute workout and still feel great!
Goal:Sculpt my lower body
Rowena Told Us: "My lower body needs reshaping. I do yoga and strength-train, but not often."Before
Weight: 128 lb.
Body Fat: 25%
Waist: 31.5 Hips: 37"
Weight: 122 lb.
Body Fat: 20%
Waist: 29" Hips: 34.5"
To firm up Rowena's bottom half, Christine Zibilich, a trainer at New York Sports Club in Westport, Connecticut, focused on basic moves like leg presses with multi-muscle movements such as lateral squats two days a week for one hour. She also had Rowena use the Pilates Reformer to strengthen and tone her core while working the legs.
On her own, Rowena ran, cycled, or did other cardio four times a week. She traded her morning bagel with butter (equivalent to eating five pieces of bread) for cereal and low-fat milk and added more protein to each meal.The Transformation
Week one: My legs were shaking by the end of today's strength session. I hate cardio but know I have to do it -- Christine suggested listening to music to make it less boring. I'm totally energized, despite getting up at 6 a.m. to hit the gym. I even forgot to get coffee after my workout!
Week three: My lower body was in pain all last week, but my butt and legs are feeling tighter. Doing cardio is easier thanks to the music -- I don't even notice the time. Christine also taught me how to focus on my breathing when I exercise to help increase my endurance.
Week five: For the first time in months, I can zip an old skirt all the way up to the top. Before, I was 2 to 3 inches from doing so. Plus, my legs not only look more toned, but they're definitely stronger. I went skiing last weekend, and I didn't have my usual day-after soreness.
Week nine: I've dropped about 4 pounds, and even my husband recently commented on my "perky" butt.
Week twelve: In the beginning, this whole program was very, very intense. Now if I don't work out, I feel bad.
Goal: Firm my butt
Height: 5'4 1/2"
Weight: 140 lb.
Body Fat: 27.5%
Weight: 140 lb.
Body Fat: 27%
"Kendra needs to do a combination of cardio and strength to shape her lower body and reduce excess fat," says Mike Jones, a trainer formerly with the World Changers Body Sculpting Center in College Park, Georgia. He prescribed a strength workout once or twice a week, plus two days of cardio for 30 to 40 minutes. However, "because of her tough travel schedule, there were often days when she just didn't have that much time, so we packed both cardio and strength into one circuit workout," says Jones.
After talking to Young, Kendra also realized that she was eating too many starchy foods like rice and pasta and not enough protein like tofu, fish, and nuts.The Transformation
Week one: When I work out on my own, I take breaks between each exercise. Now Mike and I go so fast, I hardly have a second between moves! Getting to the gym can be a problem because of my busy schedule, so I've been getting up early to be there by 7 a.m. (ugh).
Week five: My butt is firmer, and my legs are taking shape. My clothes just fit differently. Mike told me he's noticed a difference in my outlook: I'm more positive. He's right. Exercise seems less like a chore.
Week seven: I've gotten some unsolicited compliments that were motivating. A friend said I looked smaller, a coworker told me I looked more toned, and my boyfriend said my bottom half looks leaner!
Week twelve: I haven't really lost any weight, but my waist is smaller, my butt is tighter, and my inner thighs have appeared to stop jiggling. I actually look forward to working out -- something I couldn't imagine before!
Goal: Rid me of saddlebags!
Weight: 145 lb.
Body Fat: 30.2%
Weight: 135 lb.
Body Fat: 26.6%
To make Namita's pear shape less pronounced, trainer Alicia Marie of New York Health & Racquet Club in New York City had her take two Spinning classes a week, then do some low-impact cardio on her own on the elliptical trainer for 30 to 45 minutes once or twice a week. Her strength-training sessions, done twice a week, included squats, lunges, kicks, and step-ups. She also did upper-body work to help balance out her lower half and make her look more proportioned.
Namita, who says she used to avoid fruits and veggies, added more of both to her diet and satisfied her chocolate cravings with a daily dose of chocolate-flavored calcium chews.The Transformation
Week one: We're doing a lot of old-school exercises like lunges and kicking, but with weights and lots of reps. It's challenging to get through the workout without feeling like I'm going to pass out. I'm not naturally motivated -- luckily, my trainer is contagiously enthusiastic.
Week five: I've lost five pounds and am definitely losing inches. My pants are looser, especially in the waist. Seeing results after these very hard workouts is motivating.
Week eight: I've gone from a size 8 to a 6 and feel really fit! This week, I had more energy. Climbing stairs and just walking around the city seem easier.
Week nine: I never thought I'd say this, but I'm addicted to Spinning. I feel like the fat is just melting off me!
Week twelve: I've lost a dress size and 10 pounds, and my pear shape looks more like a healthy hourglass. I feel more confident and even excited about getting a new bikini and hitting the beach!
Originally published in Fitness magazine, May 2006.