Health & Fitness

By Amy O'Connor

My goal is to lose at least 10 lbs. by the end of the year, and since I can use all the help I can get, I decided to read a few recently released health and fitness books to help me come up with a strategy to reach my goal. I started with Shift by Peter Arnell who is best known for his illustrious career as a NYC branding and design visionary. Mr. Arnell is now also known for the remarkable transformation he made when he lost 256 lbs. with the help of Dr. Louis Aronne of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Arnell sees the ability to go from living with obesity for many years to achieving such an impressive weight loss as one example of the kind of shift that anyone can make in their careers or lifestyle by using the branding strategies that have inspired the great successes in his career.

Arnell does not go into great detail about the specific diet plan he followed to lose 256 lbs because he is really talking about branding and how his weight loss was a kind of personal branding that made him the “new and improved,” truest embodiment of himself. Arnell talks about his career, childhood and interests and what he takes from them to have a transformational outlook that is open to fresh possibilities. Shift is not a diet book; it’s in the business and economics section of your local bookstore, but Arnell describes how branding strategies which he distills into concepts such as “Go Helium” and “Create a Fan Club” can inspire great transformations, such as losing 256 lbs.

I then picked up Naturally Thin: Unleash Your Skinnygirl by The Real Housewives of New York City star, Bethenny Frankel. In the frank, straight-shooter tone familiar to those who’ve seen her on TV, Frankel, who trained as a natural foods chef, describes how she manages to be enviably thin without being obsessed with food and dieting as she had been since childhood. Instead of counting calories or banning certain foods, she follows ten rules that allow her to live a full and busy life without worrying about gaining weight. At the heart of Frankel’s approach to eating is moderation. She balances meals over the course of a day so that protein, carbohydrates, or fats do not dominate the day’s intake. She has a sweet tooth and eats what she wants including cheesecake and chocolate because she has only small portions and, overall, makes healthy food choices. I particularly liked the chapter on Rule 7, “Check Yourself before You Wreck Yourself” which really brings home how destructive binge eating is to the waistline.

After a chapter on each of the rules, Frankel describes one week of what she ate each day in depth to show how she puts the ten rules into action and also lists what she ate each day for three weeks to provide a better idea of her daily food choices. There are recipes scattered throughout the book for everything from the Skinnygirl Margarita to healthy mac n’ cheese, and she also has written The Skinnygirl Dish which is full of recipes and cooking advice. Frankel’s rules are very sensible and freeing, but, as we know, with freedom, comes responsibility, so I think of the ten rule strategy as a slow weight loss plan since it will probably take a lot of trial and error for me to figure out the right balance of foods and quantities before I see results on the scale, but I love the conversational tone of her book and came away with the determination to adopt the ten rules.

While Bethenny Frankel recommends getting any type of exercise you enjoy, her book’s focus is on how to eat like a naturally thin person, so I turned to another reality TV celeb, notoriously tough and host of the new show Thintervention, Jackie Warner. Warner’s book, This Is Why You’re Fat: And How to Get Thin Forever covers both diet and exercise, but to my surprise, spends a lot more time on diet than exercise. Warner grew up with bad eating habits such as starving herself then bingeing on sugary, processed foods. In her 30s, having done a great deal of research on how foods impact the body, she came to understand which foods speed up the metabolism and fat burning, thus, allowing her to eat more and still have the amazingly toned physique displayed on the book cover.

By eating foods such as lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and whole grains that balance hormones and detoxify the organs and avoiding foods that tax the system including sugar, starches and alcohol, weight loss will result naturally. Warner recommends sticking to three meals and two snacks for a total of 1500-1800 calories per day five days a week but allows a cheat meal of up to 1500 calories on two days. I learned that my nonfat, plain yogurt and soymilk are not as virtuous as I thought because they have more than 5-9 grams of sugar per serving, and Warner believes that sugar, even milk sugar, is worse for the body than fat which is why Warner says low-fat is often a better choice than nonfat foods. The exercise portion of Warner’s plan is based on Power Circuits, which combine 20 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of resistance training done three times a week. I really like the meal plan and recipes and have decided to swear off sugar even on the cheat meals, at least for a while.

Tracy Anderson’s 30-Day Method has two 25-day meal plans (one is non-meat), a 5-day cleanse and over 100 delicious recipes, but the book’s focus is Anderson’s exercise program. Anderson, whose mother owned a dance studio, grew up dancing and, she believes her exercise method is the key to achieving a lean, toned body. Anderson struggled to maintain her weight in college despite spending a lot of time dancing and exercising at the gym, so she studied physiology and discovered that most kinds of exercise including running, spinning, swimming, and even Pilates and yoga overwork the major muscle groups which adds bulk to the body. Anderson came up with a series of exercises that tone and engages secondary muscles that pull in rather than build up the body. Gwyneth Paltrow, who wrote the foreword, gushes over the 14″ her body quickly lost doing Anderson’s workouts. A big part of the workout is continuous motion since Anderson believes that stop-and-start exercise doesn’t rev up the body enough to achieve maximum fat burning.

There are 3 “TA Method Muscle Design” sequences to be done for ten days each, followed by a cardio dance routine that takes 45 minutes to do. There are photos and descriptions of the muscular work which are Anderson’s particular kind of leg lifts, sit-ups, push-ups and arm work, but best of all the book comes with a DVD that includes the Muscle Design Sequences and the cardio dance routines. I found the DVD made doing the muscle work much easier to do correctly, and though I initially missed having the guidance of a voiceover for the cardio routines, after a few tries, I found the moves much easier to follow. The exercises definitely left me feeling sore and sweaty, but I also finished the workout feeling immediately a bit more toned. I don’t doubt that 30 days of doing the Tracy Anderson Method and following the meal plans would result in a leaner, better body.

I’m planning on a month of Tracy Anderson’s 30-day Method followed by a month on Jackie Warner’s plan, with Bethenny Frankel’s ten rules in mind especially during the holidays, which, because Peter Arnell has taught me about fearless personal branding, is sure to result in a slimmer me for the New Year!

Originally published October 2010
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