There's no magic pill or exercise to lose fat

No Magic Exercise Will Give Me 6-pack Abs?

You do realize, don't you, that there's a difference between having strong, developed abdominal muscles and having visible abdominal muscles?

No foolin'. Muscle-training exercises can make your abs stronger, and even a bit bigger, but if you have more than 10-percent bodyfat, nobody's going to see those muscles.

So, in addition to a little bit of strength exercise for your ab muscles (it doesn't take much), you need to do a lot of aerobic exercise or (yuck!) you have to diet.

What about the "Eight Minutes A Day" Ab Guy?

Look at the fine print - there's no magic.

Exercises can strengthen the muscles in whatever spot is exercised. But - unless you are doing circuit training, where you move rapidly from a set of one exercise, to a set of the next exercise, to a set of the next-next exercise, keeping your heart-rate and breathing-rate high, almost like aerobics - then you don't really burn many calories with sit-ups and crunches and side-bends and leg raises and hyper-extensions, and so on.

Your options are to do the usual aerobic exercises (running, cycling, swimming laps, cross-country-skiing, rowing, aerobic-dance...), which - if you do enough, and keep it in the right intensity range - will burn lotsa calories and therefore trim your fat. OR you can do body-weight exercises (push-ups, squats, lunges, etc.) in high-intensity circuits. OR you can do weight-training exercises with heavy-balls, iron weights, resistance machines, again in high-intensity circuits with little or no rest between sets.

But... but..."Eight Minutes"?

Maybe eight minutes of a couple of ab exercises (we said it didn't take much for abs), PLUS 40 minutes a day of jogging or of those other aerobic things. The eight minutes of ab-ish exercise will ensure that you have a suitably gnarly rectus abdominus when you finally unveil it. The 40-minutes (per day) plus some rearranging of your eating will get rid of the fat that makes abs invisible. And no magic.

Even if I pay the "Eight Minute" guy I won't get my magic?

Well, he will get the magic of your money, and you will have a DVD to watch or a booklet to thumb through... which - somewhere - will have the fine-print that says "... to actually reveal your 8-minute abs, you will also need to strip away the fat that obscures 'em."

Aw crap! You're really disappointing me.

Well, if it's any consolation, there's a little bit of "magic" in the other direction...

Whaddya mean? Don't toy with me...

If you do the aerobic stuff that, along with reasonable eating, will eventually melt off the lard, you will find that along the way you have incidentally developed some decent-lookin' abs.

You almost can't do all that exercise (and over time there'll be quite an impressive quantity that you have to do) without working your abs a bit. So when you finally do reveal them, they will look good.

And again, you will lose fat off your entire body, which eventually reduces the spots in which you were interested. But short of carving with a knife (scalpel) or reaming with a shop-vac (liposuction) you can't reduce fat at specific places without doing all the work to reduce fat all over. That's just the way it is.

Well I read about this herbal formula ...

Nope. Repeat after us: there's no magic. Herbal "weight loss" formulas fall into a couple of categories. The most common has been so-called "thermo-genic", which just means they make you hyper (like drinking way too much coffee) so that your revved-up metabolism will burn more calories. That actually works a little bit, until your body gets used to it - before you even finish the first bottle. But just like drinking gallons of high-test coffee, the side-effects are not so great. If you've got high blood pressure, you make it worse. Your nerves are constantly on edge, so you sleep poorly - sleeping poorly causes you to hang onto fat or even pack on some more.

There are other "magic" pills and elixirs, constantly being "re-discovered" after being lost for a thousand years (often there's good reason it was "lost" in the first place), or brought to you "exclusively" from some exotic part of the world. The ad copy "guarantees" that they will rid you of your belly fat and other health problems if "taken as directed". Remember that "taken as directed" part. It's important. It's why there's really no magic.

The problems are - in a world that has had intercontinental jet travel for 60 years, and the internet for more than 15 years, there just aren't any more secret places full of long-lived, super-healthy residents with special herbal lore that nobody knows about.

Either they've been found and debunked - it was just a wishful fairy-tale from the days when it took weeks (instead of an hour) to get over the mountains to that fabulous isolated village... the same village that now has a Hilton and a Marriott and two McDonalds - or they've been found, but it turns out that the "magic" herbs by themselves were very, very mildly effective and only really worked in conjunction with a pretty-much healthy and conservative diet and lifestyle. No magic.

That's the catch - the "as directed" - you know how many drugs need to be taken with water, some with food (so as not to upset your tummy)? Well many of the "magic" supplements need to be taken "in conjunction with":

  • improved diet
  • increased exercise

So, you order the magic pills, capsules, elixir, and it comes with a booklet (or DVD) that instructs you on the dietary changes and exercises that you should also incorporate if you really want the magic herbs to work for more than a day or two.

Turns out, if you follow the very ordinary diet-and-exercise advice on the DVDs, you can lose weight and get healthier - slowly - with little or no boost from the actual product.

And if taking the pills or liquids doesn't shrink your waist - without destroying your kidneys or liver - and you complain, they point you to the fine print that says you needed to modify your eating and your activity level in conjunction with the magic pills.

The magic is that they have your money and all you really have is free advice to eat better and exercise a bit, except you paid for it.

So how come YOU are so smart?

After kicking ourselves in the head - and wallet - for years, we finally looked at our collection of nearly-useless stuff that we paid for (yes, we did) and put our brains to work on it.

The upshot is, we are telling you so that you won't waste any more of your money and hopes. There are plenty of books and websites that try to steer you toward sensible eating and exercise, as do we (we just don't like to overdo either one...) and what they tell you will work. The best service that most of them provide is having a lot of info and tips and techniques together in one place. Very handy when you've got a good, well-explained reference, and an online forum of people who are eager to help each other over the rough spots.

But the ones that are offering you what we call "special-sauce" are generally ripping you off.

Some are sincere. But it doesn't matter. If you are a lump of lard that rarely moves, and you want your body to look and feel better, you have to start moving it and feeding it better, and any herbal extracts or special exercises are going to be pretty-much incidental to the process. If they get your enthusiasm going for a few days or weeks, we suppose that's a benefit, but only if you find it in yourself to keep it up.

We, here at MHT, think that there is one bit of "magic" that can make a big difference between success and failure.

NOW you're saying there IS magic?

Nah. There's no magic the way you mean it. The thing that will get you going and keep you going until you see results is a buddy.

Find somebody who will diet and exercise along with you - maybe make a bet (a little extra incentive often helps) - but make it somebody you won't want to disappoint.

The most effective is somebody who lives near you, or works near you, so you can work-out together, compare notes, and so on.

It can also be done on-line, as long as each of you trusts the other to be actually doing the necessary.

Some additional help

We at MHT are just starting to explore the world of tools and gadgets for:

  • motivating us to exercise and eat well
  • do it efficiently (best results for least effort is what we're about)

We've already found two handy little things - one is online and free, the other is something you buy in a store.

Where you've been, where you're going, and what it's doing for you - online

First, if you like to:

  • jog or run
  • cycle
  • hike or cross-country ski

then maybe you want to know how long different routes are, and how many calories you might be burning if you take this route or that. And what if you were to vary a route slightly? How would that affect the distance and the calories consumed?

Point your browser at:

It's a nifty little application on top of basic Google Maps, that lets you do a number of fun and useful things.

For example, if you have route that you run, cycle, jog, walk in your neighborhood, or near your office, or wherever, you can use the map to find the starting point, then click the "Start Recording" button (over on the left), go into the map, and double-click at your usual starting point. After that, move your pointer along the route, double-clicking every time there's a change of direction (curves, corners, etc.). You can either click all the way around a circuit route, or click all the way out a partial route and tell the system to calculate "out-and-back" for you.

When your route is finished on the map (or before), you can click to switch on calorie calculation, type in your weight, and see how many calories you burn if you run that route.

Now, you can adjust the route to add some optional bits, or take some off (for when you don't have a lot of time) and see what the difference is in calories burned.

You can save routes, which gives you a URL that can be copied and pasted to a file on your computer, or into e-mail. Later on, you can just paste the route URL into your browser and it's all brought back for you. You can share routes with other people, plot routes you've never been on, just to see, etc.

Nifty! And we like the price.

If you are traveling, use the map to find some running circuits near your hotel. Or get an acquaintance in that town to show you their favorite routes - e-mailed to you as URLs. They'll know about things like "the bad parts of town" where you don't want to run alone, but which you couldn't tell from just a map or overhead view... but then, why are you staying at a hotel in "the bad part of town"? Is your employer that cheap? Sorry... just asking.

Garmin Forerunner 305

We picked this up at the local Costco for $179 Canadian bucks.

It's a GPS-enabled "sport watch" with heart monitor. You can also get a "cadence" device to attach to your bicycle, if that interests you. We aren't hard-core cyclists, so we don't care what our pedaling cadence is - we just want to know how far we went, maybe how fast we were moving, and how hard we were working.

Mostly, we use the Forerunner 305 and the included heart-rate monitor to give us the picture on our "daily" runs --- ok, jogs. And ok, they aren't really "daily", but we're trying to get out more days than not, and the 305 is going to be a big help.

We've been jogging off and on for years, and not getting much better at it. We think we've finally figured out how not to get injured in ways that force us to stop the jogging/running, so now we want to get the most out of the work we do and maybe improve our results for a change. Garmin is going to help.

First-off, one of the reasons we don't improve much is that we spend most of our slow runs running a bit too fast. That might sound strange (and it would look like absolute BS to a real runner because we go painfully slowly at the best of times), but it's true.

You improve aerobic capabilities by training within a certain "sweet-spot" of exertion and heart-rate. If you don't get your heart-rate up into the training zone, you don't improve much. But equally, if you get your heart working too hard, you also waste a lot of effort and don't improve much. And you discourage yourself, because who wants to put in a lot of effort and get all sweaty and ... not see real improvement. We mean, sure it burns calories regardless of how you put in the miles, but we hate being passed by little kids on tricycles. It's really, really bad when the little old lady with the walker is telling us to move aside so she can pass.

So, where were we? Oh yeah...

You need to get into the "zone", a range of heart-rate that's ideal intensity for aerobic improvement. Then your system makes the most of your exertions. We're all about getting the most result for the least effort.

A good sport-watch lets you know when you are in the zone. It warns you when you drift out of it, by trying too hard (over-training), or by not trying hard enough (wimping-out... er... under-training).

The Garmin does that (by reporting the signal from a heart-rate strap that you wear around your chest). You can display it as big numbers on the watch-face, or get it reported as various beeps if you go too hard or not hard enough. But the 305 also uses GPS to show your speed, and to calculate a bunch of useful things.

In addition to beeping and showing you when you are "in the zone" for different types of training, it can also provide some incentive by giving you an imaginary "training buddy". You tell it the parameters of a workout that you want to do - perhaps as simple as the pace you want to maintain or the time you want to take for a given route - and you tell it to start. As you jog or run, the "training buddy" shows two little guys on the face of the Garmin, one representing you, and the other representing the buddy.

The buddy represents the ideal pace for your intended workout. If you go slower, the "you" figure drops behind the buddy, and your pace numbers flash to alert you to speed up. If you go faster than the buddy, your figure moves ahead on the screen on your wrist, and the numbers flash differently to urge you to dial back your effort a bit. Cool.

There are LOTS more capabilities to this device, and it's gotten tons of rave reviews in the few years that it's been available. Better than similar devices from Polar and other makers.

There's a newer Garmin Forerunner 310XT that is basically the 305 with water-proofing and slight improvements in a couple of functions, but except for some triathlon folks, many people prefer the 305... at less than half the price of the 310.

There's a 405 that is much sleeker and looks much more like a real watch, but it's got shortcomings that make it much less attractive than the 305 if you just want a really useful training aid that you wear only for... training.

Anyway, we just got our 305 and are only beginning to play with it, so we'll update this page as we learn more and play with the accompanying software and with online services that make use of its output. There's a whole world of users and things-to-do related to the Forerunner 305 and to that whole class of techie-toys. For us, it's information that we need, and motivation that we need. And we like techie-toys... so there.

OH YEAH. One more thing. GPS doesn't work indoors, but if you hit the treadmill or stationary bike, the heart-rate monitor will still do its thing. Also, you can get a separate, optional foot-pod thingie that clips to your running shoe, as a pedometer. It'll provide the speed and pacing info for indoor running that the GPS features would provide for outdoor running.

OH-OH! And one more thing... if you are too poor to buy one, you could buddy up to somebody who does have one. You'd have to pick somebody who was in roughly the same shape as you, but at least you'd know pace and distance. Think of it as buying a book or getting it from the library. :->

Once again, no magic (well, if you don't consider GPS and heart-rate monitor technology magical), but some useful info in your quest to be "good enough".

Try our tips to lose weight quickly page.

If this not-what-you-wanted-to-hear page wasn't where you wanted to be, then from this 'no magic to weight loss' page, go back to the MHT home page.

The MHT page What the page is about
About all the magic weight-loss tricks The bad news you didn't want (this page)
Belly Fat What's extra bad about carrying fat on your belly
How to lose fat quickly ...just what it says
Weight-loss introduction The introductory remarks before you get to the nitty-gritty

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