Though the road to fitness is paved with good intentions, it is also littered with abandoned exercise gear, trashed resolutions, and -- most disturbingly -- the bodies of chubby, out-of-breath folks who fell off the weight-loss wagon before reaching their goals.
It's easy to understand why so few reach fitness nirvana: Food is seductive, and building muscle is harder than, say, eating a bag of potato chips in front of the tube.
The motivation you need to stick to any diet or exercise program over the long haul is tough to muster, and the slightest obstacle -- bad weather, a good movie, Cinnabons -- can send you hurtling off course. The bottom line is that, while you know a healthy lifestyle has its rewards, bad behavior simply takes a lot less effort.
But what if we were to outfox that bad behavior? What if we could take man's worst habits, leanings, and traits and turn the tables on them, transforming our greatest fitness obstacles into our biggest fitness motivators? It's a plan so diabolical -- it just might work. That was the impetus, anyway, that led us to think of the very worst aspects of human behavior -- the Seven Deadly Sins -- and to find creative ways to bitch-slap them. Our goal: to humiliate and emasculate these sins (leaving them about as threatening as the Seven Dwarves), then show you that, no matter the size of the roadblock, there's always a path around it.
So allow us, brothers, to lead you into temptation. What follows is a full-contact confrontation with the worst transgressions you can commit against your body. Luckily for you, we've stared them down, twisted them around, and turned them into some of the best ways for living a healthier, slimmer life. Can we get an Amen?!
Sin No. 1: Gluttony
Obstacle: You never met a calorie you didn't like
Motivation: Eating your way to six-pack abs
Grill some steak. Sounds decadent, but a slab of medium-rare beef isn't the indulgent, diet-busting food you might think. Besides all that Atkins-friendly protein, beef is also an excellent source of stearic acid, a type of metabolism-boosting fat that makes up nearly 32% of the saturated fat in your standard cut of red meat.
Reacquaint yourself with whole milk. Remember that creamy, rich nectar you drank when you were a kid? Not only does each sip give you a hefty dose of flab-fighting fatty acids (called CLAs), but new research from the University of Texas indicates that whole milk might be better at fighting fat than skim milk. Fat helps to slow digestion, which may allow more protein to be turned over to the body for muscle growth, says Kevin Tipton, Ph.D., the study's co-author.
Make the milk chocolate while you're at it. Most guys who fall off their exercise programs do so because they end up feeling tired all the time. But drinking chocolate milk may help fight that fatigue. Studies show that chocolate milk may be one of the best recovery drinks around, thanks to the combination of high-carbs and protein -- two nutrients in short supply after a hard bout of exercise. In trials at Indiana University, chocolate milk helped guys replenish energy reserves just as effectively as many popular sports drinks.
Pig out on fiber. Soluble fiber -- the stuff in beans, fruits, and grains -- bulks up in your stomach, helping to control your insatiable urge to eat. You can get soluble fiber in supplement form -- Glucomannan provides the biggest bang for the least bulk -- or try a handful of nuts with a glass of water, which works almost as well, says Jeff Volek, Ph.D., R.D., assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut.
Sin No. 2: Envy
Obstacle: The other guy's body
Motivation: If he can do it, so can you
Check out the competition. Experts say not to worry about what anyone else at the gym is doing, but in reality, it's beneficial to get fired up while running beside that schmuck on the treadmill next to you. Don't let him outpace your lazy ass! Bump your speed up one notch higher. So what if you get tired a bit sooner? You're still challenging your muscles to the max and working outside your comfort zone -- which is the key to quick gains, whether you're looking to burn fat or build muscle.
Visualize the prize. Become what you envy. That's the way legendary lifter Lou Ferrigno got his start. His first bodybuilding hero? The same green-skinned monster that made him a household name. Lou recalls: "I loved the Hulk character ever since I was little, and I aspired to attain his proportions and strength. Years later, that image in my mind helped me get a screen test and the job in the very same day." Moral of the story: You have to see it to be it.
Sin No. 3: Sloth
Obstacle: The irresistible lure of the couch and remote
Motivation: Maximum downtime
Get it over with already. The harder you work out, the less time you have to devote to working out. The surgeon general recommends burning 150 calories a day to stay in good health. (More is better, of course, you slug.) But for those minimum 150 calories, all you need to do is either cycle four miles or jog 1 1/2 miles in 15 minutes or less. Whichever you choose, short bursts of exertion have major benefits. In addition to helping you stay thin, a study of 7,337 men published in the medical journal Circulation found that guys who describe their workout as at least "somewhat intense" are 31% less likely to develop problems like heart disease than guys who take it easier when they exercise.
Slurp away your fat. Are you too lazy to even chew the right foods? There are certain drinks that can run your metabolism efficiently on auto-pilot, regardless of what your body is doing. The best of the lot? Green tea. Each cup has high concentrations of a trio of metabolism-boosting compounds: ECGC, catechins, and caffeine, all of which help maximize fat burn.