He's not only a successful personal trainer, Jim Karas is brave: He told Diane Sawyer she could stand to lose a few pounds.
The frank appraisal last winter surprised Sawyer.
"When he came into the studio, he basically said, `You don't want to look like that, do you?'" she laughed. "Nobody exactly talks to me that way around here."
Karas — the man who coached participants in Good Morning America's "Lock the Door, Lose the Weight" series last year — estimated that Sawyer was about 20 pounds overweight.
Sawyer admits she was about 10 pounds heavier when she first started anchoring GMA in January 1999. Unable to stick to a diet, she gained 15 pounds in the two years that followed and was beginning to get worried about her health before Karas made his remarks.
Trainer and 'Life Coach'
In the past three months, Sawyer lost more than 20 pounds following Karas's weight and diet plan. She calls him not just a physical trainer, but a "life coach," who helps people change the story they tell about their lives.
In his new book, Karas debunks many common myths about weight loss and fitness that he believes keeps people from getting themselves healthy and trim.
Ultimately, he says, you've got to "flip a switch" and resolve once and for all to change your life.
Karas — famous for charging his clients $10,000 to move in with them for a week and change their lives — owns Solo Sessions, a top weight-loss management firm in Chicago.
A 'Business Model' for Weight Loss
He says that people should draw up a "business model" and crunch the numbers to lose weight.
First off, they need to understand their own metabolism and determine how many calories their body really needs to be healthy. People who want to lose weight must either consume fewer calories or increase their metabolic rate through exercise to lose weight.
To become more calorie-conscious, Karas recommends learning to visualize the proper body proportions and recognize the importance of not overeating.
Most Americans eat far too much, he says. An entire pound of pasta, for instance, is about 1,600 calories; but an appropriate serving size is 200 calories — one-eighth of that.
A one-cup serving of vegetables or fruit is about the size of a baseball. A recommended 3-ounce serving of meat, fish or poultry is the size of a deck of cards. Yet many Americans have become accustomed to eating much larger portions.
The bottom line, says Karas: Buy a food scale and a measuring cup and use them if you really want to regain control of your daily calorie intake.
Slow Metabolism? Hah!
Some people who have tried several kinds of diets and still fail to lose weight wind up blaming their genes, slow metabolism, or "big bones." This is nonsense, says Karas.
Few people have radically slow metabolisms, a rare medical condition. While everyone's metabolism varies, the difference is largely a factor of how much lean-muscle mass we carry.
Building muscle increases metabolism and you are never too old to do it, Karas says. Someone who adds five pounds of muscle can burn an additional 250 calories a day.
If they keep that muscle on for one year, they will burn a total of 91,250 extra calories. Divided that number by 3,500 calories — which equals a pound of fat — they could lose more than 26 pounds in a year.
Cardio for the Heart, Weights for the Waist
The cardiovascular exercise that many people do is not helpful in losing weight, Karas says. It is great for your heart, but doesn't increase your metabolism and so it won't help you shed pounds.
The evidence is everywhere, he says: Look around your gym and notice the number of overweight people on the treadmills; then compare them with the physiques of people in the weight room. In 1987, there were 4.4 million treadmill users in the United States, and 37.1 million by 1998, Karas notes. Meanwhile, Americans have continued to get fatter.
Karas recommends his clients devote 25 percent of their exercise to cardiovascular work and 75 percent to strength and resistance training. He recommends working with elastic ropes and free weights that can even be carried with them when they travel.
The bottom line, Karas says is that muscle burns calories; the more you have, the more you burn.