GMA: Jim Karas' Fitness Plan

First Jim Karas told Diane Sawyer she could stand to lose a few pounds. Then he actually helped her lose more than 20!

In about three months, Sawyer shaped up while following Karas' weight and diet plan.

Sawyer has called Karas a "life coach," who helps people change their habits and their outlook on health and fitness.

Now Good Morning America's Antonio Mora is getting in on the fitness act. Mora is known for his sweet tooth around the set of GMA but Karas is going to try to whip him into shape too.

Karas says getting fit is just like flipping a light switch. He says you just have to make a real resolution to change your life. Karas believes that any person, even people over 50, can shed unwanted pounds.

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.

Karas says the secret to getting in shape lies in strength and resistance training, which doesn't require a lot of equipment.

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 bottom line, Karas says is that muscle burns calories; the more you have, the more you burn.

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. So if you work out for an hour, you should spend 15 minutes on cardio and the rest in the weight room, according to Karas. He recommends working with elastic ropes and free weights that can even be carried with them when they travel.

Mora and Karas focused in on three exercises that most people can start out with — the "back row," the hip extension and the "bicep curl."

Mighty Motivator

Jim says motivation is the key to sticking with exercise and healthy eating. People need to identify what it is that excites and motivates them.

Is it sight of yourself in the mirror when you step out of the shower? Or is it the article of clothing that no longer fits, or that was purchased small in the hopes that through weight loss it might fit? Karas suggests that you find your own motivator and look to it often so you'll stay on the right track.

People should also draw up a "business model" and crunch the numbers to lose weight, according to Karas. 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.

Plump with Pasta

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.

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. He says most people are able to change their bodies.

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

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. And the only way you'll start to build that muscle is by embracing strength and resistance training says Karas.