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Health Salad: Better Fitness for Busy Lives

Hosted by Clare Oh
washingtonpost.com Health Producer

Thursday, August 31, 2 p.m. EDT
Clare Oh
Clare Oh

Your host Clare Oh is the Health producer of washingtonpost.com. Clare is in endless pursuit of ways to live healthier and improve her quality of life.

Everyone has an excuse for making unhealthy choices, and students are among those who say lack of time and money prevent them from eating healthy and staying in shape. Whether you are a busy student or in the "real world" doing the 9-to-whenever grind, learning how to be conscious of fitness will help you perform better day-to-day.

Joyce Vedral

Joyce Vedral, author of the New York Times bestseller "Bottoms Up!" joins us to talk about ways to motivate and stay in great shape, regardless of how busy we are. She emphasizes weight loss and fitness for beginners and busy schedules. She has written and developed videos specifically for students and people with very little time and money.

Joyce believes that, in just 15 minutes a day, people will start seeing results in better fitness, weight loss and improved confidence. She also has practiced what she preaches: Joyce lost 10 dress sizes due to her committment to fitness!

You may read the transcript for this discussion below.


Clare Oh: Welcome everyone to another exciting Health Salad. Exciting because today our guest is the dynamic and inspirational Joyce Vedral, fitness and weight loss guru. For everyone out there, including myself, who wants to lose weight but just can't seem to do it, Joyce will help us in our quest for better fitness. Welcome, Joyce!

DC: I'm submitting early in hopes that you'll get to my question. I'm in my mid 20's, and have always been overweight. For the past 6 weeks I've been scrupulous about my diet (2000 cals or less, lots of water, no binging). I keep the carbs extremely low because I have hypoglycemia (it keeps my energy level much more consistent), fill up with protein and veggies, not too much fat. I work out 5-6 days per week (generally 6), 3 days cardio, 3 days resistance training. I'm seeing some muscle develoment, but have not lost ONE pound!! You'd think that with such rigorous effort, I'd been peeling away the fat. I'm not - at all. I'm on synthroid (synthetic thyroid drug), but my blood levels are ok. How can I take off the weight (I still need to keep up energy, so please don't say add carbs - it really makes me just exhausted.)? I'm 5'9", admittedly big boned, and 170 lbs.

Thanks for your time.

Joyce Vedral: Hi:
Muscle weighs more than fat but takes up less space. The scale is not the issue. You should be concerned about what you see in the mirror. But your workout is an issue too. You must "pyramid" your weights and do a split routine--and work out a minimum of four to six days a week--as described in all of my videos and books.
Love you,
Joyce Vedral

Clare Oh: Appetite seems to be a major problem for many. No matter how healthy we want to be, there's that devilish voice in our heads saying, "Go ahead, eat more, have your 3rd plateful of fried and grease-laden food. Just this once!"

How do we shut up that voice?

Joyce Vedral: Hi:
The best way to shut up the voice is to make sure you're eating a balanced diet. You can't fool mother nature. High protein at the expense of carbs, in the long run causes binges. Also with that voice, you need to program your unconsious mind. I made a specail series of audio tapes: Joyce to the Rescue to do just that. You listen and the next time you're ready to eat your second serving your mind goes to work to stop you.

ADA,OK: What is the best way to jump start a diet?

Joyce Vedral: The best way to jump start a diet is to not think of it as a diet but to think of it as an athlete "in training." You start working out with weights the right way and you use a balanced eating plan. Mark a realistic target date on the calendar and tell your unconsious mind to get you to that goal on that date. I talk a lot about this in my audio tapes.

Washington, DC: I'm a beginner with a busy schedule and a tight budget. The recent debut of cellulite on my butt and thighs has convinced me that I need to get up off them--so I joined a gym. What exercises/ machines would you recommend for slimming, toning and de-celluliting these areas? Is cellulite reversable? Please say yes. Also, I tend to become a slacker after a while (3 mos.) of any of my get-in-shape/eat right attempts- any tips for breaking that pattern and staying enthusiastic and motivated to excercise and eat well for a lifetime?
P.S.- You look great, thanks for the inspiration! Would you mind telling your age?

Joyce Vedral: Hi:
I'm 57 and the photo on my website (which is down for about an hour more today--being fixed) was taken on January 6th with NO TOUCH UPS.
Yes you can get rid of cellulite --it is bunched up fat that shows through thin skinned people more than thick skinned people but when you put a muscle under the skin it smooths out the celluite area. Also you follow a balanced diet to lose your excess body fat.
If you want to work out in the gym, don't use only machines. You need dumbbells too-- do three sets per exercise and do any three to seven exercises per body part using the pyramid system. I explain this in all of my books and videos in great and simple detail. (Library, too, since you are on a budget.)

Burke, VA: Marty Gallagher advocates lifting as a way to build muscle mass. I understand why it's needed, but just don't see myself doing squats, etc. So I'm looking for an alternative. Do resistance-type exercises (using your own body weight) help achieve similar results? How about small free weights.

Joyce Vedral:
Absolutely small free weights are perfect! Get three sets of graduated dumbbells and do twelve reps for your first set, ten for your second and eight for your third--this is called the pyramid system and it is the time-tested way to get in shape the fastest way. Start light even as light as 1,2 and 3 pound dumbbells and as you get stronger, raise your weights, 2,3 and 5, 3,5 and 8, etc. I'm using 10, 15 and 20 and will stay there until the second coming of Christ! I'm happy with my size.
You can buy the dumbbells for about 50 cents a pound. Call around exercise equipment stores.

Georgia: You said to mark a realistic date - what is realistic? I have gained over 40 pounds in the past two and a half years - can I expect it will take that long to lose it? Most of the time, I get all pumped up about losing some weight, working out, eating healthier - just to get discouraged by the lack of success.

Clare Oh: That's a good question. By realistic, I think Joyce is saying that you have to be patient with yourself. Don't go the quick route by expecting to lose 10 punds in a week--this leads to frustration and most likely, more weight gain.

Joyce Vedral: Dear Georgia:
Forty pounds--even though I don't like to think in terms of pounds would be about six months--but you will drop sizes much faster and tone and reshape your entire body making it better than you were at your best! You should see me. I never had a pretty shape--even before I got fat. My photo on page 11 in my Bottoms Up book shows my sloping shoulder and wide hips. But working with weights resculps and reshapes and wow--call the police!

Clare Oh: Tell us more about shutting up that inner voice that tells us to keep eating fatty foods? What are some tips we can implement now?

Joyce Vedral:
You picture ahead of time yourself in the situation of being tempted to eat that second piece of cake. Then you picture yourself getting ready to take that first bite of the second piece and with that you imagine a feeling of nausea coming over you--and with it an anger and a feeling of power. You picture yourself putting the cake down and saying, "I don't want to do this." There is so much more to say about this but for now..

Burke, VA: Thanks for the answer on free weights. But can doing resistance-type exercises without weights build muscle? I know myself pretty well, and would really prefer to stay away from weights.

Joyce Vedral: Burke:
Push ups and sit-ups are great but you cannot reshape your body without free weights.

Clare Oh: Joyce, tell our readers about your history with the all-too-familiar battle of the bulge. For me, it's been the battle of the bulges!

Joyce Vedral:
Okay. I got married and gained ten pounds a year until I was ashamed of myself in front of the class (I was a teacher). I tried weight watchers and every diet under the sun but when I finally lost the weight I was a skinny fat. That's when I met bodybuilders in the gym (after wasting time there doing things that didn't work). I learned the secrets I talked about before, pyramiding, a split routine, etc. and in a matter of months my body began to be totally reshaped. I was asked so much about how I did it I was forced to start putting it into books and videos.

Burke, VA: What can I do to attain toned, slim legs? Jogging seems to make them only bulkier. Thanks!

Clare Oh: Argh, seems to me we have something in common. I seem to have gymnast legs I can't get rid of but I've learned to love them. Joyce, is it true that some people's legs are deisgned to bulk up in different ways?

Joyce Vedral: Burke:
You need to do squats, lunges and leg curls using graduated weights-- as long as you don't go over 20 pounds you can never get bulky! You do legs every other workout day
Clare, are you kidding? You should be so thrilled--sexy muscular legs. Men love that. But you are right. We all have a different genetic coding. Some people have to work ten times harder than you to get legs like yours.

Clare Oh: Can you explain what you mean by a split routine? and pyramids?

Joyce Vedral: Clare:
A split routine is: you do one half of the body on workout day one, and the other half on workout day two. a pyrmid is you use, say, three pound dumbbells for your first set of 12 repetitions, five pound dumbbells for your second set of ten repetitions, and eight pound dumbbells for you final set of eight repetitions. You do this for all exercises except abdominals and butt-- where you do 15 repetitions each and use no weights!

Washington, DC: I just graduated from college and am now working the 9-5 daily grind. Though I work out at the gym 3 times a week I was wondering what excersises i should be doing to assist those areas(butt, hips) that are most effected from sitting at a computer most of the day. Also, even though I eat a healthy diet and small portions is it possible to still gain weight from my change in lifestyle since I've shifted from being active during the day in college to sitting most of the day post-college? thanks for your advice!

Clare Oh: GREAT question!! And a common one!

Joyce Vedral: Dear Washington:
Each gym is different but pick out any four leg machines, any four hip-butt machines and in fact, please don't neglect the rest of your body. Pick four machines for each of your nine body parts: chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps, hip-butt, abs and calves and do the pyramid system. The machine will tell you how to do the workout.
You should also do dumbbell work.

Arlington, VA: How long do you spend working out every day? How often do you work out? I realize you have a fiscal responsibility to keep in shape--you've built your business around it! But how long and how often does one have to work out to reshape their body?

Joyce Vedral: Arlington,
I work out four to five days a week: Upper body day is 20 minutes for me because in real life I move even faster than my videos. Lower body is about 45 minuutes because do extra work and also move faster than my videos and I do the super max amount--also I do abs on lower body day.
But I do my super duper max plan changing my workout every week-- in essence using the principle of muscle confusion. But not to confuse you I do exactly what I tell my fans to do-- switching workouts each week for five to six weeks and then repeating the cycle.

Michigan: The fact that I must submit this early should sum up the fact that I am crunched for time! I work two jobs - at least 12 hour days, and my weekends are already booked through November. I am NOT a morning person, and can NOT force myself to get up to exercise every morning no matter how hard I try. Besides, I'm only getting about 6 to 6.5 hours of sleep a night anyway! I need a quick routine (or two that I can alternate) that I can do 15 minutes before bed. I want to target my lower abs as I am in a wedding soon and the dress just happens to be unflattering in that area. Can you help, or am I a lost cause?? I will try to get the book, as soon as I have time to make it to a store...maybe early December...

Clare Oh: Joyce, if you only had a half an hour a day to exercise, what would you do?

Joyce Vedral: Michigan:
I would super giant set everything and that is in fact what I do when I'm in a hurry. You do three exercises for each of half of the body one day--say four body parts: chest, shoulders, biceps and triceps. You do three exercises each but you do your first set of all three exercises with the 12 reps and your lightest weight before you move to the next set of 10 reps with the middle weight and then to the final set of 8 reps with the heaviest weight. If you were doing shoulders, you would be doing, for example, side laterals, front laterals and bent laterls that way and so on.

Washington, DC: My husband and I have a running battle over extended aerobic exercise versus muscle work. Obviously both are good, but quite honestly, I don't have the time or energy to put in 40 minutes on the treadmill or stationary bike every day like he does. My goals are really to lose inches, some weight (although I'd rather look good than care about the scale number), and be healthy. Can I do that just by following your weight program or do I need to do lots of aerobic exercise too?

Joyce Vedral: Washington,
If you do my Definiton video you are in the aerobic range because you get and keep your heart rate up -- there you are doing ten sets before you take a tiny rest-- a few seconds! You are supersetting with a true pyramid system there--going up and down the pyramid. Too long to explain here but take a look at the workout in the video or book (library) or later you can e mail me at jvbody@aol.com and I'll go into more detail.

Washington D.C.: I work out at home, and I have lots of dumbbells but no workout bench. Do I have to have one to work out effectively, or can I skip the exercises that require a bench? I do some of the exercies that require a bench using a chair or just flat on the floor, but the incline exercises are the very difficult ones to substitute for.

Joyce Vedral: Washington:
No need to skip. You can get a simple step that they use in step aerobics and lie on that ( I do this in my Bottoms up Videos) or just lie on the floor. You lose a little in range but no huge deal!

WDC: Joyce,

What kind of aerobic exercise(s) do you do as part of your routine?

Joyce Vedral: WD:
I just walk. Old Joyce is happy to walk and think and I do my praying when I walk!! I try to walk 50 minutes a day-- but once in a while I get on the exerse bike on the lowest tension or the stair stepper. My main thing is the weights.

Georgetown: What is an ideal breakfast, lunch, dinner menu for someone wanting to consume no more than 1500 calories/day? Also, how much sugar (sucrose, fructose) intake is too much for someone trying to shed pounds? I know that fruit is emphasized in a diet, but that doesn't that equate to a lot of sugar? thanks.

Joyce Vedral: Georgetown:
I can't give the entire menu here but say:
Breakfast - oatmeal, apple and coffee
Snack - yogurt
Lunch - tuna sandwich on whole wheat and huge salad with vinegar
Snack - fruit and high fiber cookies
Dinner - white meat chicken, pasta and two vegetables
Snack - 4 cups popcorn

Lusby, Maryland: I am 45 years old and have extremely saggy breasts. Will any of your upper torso exercises uplift them and make them attractive again?

Joyce Vedral: Lusby:
Yes. The incline, flat and decline dumbbell flys and presses will help to lift the breast somewhat and increase cleavage!

(Averille)Washington, DC: You mentioned "skinny fat" in a response to how you lost weight. What does that mean?


Clare Oh: Ooh! I know this one: skinny fat means that a person is lean in terms of overall body mass, but that there is little muscle content, only fat that covers the bones. Right Joyce?

Joyce Vedral: Aavervill,
A skinny fat is a person who is not overweight but when you touch their body it feels like "mush." Why? Little or no muscle tone.

Washington, DC: I have accumulated a pot belly that now threatens to become a kettle. Is there anything I can do to get rid of all this extra fat that is living between my navel and my hip bones (which I can't find anymore!)?

Clare Oh: Ah! I see we both have large food babies!

Joyce Vedral: Washington,
The pot is the last to go. It's a favorite storage space for excess body fat. As you do the workout and diet off your last five pounds the pot will go. Even your last two pound will be on your lower stomach. I carry about three myself but when I suck it in and turn to the side you can't see it. That is also the beauty of being in shape. You can be overweight and nobody would know it. I love to eat.

Clare Oh: Joyce, your before and after stories have been truly inspirational. What do you think is the single common trait that is vital to successful weight loss and fitness?

Joyce Vedral: Determination. How impotant is it to you to stop feeling drained of creative energy-- are you sick and tired of focusing on your body and diets? When you think of the freedom of getting in shape and out of the way--so you can devote your time and energy to your goals in life, you will be able to keep the discipline of your daily workout and eating plan.

Arlington, VA: Joyce-

I have about 5 lbs to lose- have been eating a well balanced diet and exercising and feeling good. I pulled a muscle in my leg while exercising yesterday. I am laying off the usual workouts until it heals- how can I get some cardio work in the meantime? I am not new to exercise- just over exerted myself. My thoughts are that I will continue my weight lifting routine for the arms and try to get to a pool and see how that goes. Any other suggestions? I've been doing so well that I don't want my weight loss efforts to be sidelined too long due to the healing leg.....

Joyce Vedral: Dear Arlington,
I've been there and you are right. The pool is your only option and try to eat less on these day.
Love Joyce

D.C.: Hi! Like you, I lost some weight (about 25 pounds) five years ago. I am 5'5" and currently weigh about 118. I run 5 to 6 times per week and watch my diet closely. My question is this: although I am happy overall with my weight, there are specific parts of my body where I still carry some excess fat (e.g. hips, back, and thighs). Do you have any suggestions on how I should target those areas? I have tried special exercises for toning, but they don't seem to get rid of the excess fat in those areas. Should I increase my overall aerobic activity or try more restrictive dieting? Thanks for the advice!

Joyce Vedral: Dear DC:
You have to bomb away at those problem areas with extra exercises and use muscle confusion by changing your routine each week. For example, say you do four exercises for chest, you would do ten for hip-butt thighs.

DC: I was so pleased to see you are a guest today because it gives me the opportunity to thank you. I bought your "Bottoms Up" book about 5 years ago and it helped me totally reshape my body. I went from a flabby size 8 to a muscle-packed size 4 just by following your workout plans and common-sense advice. Also, I recently got my 55 year-old mom to follow your 12-minute workout and she's lost 30 pounds and realized that she loves to lift weights. Your writing style and personal antecdotes are very motivating SO, a big thank you from a grateful fan!!!

Joyce Vedral: Wow. Thank you so much. I get e mails like this every day re my books and even more for my videos and I tell you it makes it all worthwhile. In fact that's why I spend hours every day answering e mail and giving free fitness advice. It is my calling and girlfriend, you made my day. Thank you so much.

Washington, DC: I am a very curvy (read breasts and butt) woman -- I was never told 170 lbs was overweight for me, and i am 5'9" as well... what is the ideal weight for a big boned and curvy woman that height?

Joyce Vedral: Dear Curvey:
You may have heavy bones. But in any case I could care less about what the scale says. If you look at my photo on my site--I'm not even five feet, you would probably guess my weight at 100 pounds. Guess what! I'm 117 in that photo.
Muscle weighs more than fat. So if you're in shape-- you won't care.

Bethesda, MD: I know drinking water is very important - does it matter what type of water? I drink a lot of carbonated water and plain hot water - do they offer the same benefits as drinking regular water? Thanks.

Joyce Vedral: Dear Bethesda:
Yes. You are giving your inner body a bubble bath with the carbinated water-- without the chemicals of course. Just as good! But if you count soup and soda and coffe--well, that's a bath too but a dirty one.

Billings, MT: I lost 50 lbs (the wrong way however I was very very overweight then) when I was 19 -- stopped eating and exercised all the time. I've kept off the weight until now. I'm in my early 30's, married, not as much free time and I know better than to lose the weight as I did before -- my body shape/size is comfortable at a size 12. I bike 13 miles almost every day (summer) and treadmill when winter hits, but I'm not seeing any results. I feel my metabolism has slowed down considerably -- what can I do to jumpstart this and take off the weight? Thanks.

Joyce Vedral: Billing:
Yes your metabolism did slow down because when you diet the wrong way you lose muscle and muscle is what kicks up your metabolism.
No problema. If you work out with weights the right way for 12 weeks you kick up your metabolism by 15%. Do any of my workouts or e mail me and I'll get into it in more detail.
Basically it's four exercises per body part three sets each using the pyramis system.

Fairfax, VA: My legs have always been a problem area for me. I'd like them to be toned yet slim, not bulky. What type of exercise can I do to achieve this?

Joyce Vedral: Dear Fairfax:
That bulky issue will not come up with my workouts. Do for example, squats, lunges and leg curls with 5, 8a and 10 pound dumbbells and keep raising your overall weights until you are up to 12, 15 and 20. You can add in a few more thigh exercises such as hack squats, front squats etc.

Somewhere, MD: How does one determine truly ideal weight? The amounts listed in the government weight tables and in the insurance charts are so high. I am at a "healthy" weight based on these charts; however, I would like to look slender, not just keep from having medical problems. They say that "frame size" and muscle mass make a difference, so I had my body fat tested, and was told that at 5'5 and a 1/2 inches, I should weigh 142 pounds! I weigh 148 right now (having dropped 75 pounds). But I always look the same to myself, and larger than most of the other women I know. 142 just seems like it couldn't possibly be attractive--what can I say? I may be influenced by "media images," but we live in a lookist culture, and unfortunately, everyone from men to potential employers will judge a young woman on how she looks first. It's impossible not to get hung up on numbers in the face of this, but it would really help to have some guidance. I am not anorexic and have no interest in looking like a scarecrow--just slender, the best I can look. What should someone in my position shoot for?

Joyce Vedral: Somewhere:
Ideal weight is a thing of the past now that the medical community is beginning to be educated. Muscle weighs more than fat but takes up less space. For example I was in the gym and a woman and I had just weighed ourselves. We weighted the same and are the same height. She looked like a butterbal and was a size 13 whereas I am a 5! Who cares about the scale. Bodybuilder men are another example. You can have a sexy bodybuilder who weighs 270 pound--same height as a fat man weighting the same amount!!

Gaithersburg, MD: I'm 19, 5'8, and about 160lbs. I'm interested in losing weight and getting in shape, but I'm in desperate need of some motivation!! After being at work 9-10 hrs 5 days a week, it's hard to get up the energy. I currently own a treadmill, and a slew of exercise videos. I want to try to start eating right and up-ing my energy. Can you give me some tips on exercise, and books to help the nutritional aspect? Also, I've heard something about a new exercise called pilates...what is this, and do you think it really works?

Joyce Vedral: Dear G:
Pilates is great for stretching but you won't reshape anything with that. I recommend my book Weight Training Made Easy and the video that goes with it for the nutritional plan and the workout. If you don't reshape your body with that workout in 12 weeks I'll eat the e mail you send me when you complain!!
I will put you up in my before and after gallery!

Southern Maryland: I've stopped focusing on size and weight-loss. I'm trying to love and accept my body the way it is.

So I'm no longer checking with the scales for signs of progress: I'm trying to focus on how I feel, do I have energy, can I climb stairs without being out of breath, am I eating when I'm hungry, rather than in response to external cues.

Question is, what other non-weight related measures do I have to indicate that I'm living a healthier life? Thanks!

Clare Oh: You should go for a medical check-up, at least once a year, especailly if you or your family has a medical history for certain diseases. Otherwise, maintain a healthy diet with mnay fruits and veggies. And best of luck! Sometime it never matters what weight you lose if you don't love your body!! Congrats!

Joyce Vedral: Am I happy with the way I look in the nude?
Do I rush to turn out the lights and pull up the blankets in a sexual situation?
Can I run for a train or bus without having a heart attack?
Does my life still revolve around food?

Clare Oh: Joyce, our time is almost up. Why don't you take this opportunity to tell our readers about your books and where they can find them! By the way, please check out Joyce's wonderful Web site: www.joycevedral.com. Please check it out.

Right now, the site may be having some technical diffciulties, but be persistent: it's chock full of good stuff!

Joyce Vedral: Thanks so much for having me. It was so much fun. And don't forget I also answer every single e mail myself if you e-mail me at jvbody@aol.com. Yeah. My luck. The site had probems today but the web man is fixing it as we speak so please-- I want you to be a part of my fitness family.
Love you all,
Joyce Vedral

Moncton, New Brunswick: Can you tone up with just cardio?

Joyce Vedral: Excellent question.
Well if you wore your heart and lungs on the outside of your body you would win a beauty prize with cardio. You can't reshape anything with cardio--you get a strong heart and luns which are essential for good health and you do burn off some overall body fat. But the magical three are:
Weight training, nutrition and cardio.

Arlington, Va.: You mentioned your web site was down today. But what is the address? Thanks.

Clare Oh: The adress again is: www.joycevedral.com

Joyce Vedral: Yes, and keep trying!

Clare Oh: That concludes Health Salad for today. Thanks to all our readers and the great questions. Thanks to Joyce who took time out of a hectic day to join us. Please join us next Thursday at 2 pm EDT when we discuss Seasonal Affective Disorder with expert Norman Rosenthal, MD. Until then, be well!

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