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Steady effort, not 'boot camps' key to weight loss

So you want to fit into that bathing suit by the time you head off to the beach this summer?

Better get cracking. Time's a wasting. Evenings are already feeling cool at six or seven degrees Celsius and the UV index has pushed wind chill readings well into the recesses of our minds.

We're a week away from the Victoria Day long weekend and just under eight weeks from Canada Day. If you need to drop those 10 pounds you added over the winter, that safe pound-a-week weight loss window is rapidly shutting.

Maybe you're considering one of those fitness boot camps that are so loudly advertised on the radio to jump-start your program.

There's a bunch of them offered across the country. Many appear to relish the military analogy — taking a raw recruit and turning them into a lean, mean fitness machine. A no nonsense, no prisoners taken, get-fit-quick plan to whip you into shape.

Unfortunately, that's not how weight loss and fitness work. If you want to be fit, you have to find activities that you really want to do. And if you want to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you consume. Not just for a week at a boot camp, but in a way that you can live with for the rest of your life.

Losing a pound a week sounds simple, but it takes a lot of effort. You need to take in 500 fewer calories than your body burns every day. That's the equivalent of a breakfast sandwich with sausage and cheese at Tim Hortons or a Quarter Pounder with cheese at McDonald's.

An older, active guy like me would have to reduce his intake from just under 3,000 calories a day to just under 2,500 a day — according to this calculator. Cutting back like that would lead to a 10-pound loss by July 16 — if that guy started today.

Of course you could accelerate the process by ramping up your exercise regime. But by how much? Your body needs fuel to work out. The more you exercise, the more you are liable to want to eat. It's a lesson even marathon runners learn. You can run 80 kilometres a week and still either maintain your weight or add to it.

Running that much will burn an extra 700 calories a day, on average. Reward yourself with a milkshake and you're putting calories back in the bank.

Still, you don't have to throw up your hands and forget about fitting into that new bathing suit. Studies suggest that if you control your portions, you have a better chance of losing weight and keeping it off. And talking to a professional seems to help, too. Small changes can achieve big results.

But start with giving the boot to boot camps.

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