Summon every last bit of drive you have and follow Los Angeles trainer Ashley Borden's very doable plan to revamp your eating and lifestyle habits and kick-start your body into its best shape ever. The genius of Borden's approach? Its gradual buildup. In fact, at first glance, it almost seems too easy!
For each of the 10 days, Borden asks you to incorporate one new healthy habit and stick with it. That's it. One. "The idea is to make change simple," Borden explains. "I don't want anyone to get discouraged and give up."
The pace picks up as you start layering good habit upon good habit, until Day 10, when you're properly hydrating, eating right, working out and taking valuable stress-busting time for yourself. Best of all, your new habits will make you feel so great, you'll be hooked for life.
DRINK WATER, lots of it, to flush out post-holiday bloat and puffiness (often a result of overdoing the chips, nuts, and other high-sodium foods). Borden recommends drinking at least 11 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Water not only helps flush out excess sodium, but it's also critical to the proper functioning of every major system in your body, and it helps you feel full. Don't think you'll be able to drink that much water in one day? Buy yourself a big ol' plastic water bottle, fill it up, add a straw and keep it with you all day long. You'll be surprised at how much water you'll be guzzling by day's end.
EAT EVERY THREE HOURS, PLEASE! That's three meals and two healthy snacks in one day. Here's the trick: Each meal should contain a palm-sized serving of protein, two fist-sized servings of veggies (sans the heavy butter or toppings) and a fist-sized serving of healthy carbs like whole-wheat pasta, or a slice of just-out-of-the-oven whole-grain bread. Don't go over the size or frequency limit, and never let yourself get hungry. A great combo, says Borden: 4 scrambled egg whites plus 1 tomato, sliced, 1 piece of whole-wheat toast with 1 tablespoon lowfat cream cheese. For snacks, mix protein with fruit. Try 12 raw nuts and a fistful of grapes or 12 raw almonds and an apple sprinkled with cinnamon.
INCORPORATE SOME CARDIO. Today, start working out -- do anywhere from just 10 minutes to an hour (you can split up the hour into three 20-minute segments throughout the day if you need to for time and sanity). Aim for 60 minutes if possible, even if you go slow. Then, over the next seven days, do cardio daily -- no excuses. (Remember, you're trying to start a habit; seven days in a row is not something you need to do for a lifetime!) Use our fat-incinerating program on page 172.
ADD IN STRETCHING. Start by doing 3-5 minutes of very gentle stretching in the morning. "This is very important," stresses Borden, who adds that stretching opens the hip flexors and brings some flexibility to the spine, so you're not starting your day off tight. Finish the day with gentle stretches too, especially if you've been sitting deskside for hours. "You want to prepare your body to relax before you sleep," Borden explains. Most important, do a full stretching routine after your cardio workout (when muscles are warm), holding at the point of mild tension for 30 seconds without bouncing. (For stretches you can use throughout the program, log on to Shape.com/stretching.)
REVIEW YOUR PORTION SIZES. You've been eating well for five days now, but if you're like Shape staffers who tried this plan, you've probably started to eyeball the portion sizes and guesstimate just how much is the right amount. Go back to Day 2 and use this strict portion guideline for the rest of the program. If you've been hungry at any point in the plan thus far, examine your plate: You may be opting for fat-free dairy instead of lowfat options or white-flour carbs instead of heartier choices that keep you fuller longer, such as oatmeal and pumpernickel bread.
FOCUS ON STRENGTH TRAINING. While cardio is essential for losing fat, strength training will accelerate your efforts; strength training builds muscle, which burns more calories at rest than fat tissue. Begin with 1-2 sets of 8-12 reps of moderate weight twice a week on nonconsecutive days, and choose one exercise per body part: arms, abs, chest, back and legs. Already lifting at an advanced level? Use heavier weights or do more challenging moves.
GIVE YOURSELF A POSTURE CHECK. Remind yourself at least twice a day to stand and sit tall (which has the added benefit of being an instant appearance slimmer). Spend just a few minutes and look at yourself in a mirror. Draw your shoulders back, press down your shoulder blades, lift your chest, pull in your abs -- and try to maintain this good posture while you breathe normally.
MIX IT UP. Exchange your daily stretching for a yoga class (or invest in a yoga DVD; we like Gaiam A.M. and P.M. Yoga for Beginners, $20; gaiam.com), or book a salsa or other dance class for your cardio. Borden's philosophy: Exercise should be fun, not all work. If you decide to stick with your routine run or walk, at least vary your route or intensity.
TRY ONE NEW RECIPE, nothing elaborate, just something different. You have to learn to eat what you love, Borden says -- or you'll never continue to eat healthfully. Sometimes just finding a new way to cook the same old, same old is enough to keep you from boredom eating and bingeing.
TAKE 10 FOR YOURSELF. You must add something restful to your life, whether it's a bath, massage or just kicking up your feet on the couch, closing your eyes and listening to your favorite music on your iPod. As few as 10 minutes can refresh your mind. "Everyone wants to push their bodies to the limit," Borden says, "but no one wants to take care of themselves." Pampering is necessary: You can't get your best body ever if you don't take time out for regular tuneups. Now you should feel better -- and, most importantly, rejuvenated. If you fall off the wagon a few months from now, don't worry. As Borden says: "The 10-day anti-flab routine can be reapplied to your life anytime you need to set the foundation for good health and your best body."