In short there are two ways to burn fat:
- In the biohazard incinerator after the plastic surgeon has removed it from your body.
- Eat right and exercise.
Indeed, if you really need this done rapidly, you need to contact a good plastic surgeon. You'll get what you want the day of the surgery, and you'll be healed an walking about in a few weeks.
Now what follows is a fairly long post, but I suspect you'll find a lot of useful, and immediately actionable, info and suggestions in it, particularly regarding managing your diet and beginning a simple physical fitness regimin. And when compared with the time it took to get out of shape, reading this is but a drop in the bucket. Moreover, though it took years to get out of shape, these suggestions will help you get fit looking, without ruining your lifestyle and torturing your taste buds, in a year at the most, with noticeable results in just 3 months. And if you go full on with the intensity of physical activities (which is far beyond the simple suggestions I've provided here), you can look almost like a fitness magazine model in about 3 - 6 months. Bear in mind that that level of intensity and commitment is about what folks like Janet Jackson and actors do to go from the fat slobs you see in the gossip rags to the studs and goddesses you see in the movie or concert tour that happens just 6 months later. If you have a normal job/career, that level of commitment and intensity may not be possible if you need to also remain employed and attend to other things in your life.
The Catalyst to My Physical Transformation
OP, I know what you are feeling. Back in my early thirties, I had brains, a fine career which allowed me to amass more financial security than the typical person my age, and was, aside from my physical appearance and being relegated to dating women whom I found just slightly appealing, quite pleased with my life. But, like you, I was a bit pudgy (6 feet tall and a roll around the middle and flabby thighs and jigglely pecs), and it made me self-conscious in certain situations: pool parties, beaches, showering with my dates, in bed, shopping for clothes, etc. I hated it, particularly as I was otherwise considered handsome. But, most importantly to me, being out of shape was not attracting me to the type of women I find attractive. Not only because I looked pudgy and dumpy, but also because the women I like are very athletic in a "regular gal" sort of way. They are into camping and backpacking and rock climbing and white water rafting, and I like those things too but I'd gotten to the point were I couldn't really do those things myself, let alone be a suitable companion for someone else who does. Heck, I was wheezing, huffing and puffing when I tried to carry a 35 lb. pack up a two mile trail that was but a 15 degree incline. So not only was I physically sad looking, I wasn't fit enough to just do some simple things I genuinely enjoy. Knowing that I was more a couch potato than a bush whacker was not doing my ego any good either. But you know how it is, you're young with a hot career and you want to impress your bosses, most of whom look mostly like a land loving hippos, and you get complacent.
Call me shallow if you want, but the simple fact is that I, like most folks, need to find her appealing if the rest of what's needed in a successful relationship is going to develop, and I wanted to once again look hot to the women that looked hot to me. Knowing you look hot, and that they won't be disappointed when the clothes come off, goes a long way toward providing one with confidence and because of that confidence, being attractive to others. I suspect it's that confidence factor that allows non-hot folks to also be successful with dating. But one must do what one must do to get that confidence and for some, it's as easy as looking good. And that's a good thing because it's a hell of a lot easier for you if a hot body is all it'll take to gain that confidence than it is to gain it by becoming rich or being smart or passionate or, assuming you aren't inherently so, kind and/or compassionate, or acquire whatever other combination of traits might imbue one with confidence. So....
Getting fit, however, is really quite simple. Consume fewer calories than you burn and the fat will go away. For most people, burning more than they consume means they must exercise, although, if you have a very physically intense lifestyle/job, you may not need to exercise, just eating fewer calories will do. If you want to accelerate the fat burn even more, you will need to increase your muscle mass, for muscle/muscle building burns fat. (If you build up no other muscles in your body, build your leg muscles; they are the largest and thus burn the most fat.) Also, if you want to achieve a certain look, aside from plastic surgery, you need to sculpt your muscles. Both of those things means "eating right" and lifting weights, and doing enough aerobic activity so that you initially burn more than you consume, and later, so that you burn as much as you consume. What doesn't get burned gets stored, hence the belly roll, etc.
So what does this mean? Well, diet matters a lot! The good news is that it's something you can manage on your own. You don't need a doctor to tell you you should eat healthily. You don't need a trainer for that either. And for the most part, you now what foods are healthy and what foods aren't, but if you don't spend an hour with a nutritionist and you will.
Skip down to the part about a Working Out if you don't care about tips for food preparation and options for eating well while also eating healthy.
Many of the following paragraphs deal with food and ways to tweak your food preparation and ingredient choices to have extremely good tasting food that is also good for you. If you are anything like me, the simple fact is that if the food doesn't taste good, you won't eat it and if that's the case, there's no point in trying to eat healthy at all. Just eat what you want and enjoy it. Also, as goes good tasting food, salt is your best friend. A couple pinches of salt will properly season/flavor a whole pot of food if you cook the food with the salt, and you won't taste the salt at all. In contrast, a pinch of salt sprinkled on at the table will just make the food taste salty.
So what do you need to manage your diet to achieve your goals? First off, you need to accept the fact that by and large there are no bad foods, just bad decision making on your part about what you eat and how often you eat it. Once you accept that and decide to change they way you choose what you eat, you just need a grocery store, money to buy food, and a way to cook it if you don't care to live entirely on water, raw vegetables, sashimi and carpaccio, although that is an option. So how do you eat healthily?
- Cut out (or dramatically reduce) the junk in your diet. What's junk? Sodas, most commercial fruit juices and other non-alcoholic beverages, highly refined food such as white rices and white sugars (although basic sugar is a far better choice than anything with high fructose corn syrup in it), and simple carbohydrates/sugars such as white potatoes, white rice, white bread, most candies (there are a few chocolates that are not unhealthy at all), and typical cereals. Also, as you might imagine, low value foods comprised in large measure (30% or more of the total caloric value of one serving of that food) of fat-based calories , such as most potato chips and other non natural snack foods. (Nuts, though fatty, may be the exception to this rough guideline I've provided, but even so, when starting your transformation, keep the nuts to a minimum, but do eat nuts.)
Non-natural for this purpose means, if getting it from the plant it grew on to your mouth required more processing than putting it in a jar by itself, packing it and water in a container, or drying it out before putting it in a container, it's not natural. If it has something in it that requires a keen knowledge of chemistry to know what the hell it is, it's not natural. If an average ten year old can't spell all the ingredients in it, it's probably not natural.
In some cases, you may find dried fruit has some hard to spell stuff in it, but in the main, dried fruit is fine to eat so long as it doesn't have sweeteners added to it. It's fine with the sweeteners, but bear in mind that those sweeteners are empty calories that will do little if anything for the overall nourishment of your body. And when you are trying to lose the fat, all the calories you consume must be ones that will contribute to nourishing your body without, by virtue of their "emptiness" force you to consume more calories to achieve a sufficient level of nourishment.
Another benefit to eating clean, efficient calories is that your diet will contain enough nourishment in it that you'll be able to enjoy bits of the things that make eating more pleasurable. Such as drizzling a bit of olive oil over your pasta to add flavor and keep it from sticking. Or putting a pat of butter on your potato. Or, once in a while, just having a candy bar or small bag of potato chips. They key though is that when you have moment where you just want to eat something, the candy bar or bag of chips must not be what you reach for. That's when you need to have a piece of fresh fruit or PB&J sandwich at the ready.
- Replace the junk with quality solids and liquid foods. Water, fresh fruit juices or whole fruit, brown or raw sugars, complex carbohydrates -- sweet potatoes, oatmeal, whole grain breads, soybeans, chickpeas, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole grain cereals, dried fruits (can be used to flavor and sweeten other foods), and fresh fruit desserts. If you have access to whole wheat pasta or whole wheat flour, there's a whole world of awesome food available to you.
If you can make your own pasta, you can jazz it up with just about anything: spinach, a bit of finely diced/ground herbs, sweet potato, carrots, etc. I've been experimenting with pasta for years. I personally really love to make whole wheat pasta and flavor it with thyme or basil and use it with a healthy tomato sauce and either TVP (textured vegetable protein), a soy meat replacement, ground turkey, ostrich, alligator, or pork, or steamed fish.
- As for proteins, increase the proportion of fish, chicken and lean pork (i.e., pork tenderloin but know that this cut of meat requires some cooking skill for it not to dry out when you cook it in a healthy manner) in your diet. If you can get it, most game is good as well for it's nearly always less fatty than the corresponding cut of beef, although lean cuts of beef are also fine. Among game, ostrich and deer are my favorites. Ground ostrich tastes amazingly like beef and has less fat even than wild turkey. Deer tastes a lot like beef as well, but takes a good deal of skill and time to prepare well.
If you are comfortable with braising, though, you'll have at least one way to make a tasty entre from any meat. The main change you'll need to make is not pre-sauteing your vegetables in oil before beginning to braise them with the meat and use red or white wine along with vegetable stock or mushroom stock as your braising liquid, and braise at a slightly lower temperature for a longer time. You can make one large pot of braised meat on the weekend and then have it several times during the week, say over pasta, rice, on the side along with steamed veggies and a baked/microwaved potato, or sliced and placed on a sandwich with mustard (I highly recommend Silver Palate Sweet and Rough mustard. It's an indulgence that's well worth it for adding some serious flavor to many a potentially bland healthy food item, or if you don't otherwise like mustard.) The only thing that'll happen is that your braised food will taste better with each passing day.
- Cook using healthy cooking methods such as steaming, microwaving, poaching and braising/baking. FWIW, fish is one food that can be cooked to perfection in a microwave without any oil. Just season with lemon and a bit of salt and pepper (or lemon and your favorite aromatics, or some spice mix that appeals to you) and it'll be amazingly good once you learn how to use the power level settings on your m-wave to cook it at the right speed. Indeed, fish comprises 60% of my protein consumption, in large part because I like fish, but also because I can cook an entire meal on one plate, using two dishes, in a microwave. Below is an example of what I mean.
Put the plate in the m-wave on 50% power for 10 minutes. (the power level and time may vary for your m-wave. Trial and error will tell)
- Fish: place it on the plate and season as desired. Chicken can be done this way as well.
- Vegetable: I like green beans, broccoli, carrots, corn and peas, but any firm veggie will do. Place them on the plate in a little pile put a few drops of water over them or spritz them with a mister, and season with salt, pepper, citrus zest and/or whatever else you want. Place a small bowl over the pile of veggies.
- Starch: I tend to go with sweet potatoes. Place half a sweet potato on the plate, sliced side down.
Take the plate out, remove the small bowl, and sprinkle some shaved almonds or pine nuts on the veggies. Turn the potato over and place a pat of butter on it with some brown sugar, and eat dinner.
Occasionally, I vary this technique by placing the fish under a short, rectangular dish, spritzing water on it just before I season it, and steaming it as I do the veggies. Fresh, chopped herbs, make great flavoring elements for this type of cooking. My favorites are thyme, tarragon and rosemary, and you can use them on any of the things on the plate.
Another benefit I noticed many years ago when I first started cooking this way: my utility bills went down. I'm running the dishwasher only once a week, if at all. (Sometimes I'll just use those sturdy, paper plates, particularly if it's just me or me and my kids. If my ex dines with us, I'll drag out some proper plates because I don't want to hear her mouth.
) I'm not heating up the house with the heat of a stove/oven in the summer, so the a/c bills are lower, etc. Also, the amount of time I have for other things increased noticeably -- 30 - 90 minutes less food prep time and 30 minutes less clean up time.
(Note: Be careful what you do with the extra time. How do you think I managed to have kids? I love my kids, but I'd have been wiser to have used the time to be more circumspect about the woman I was seeing at the time, although we have have become friends now that she has a new man to nag, all the while spending his cash.
As suggested above, hot and sexy are important, but they're not enough by themselves. On the other hand, she was good for something; I got very good looking kids!
Anyway, I digress...back to the point...)
As food goes, keep in mind that once you reach your desired goals, you only need to consume as many calories as you burn, rather than consuming fewer than you burn. The great thing about this subtle change is that it means the things you cut out can be, in moderation, returned to your diet.
For example, on some days, I burn between 3000 and 4000 calories and on others I burn around 2000. So, I will eat more, and more indulgently, on the days I'm burning more calories. Whereas on low activity days, I stick to the healthy plan. As a practical matter, this works out, more or less, to my eating one lunch and one dinner at a fine dining restaurant and having whatever the hell I want. What you don't want to do, however, is carry this concept to the extreme and stave yourself all day so you can eat that chocolate glazed frois gras
with an Amaretto cherry sauce, prime rib with creamed broccoli, truffle infused lobster macaroni and cheese, a fennel, orange, apple and bacon salad with Gorgonzola and balsamic vinaigrette, and double chocolate cake with a white wine peanut sauce and vanilla ice cream for dinner and dessert. On the other hand, if during the week, you ate a couple hundred calories less than you burnt each day, at the end of the week, that spectacular meal is yours with no worries at all about your waistline, your wallet's another story. Your body is burning up every bit of nourishment that comes its way, so you can be sure that it'll just burn those calories off right along with everything else.
(Suggestion: The elaborate menu mentioned above is an amazing thing with your significant other when you have it at home and the rule for the night is: No utensils allowed and you can eat only things the other person feeds to you or that you can retrieve from off their person using only your mouth. Just start with the prime rib; or risk actually eating it for that dinner. Don't worry about the calories, you'll burn them off before the night is through.
Eating Right On the Road and at Business Lunches, Dinners and Events
If your lifestyle includes a lot of travel and/or business meals, keep in mind that in nearly any restaurant, even if it's a short order grill/diner sort of place, you can certainly have them steam, poach, broil or grill any ingredient you can find on the menu that day. They'll even microwave it if you ask them to, but you may have to tell them how to do it; it's amazing how many chefs/cooks have no idea how to prepare tasty foods with a microwave, such is their snobbery toward that device. I mention the microwave again because quite often, it's the only cooking device to which a traveler has access. So learn how to cook a few things you like using it for no matter where you are, you can find a grocery store, salt, pepper and something that'll serve as a plate, even if it's just the tray the food is on from the grocer. The simplest and easiest thing, using only a microwave, to cook and have seasoned to perfection, bar none, is seafood, in general, and fish in particular. The reason for this that seafood doesn't need marinading, and browning as do many meat and poultry dishes do. It just needs heat and whatever ingredients you care to flavor/season it with. Just think about many of the typical seafood dishes you might like:
- steamed shrimp
- steamed clams
- baked fish
- poached fish
- steamed crab
- steamed lobster
- stuffed flounder (buy canned crab meat and season it and put it on top of your piece of fish)
Each of these items requires two things to cook successfully: heat and water. In every one of these examples, the water you need is in the food itself and the microwave provides heat. You just have to learn how to use the power level control so you don't cook the food too rapidly and dry it out or burn it, and how to be creative with your seasonings and flavorings.
So the key is this: anything that you would have boiled, steamed or baked and just added favoring ingredients to it will cook up just fine in a a microwave. If it needed browning or caramelizing, don't try doing it in a microwave.
One thing that'll help you if you travel is finding places that have good options. Chipotle is my favorite. I love the burrito bowl with black beans, no rice, double chicken, and lots of the tomato salsa and lots of the corn salsa, period. I head over to their "fixin's bar" and squirt some fresh lemon juice on it and it's awesome! I'll put some hot sauce in one of those little take out cup things they have, and I also snag a couple wedges of lemon and wrap them in a wet towel and stick them in the fridge in my hotel room (or not, they won't go bad between tonight and tomorrow evening).
Obviously, you want options for flavoring foods you cook yourself in the microwave. Well, for starters, those lemon wedges and hot sauce I got at Chipotle will work. Who cannot come by some mustard, which has zero calories in it? Do you ever get upgraded on your flight? You don't have to drink that small bottle of wine on the plane, and it'll be fantastic for flavoring something you cook in the microwave, and given the tiny amount you'd use when microwave cooking with white wine (far less than if you use white wine in a saute on top of the stove), you'll still have plenty left to have a glass of wine with whatever you cook. Of course you could also go to the store and buy one of those tiny bottles of white wine, which if you don't get upgraded is a lot cheaper than buying it on the plane.
Where can you get veggies in quantities suitable for just one person? The salad fixings buffet in the super market. Just note that if you are going to try using sliced/diced onion, you'll want to cook it in a dish with salt and pepper and maybe your white wine or Grand Marnier or Amaretto from the plane before you put it on top of or mix it in with your fish or crab meat. (Both those liquors are great for flavoring seafood as well as vegetables and sweet potatoes. Just be stingy with the amount you use to flavor things until you find the balance that suits you.) In general, however, I don't bother with onions and garlic too much when microwave cooking because they have such intense flavors that don't really take on the subtlety or depth one gets from sauteing them in oil or butter, and thus they can be challenging to incorporate into a microwaved meal. (If you like green beans or peas with steamed pearl onions, that will work just fine in a microwave.) I stick with things that buy themselves, but for salt, pepper, spices and lemon (or other citrus) slices, will be just fine.
I can now cook a meal. I'll use salt, pepper and either or both of the lemon and hot sauce to season the microwave meal I cook for myself the following night. Should I just want something sweet to drink, I'll grab a few packets of sugar and make a glass of lemonade using the lemons.
(I've yet to figure out why restaurants charge you for lemonade, but they don't charge for ice, water, lemon wedges, packets of sugar and the use of a spoon. Even if they think the labor cost for the one minute it takes to make one glass of lemonade is why they charge for it, I have no issue with them instead just telling me they won't make it but they'll give me the ingredients at the table. After all, the waiter's effort is the same whether s/he brings me lemon wedges or lemonade.)
Breakfast: well, oatmeal with fresh or dried fruit and brown sugar will do just fine. Cook it in the microwave if your hotel doesn't provide it with their breakfast options. The bulk food section of most super markets will have a variety of oat meals, dried fruits and brown sugar or you can bring any or all of them with you on a trips in sealed baggies. Blessedly, nobody has tried to blow up or hijack a plane using any of these items, so you won't have to check the bag they are in.
Lunch and other meals: Same concepts as described above, but incorporate fresh fruits, nuts and raw veggies, PB&J, etc. as desired for snacking. It's been said that having a big lunch and a small dinner is more effective if you are trying to lose fat. I really don't have any evidence to say that it made any difference for me. I am a 6 to 8 small meals a day guy, so I'm basically grazing all day long and have small "bumps up" in the portion size called lunch and dinner. In the main, however, I'm eating stuff from the moment I wake -- usually a banana or plum -- until about an hour or 90 minutes before I go to sleep.
So that should get you to the point where you can craft your own creative approaches to eating healthy meals and having some control over what you eat regardless of the situation.
As far as exercising goes, there are limitless options. First off, however, be sure that when you are first starting out any exercise routine, you have a place to do it where other people are around. If you should physically hurt yourself, faint, have a heart attack or something, you don't want to be in your luxury home gym all alone and there be nobody to call 911 if you can't deal with the issue yourself. Also, for any weight lifting, you should have a spotter. Your spotter is there for two reasons:
- To help you get the maximum amount of ability out of your muscles. In many cases, the weights come in increments that aren't necessarily the same increments at which your muscle strength has increased. So when you move from one weight to the next, say from 30 to 35 points, it may be that your muscles are only ready to do 33 pounds. Your spotter will provide that additional 2 pounds of push for you until your muscles can do 35 on their own. Or it may be you can do 8 reps at 30 pounds but only 5 at 35 pounds. Your spotter will help you with that 6th rep until you can do it on your own.
- To help reduce the risk of injury. I recall one day, my trainer had me doing decline dumbbell presses. For my first set, I was doing 75 pounds with each arm and I'd already done 6 unassisted reps at 80 pounds the previous week, albeit that was the first time I'd done so. Anyway, out of nowhere, on the third rep at 75, my right arm simply gave way. No warning, no apparent weakness or struggling prior to that. It just plain gave way. Had my trainer not been properly spotting me, that weight could well have come down right on my head. Fortunately, all that happened was he caught my arm and the weight and I suffered a bit of pain slightly less than a sprained wrist. To this day, neither I, my doctor nor trainer know why that happened, and nothing similar has happened since. I share that anecdote highlight not only the importance of having a spotter, but also that you make sure that whomever you have be your spotter understands and takes seriously that role.
You'll want to work with a professional to craft a regimen that's suitable for you and to get you started on your fitness routines. (I tried initially to use the guidance found in the fitness magazines, and while that is useful for me now, the vast majority of the info you find in the magazines is geared toward folks who already have developed some of the basic skills, habits and techniques for safe, healthy lifting regimes.) Also, among the things you'll get from a trainer, besides having a capable spotter, are guidance about form, creating "muscle memory," and how not to hurt yourself when you are working out. A good trainer will also structure your program to maximize the results you obtain from the effort you invest by helping you with meal schedules and portioning, breathing techniques, varying intensity, the nature and quantity of resistance used, the duration of your resistance exercises, incorporating plyometrics into your routine, using variety to sculpt your parts to achieve the look you want and not doing things that'll detract from your objectives.
About that last point...consider the abdominal muscles of a gymnast and a champion weightlifter. Do you want a washboard belly that is narrower than your chest, or do you want huge, ultra strong abdominal muscles that'll aid you in lifting massive amounts of weight off the floor? I can't begin to tell you how many dudes I know who've done it on their own but still look like they have a beer gut even though their abs are solid muscle. Maybe that's what they want...but I know I wouldn't have known how to structure my own ab routines so that I get a washboard stomach rather than a muscled beer gut look.
Similarly, I have seen many a person injure themselves because they didn't do enough core strength building. And I've seen folks not get the gains they want because they don't understand the different training needs of fast twitch and slow twitch muscles. Similarly, novices don't often understand how to develop all the little balancing muscles that support the main muscle masses. In short, just as you wouldn't build a house without seeking out someone who knows how to do so. Why would you build your body and not do the same?
Physical Exercises You Can Do Now and That Are Enough to Get the Job Done
In my experience, exercising in the early morning seems to yield the best results. It gets the metabolism going early in the day and that burn tends to keep going through a good portion of the day. If you want to start doing something aerobic immediately, pick up a rope (or pretend to) and start jumping it, or do jumping jacks. Both are more aerobically intensive than running and neither places the stress on your knees, shins and heels that running does.
As goes immediately beginning some sort of resistance training, all those calisthenics you did in grade school are a fine place to start and they will take you quite along way, unless you've already been doing them regularly. If you have been doing them regularly, do more of them and focus more on diet. Some of the fitness regimes you'll see advertized on TV will work as well. The one they call the insane thing or whatever will work, but know that it's a no compromises program and that's the only way it'll work. You must cannot cut corners with your diet, or your exercise. That can be difficult to do, as well as not that much fun, but it will yield the results if you follow the whole plan to the letter. But if you haven't been doing anything, and you don't want to spend any money right away, try these exercises seven days a week:
- Abs: Sit ups, crunches and leg raises (lay out straight and flat on the floor, lift your feet an inch off the floor, slowly bend your knees and pull your legs toward your head. Don't lift your butt and lower back off the floor. Then return your legs to the straight, extended position, but do not let your feet touch the floor. Vary your crunches and sit ups by doing them to the side as well as forward. Work your way to a compound rep: up to the left , up to the right and up to the middle comprising one repetition in your set of however many you are doing.
- Lower Back: Reverse crunches - lay belly down on the dining table or any other elevated, firm and stable surface that's taller than the distance from your head to your waist. Have someone hold your legs/butt down and in place while you bend down from your waist to the floor and then use your back and abs to raise yourself parallel t the floor),
- Chest, with a bit of arm and shoulder: Push ups - be sure to squeeze your chest muscles when you do them. Vary your hand placement between wider and closer hand placement. Eventually, do them with your feet on a chair, or by pressing up so you can clap at the top of each press (make sure to come to a full stop at the bottom of each press so that you remove the affect of momentum and compromises the gain you'll get), or by elevating your hands and your feet on chairs, or just elevating your hands two or three inches above the floor by using something solid like bricks.
- Shoulders and biceps: Pull ups - vary your grip between wide and close in stances
- Legs: Walking lunges, standing calf raises and plyo-hops, which are just you squatting down to the floor hopping forward and returning down to the squatted position, coming to a complete stop between each hop, again to remove the affect of momentum.
Start by doing as many as you can. every day, of all these resistance exercises, stopping at 3 sets of 8-10 reps for each. Note that this is just an arbitrary target I chose for this discussion. Your target should be based on what you can initially do and then you'll incrementally increase the target over time. As you achieve each target quantity of sets and reps, increase the reps and sets of them. For example, my 94 year old dad does 120 each of crunches/sit-ups and push ups every day, just one set, and one hand stance on any given day. Every other day, I do 200 crunches, but in multiple sets, varying my leg placement -- some with my hands on bricks or boards or chair seats, or something, some with my legs supported on the seat of a chair, some with my legs unsupported, some while I hold something -- a ball, a pillow case, a sofa cushion, whatever catches my fancy that day -- between my ankles. Just do the exercises this way until you get yourself actually working out with weights. If something you are doing hurts, stop doing it.
When you get to the point where each day the total quantity of reps you can do (without resting for more than 30 - 45 seconds between sets) of all the exercises is 100 reps more than the quantity at which you started, and you have been eating a proper diet and you've been doing your 20-30 minutes of aerobics seven days a week, you may not have a full on 6-pack but that roll will be gone and you will be looking fit, more fit than 80% of the population in fact. You won't look muscled and ripped, you'll look in-shape, and you won't have any noticeable fat on you either. Just bear in mind that once you get to about 100 or so of each of these exercises, doing more will build endurance, and contribute to your fat burn, but they won't do much more to build new muscle. You'll need to add weight at that point: carrying bricks or logs or bags of sugar, having your significant other sit on your back while you push up, or having them press against you while you sit up, or get to a gym and use the more conventional approaches to resistance training.
Finding a Good Trainer
As far as professionals go, start with your doctor to find out what health/psychological limitations you may have. Then find an excellent
personal trainer, and be sure to share with them candidly what you want to achieve (reinforce what you mean by showing them pictures of people who have already achieved the look you desire, if any part of your goals includes attaining a certain look) and what limits your doctor may have mentioned. When I first met with my trainer, I told him that I wanted to look good naked. I didn't care one bit if I could run five miles or five feet, and that I only occasionally had a need to pick up anything heavier than a carry on suitcase. I also told him that I would not blindly do whatever he wanted and that if I just didn't like doing something he wanted me to do, I wouldn't do it and he'd need to come up with Plan B. Finally, I told him I wanted him to maintain and provide to me on a monthly basis documentation of the exercises I did and the measurable gains achieved, be it the size of body parts or the increases in weight lifted or the duration of time spent at various aerobic intensities. To this day, I use that documentation as a template to structure my own routines and continue the measurement and analysis of my progress.
I asked for all this stuff because for the amount I was paying, I wanted more than him just standing there occasionally spotting me and always saying, "Push, push, breathe, straighten your back, etc." Also, I didn't want to forever be dependent on him; I needed to learn how to do it for myself. When I first started with my trainer, I worked with him five days a week, I see the trainer now only once a month. Also, when I see him now, he reviews my work over the past month, conducts an assessment of my physique and fitness level, and provides me with the plan for the next months workouts and aerobics. If he's suggesting something I've not done before, we'll go to the exercise room and he'll show me what it is he wants me to do. It's also worth noting that he's modified my routines as I've aged, taking into consideration the changes in my body that are simply the result of being older. Anyway, if you are going to establish a relationship with a trainer, these sorts of things are what you should expect from an excellent one. There are a lot of folks out there that label themselves as personal trainers, but they aren't really all that good. Most of the best ones have advanced degrees and a professional track record of demonstrable successes and highly
Ideally, in addition to crafting a physical fitness program tailored specifically for you, your trainer will teach you how to keep track of your daily caloric intake and nutritional needs (i.e., a suitable balance of fat, protein and carbs). As goes counting calories, be aware that you won't be trying or needing to count to the precise calorie digit, but rather to an order of magnitude. That is, you'll learn to have a sense of whether you are consuming 2000 calories or 2500 calories or 3000 calories and whether you are burning them on approximately the same order of magnitude. Absolute precision isn't necessary, nor is it worth what it would cost (in your time, effort and professional fees to trained professionals) to achieve precise measurement. That said, don't take learning to have this sense of caloric intake and use lightly. Having this knowledge is what'll allow you to return to eating essentially whatever you want. Remember above; I mentioned that once you have achieved your goals you can, in moderation, resume eating the stuff you love. Knowing the rough caloric value of your foods, and the caloric use by the activities you perform during the day, is what'll allow you to determine what "moderation" means for you.
The one exercise for which you don't need a trainer is aerobic exercise, but this is one area where your doctor's input is important. Don't undertake any level of aerobic intensity without knowing what's safe given the current condition of your heart, arteries, and lungs. Just be sure to do 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise at the greatest level you can endure for that period of time and you'll be fine. The only aerobics my trainer ever supervised was the three minutes of warm-up before we actually began the resistance exercises. And he'd let me know what the next day's lifting routines would entail so that when I did my aerobercize prior to the lifting, I didn't do something that would compromise my ability to fully use/exhaust those muscles when I did that day's resistance training.
Remember, you aren't training for a marathon or pentathlon, or some such endeavor; you are trying to burn calories and raise your metabolism so that you can look good. Sure, your heart and lung's capabilities will improve, indeed they'll achieve a level of ability that will by any measure be quite good for a typical, non-athlete. If you do have some athletically driven objective, then you'll need some precise guidance on how to achieve the requisite cardiopulmonary capacity to achieve that objective, and my suggestion likely won't be sufficient for you.
Finally, regarding trainers, there are great trainers out there for specific things, but possibly not the things you need. When I worked in L.A. for a bit, I had one who was great for a football player, but dreadful for a regular individual with a busy professional and social life; the guy just couldn't get it in his head that I didn't need to achieve my goals overnight and that sports and fitness weren't the most important things in my life. After two weeks with him, I had to find someone else; he just would not design a program that was both interesting, varied, and appropriate to my personality and lifestyle, despite the fact that I had made it quite clear that I just wanted to look good naked.
So I hope this tome help you or other readers in some way and best of luck to you.