Fitness and weight loss have long been the focus of the work of Dr. Sanjoy Dutta, a Menlo Park resident and bariatric surgeon.
In his practice over the past 17 years, he has counseled thousands of patients about diet and exercise and, in the process, picked up some tips about what tends to work in the long term and what doesn't, he said in an interview.
"I do a lot of research in fitness and nutrition, and my focus is how to do that in a way that you can stick to lifelong," he said. "A lot of the diets and information out there are about how to lose weight very quickly, or get in shape very quickly," he said. He said he's also personally been interested in the subject, and collaborates with friends to figure out what routines to stay in shape work best for busy lifestyles.
The surgeon shares his recommendations in his newly published book, "Get Strong Lifelong: Three hours a week to gain muscle, lose fat and stay healthy for life."
Many traditional weight-loss programs are very intensive and demand so much of participants that the program can feel like a full-time job, he explained.
That's not what his book and guidance are about, though. Instead, he said, he's giving people information about how to become healthy and fit in a way that may take longer, but doesn't involve spending hours a day counting calories or being a gym rat. What's more realistic, he said, is to start with a simpler program most people can manage, and then modify it.
"It doesn't have to be a full-time job or an obsession — and it doesn't have to be exceedingly difficult, costly or restrictive if they exercise and eat in a smart way," he said.
When it comes to exercise, efficiency is useful for people with busy schedules, he added, and explained that his book "focuses on what exercises give you the most fitness in the shortest amount of time: resistance and aerobic exercise."
As far as dietary guidance goes, he explained, in looking at the bulk of the science on the subject, one general rule for better health is to keep sugar intake down and protein intake high.
Another emphasis of the book is to focus on little changes, and then measure for small improvements over a short period of time, he said. Many times, he said, people take on a lot of changes all at once, and when they can't stick to them they give up, creating what's considered a "yo-yo" phenomenon.
"The idea is not to be impatient, but do tiny changes, measure for small improvements and continue to adjust," he said. "You can do it for years and hopefully a lifetime."
The practices he describes are ones he's incorporated into his own life, he said. "I'm 53 right now and I feel like I'm in better shape than I was in my 30s."
He said he manages to maintain his fitness with two to three hours of resistance training and an hour of aerobic activity spread out throughout the week, bumping up training occasionally when he's preparing for an event like a sprint triathlon, he said. Generally, he also enjoys swimming, running and cycling in the area, he added.
Not every week is perfect, but when he returns to his routine, he finds it comes back pretty easily and he can catch up to where his previous fitness level was without too much effort, he said.
For many people, three to four hours a week is enough to stay in relatively good shape, he explained. "I would say that some people can get by with less, and some need more, but you don't need a lot more than that."
He noted that these recommendations are not tailored for someone who's trying to become a performance athlete or a bodybuilder, but for readers who've got relatively normal lives with busy schedules who still want to carve out some time to stay in great shape.
A key point of his book is that it's OK to be flexible and take short breaks.
"The key is not to take long breaks or give up," he said. "Always keep trying, even if you stop for a little while."
"Get Strong Lifelong" is available on Amazon here in paperback for $8.99.