Not many would disagree that health, wellness, and physical prowess are high-dollar concerns nationwide, enough so that Americans are known to spend millions on getting fit. Recently, in an effort to improve health and lengthen life, many people have begun to focus on their overall fitness rather than the narrow goal of weight loss.

With this in mind, I recently decided to use myself as the subject of an experiment. More common in larger cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, programs exist where a person can pay an often egregious amount of money to change their bodies and, the thinking goes, their lives. And these programs promise this type of life change in as little as six weeks. But do the residents of Santa Barbara realize there is a local, nine-week program that promises similar results?

Kickboxers Ultimate Training (KUT) is a program designed by Melodee Meyer and Dave Wheaton, owners of Martial Arts Family Fitness at 122 East Gutierrez Street here in Santa Barbara. The program aims to “transform your life in nine weeks” and includes, per week: three days of cardio-kickboxing, one day of upper and one day of lower body resistance training, a combination day of cardio/upper/lower body training, and one day of rest, as well as nutrition plans and support. As a relatively healthy person, I wondered if the regimen would work for me. Before I knew it, challenge day number one had arrived.

The first day alone proved that I was considerably more out of shape than I thought (with a weight-loss goal of at least 10 pounds and as many inches as possible), but what was more alarming was my actual fitness test – I knew I could use some muscle tone here and there, but I had no idea how few push-ups and sit-ups I could do in a minute, or how long it took me to walk a mile. From reading this installment and others, you can track my progress, find pointers from Meyer herself, learn recipes, and challenge yourself into carving the fittest, healthiest you out of whatever you’re currently working with.

Week One:

The first day of Kickboxers Ultimate Training is relatively painless; a small group of people willing to change their bodies for under $400 (a bargain compared to similar programs internationally that charge upwards of $1,000) gather in a room while Melodee Meyer, the creator of KUT, gives the lowdown, including the message: Get a life. While this could seem to be particularly offensive, I urge anyone on the defensive to think again. Meyer, a certified spiritual psychologist, has been on the health and wellness scene for quite a while, and she’s got a point. In our first class she said, quite frankly, that those who receive undo pleasure from food “put too much pressure on food to make you happy.” And this, quite arguably, is the crux of emotional eating.

I should mention that Meyer does absolutely encourage participants to enjoy what they eat, but, as she says, “The trick is being mindful.” So, participants of KUT are given a workbook in which they answer several questions gauged to help them measure their own desires, goals, and abilities. But also, the workbook provides spaces on every day of the nine-week program for participants to create a daily menu (consisting of three meals and three snacks), an area for them to itemize what they ate for each of those six meals, spaces to calculate the amount of water they drank, the amount of exercise they engaged in (including, but not limited to, class participation), and an area to record any other “self care” information, including their overall feelings about the day, how it went, and where they think they might improve for the following day.

One day every week, participants are encouraged to take a “zero meal.” KUT challengers can plan to eat their favorite fattening foods for one meal a week, and truly enjoy them. At the end of the first week, I couldn’t wait to bake a batch of cookies for myself and friends, something I enjoy as a hobby. My problem however, is in restricting myself to just one! When Saturday afternoon arrived, it suddenly occurred to me that the mindfulness of my meal planning that week – carefully scrutinizing portion sizes and avoiding things I knew qualified as “zero meals” – proved how useful the practice of attentive eating actually had become in my routine. One week in, I could tell my psyche had already improved.

Week Two:

Water: it’s the elixir of life, and no scientist can disagree. Because our bodies are made of 60 to 70 percent water, we require certain amounts of this substance to sustain life. Some sources encourage people to divide their weight in pounds by two, and consume an equal amount of water in ounces. So a 140-pound adult would ideally consume 70 ounces of water every day. After my first week of KUT, it became clear just how essential water actually is.

Building muscle is a huge component in every overall weight loss plan, because an increase in lean body weight (muscle mass) burns calories at a higher resting rate. Rest assured that the human body is burning calories every hour of the day, but it will burn more if its muscle-to-fat ratio is higher. Building muscle will release an amount of ascorbic acid into the body. “The release of ascorbic acid will create soreness, so it is crucial to drink plenty of water to flush this out,” says Meyer. Commonly known as vitamin C, ascorbic acid is water soluble, making Meyer’s claim 100 percent true – the more water you drink, the less ascorbic acid will rest on your muscle mass, and the less opportunity it has to reabsorb and create soreness.

Water is also critical on a number of other levels. Not only does it keep skin hydrated and looking healthier, it also keeps H2O guzzlers fuller for longer, resulting in decreased appetite. In the KUT Student Handbook, Meyer wrote, ” … believe it or not, drinking sufficient quantities of water is the most important part of the KUT nutrition plan.” She lists a number of reasons why this is so.

At the end of week two, not only did I feel as though my energy level had increased, I also caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. It seemed as though after just two weeks of careful, mindful eating and increased physical exercise, I already looked firmer and more toned. At the end of week three I’ll do a weigh-in to gauge my progress, so stay tuned.


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