Newly crowned Miss America Nina Davuluri's weight-loss journey started with a coupon-spurred visit to trainer Tia Falcone's gym before competing in the Miss Rochester pageant. Less than two years later, the beauty queen has lost over 50 pounds and is sporting an incredibly toned physique.
Nina has enthusiastically spoken about how Tia transformed her body, so we wanted to get some of the beauty queen's weight-loss secrets straight from the source. We spoke to Tia, who owns Tia Falcone Fitness in upstate New York, to learn some of her top tips that helped Miss America strut her stuff (in a bikini, no less!) on the stage. Prepare to be inspired to rock your own body confidence with Tia's weight-loss tips.
- Pick up weights: Tia's biggest secret to weight loss? Build more muscle by training with weights, which Tia says is "what’s going to get you the most amount of muscle the quickest." She says, "When you’re doing weight training it’s not so much about burning calories, it’s about gaining as much muscle as possible. All women need to gain as much muscle as humanly possible; that’s what’s going to make you smaller and it raises your base metabolism permanently." While cardio is great for burning calories, if you want to sculpt your body, it's time to pick up weights. "You’re not going to change the shape of your body [with cardio], you’re just going to be exactly like you are but you’ll be a smaller version," Tia explains. "All your flaws will be the same, everything will just be smaller."
- Aim for four strength-training sessions a week: Tia recommends four weight-training routines a week: two that focus on your upper body, two that focus on your lower body, as well as core exercises. Each upper- and lower-body session should be about an hour, with a few minutes of core added to some or all of your workouts to make up an hour of core workouts every week (for example, 15 minutes of core exercises with each upper- or lower-body workout).
- Eat six equal meals a day: Tia says she doesn't like to differentiate between meals and snacks, because of the differences in how we think about each. "What happens is [when] people think of breakfast, lunch, dinner, that connotes a big meal, which we don’t ever need, and then snack means popcorn or pretzels," Tia explains. "There is no room for that kind of a thing. Each meal should be roughly the same size and roughly the same amount of calories, so you are [only] fueling your body with what it needs, otherwise you’re just going to store it." A typical meal plan for Nina included egg whites with broccoli and a piece of whole-grain toast, low-fat cottage cheese with a salad topped with two tablespoons of light raspberry dressing, plain Greek yogurt with raspberries, a protein drink and piece of fruit, and salmon with a vegetable or a sweet potato. You should eat every two and a half hours, Tia advises.
- Do cardio, but don't go overboard: At the beginning of Nina's training program, Tia recommended cardio workouts six times a week. Once the beauty queen reached her goal weight, however, Tia made sure to scale her cardio sessions back. "If you’re looking to lose weight, then yes, you have to do more [cardio]," Tia says. "But when you get a lot of muscle mass, your base metabolism skyrockets and you do not have to do cardio like that anymore or you will continue to lose too much weight." Once you've lost the weight, Tia recommends that you continue with your strength-training routine but cut back on your cardio sessions. And no matter how much cardio you're doing, make sure you exercise within your goal heart rate zone to get the best results, she says.
- Eat for fuel: When it comes to a strict weight-loss program, Tia says being in the right mindset when it comes to food will help get you through those one-note meals and the dessert-less dinners. "It’s not gourmet eating . . . We’re so used to our eating being events," Tia says, but with eating during your 12-week weight-loss phase, "it takes you two seconds to eat it and there is no event at all involved. It’s Greek yogurt, a piece of chicken and some vegetables. You are literally fueling your body with just what it needs meaning portion size and exactly what it needs meaning health wise."
Read on for five more weight-loss secrets.
- Don't repeat workouts: Don't do the same workout twice in a row; not only will you be less motivated to work out, but you also may plateau. "I was always switching it up on [Nina] because she’s young and when you’re young you really adapt quickly," Tia explains. "I didn’t want her to plateau; I wanted her to keep you know progressing and sculpting, and getting the body that she wanted to get."
- Beware the bags and boxes: Clean eating means no processed foods, so steer clear of that freezer aisle when grocery shopping, Tia warns. "The less processed stuff you eat the better, so if it’s in a bag it’s probably not good for you, if it’s in a box then you know it’s really not good for you," she says.
- Cut it out: Tia recommends her weight-loss clients also avoid all white foods, since they are also highly processed, and artificial sweeteners. Nina's regimen was a lot more strict in the weeks leading up to her pageant — she also cut out all fats, condiments, alcohol, sodium, even salsa — but Tia doesn't recommend this extreme approach. "She wanted to look her absolute best; it’s Miss America. I don’t generally put anyone on that strict of a regimen," she warns.
- Go ahead and cheat: Tia, who herself lost 50 pounds before opening her gym, recommends cheat days for not only your mental health but your physical appearance as well. After losing too much weight from only allowing herself one cheat day a week, Tia upped her indulgences as her metabolism revved up. Now, she eats clean until Saturday night, then allows herself to eat whatever she wants until Monday. "You don’t look good if you lose too much weight. Skinny is not attractive," she says. "It’s all about being fit and feeling good, mentally as well as physically."
- Stick with it for 12 weeks: While Nina's countdown to the crown was an extreme case, Tia says that anyone trying to lose weight should adopt a serious plan for 12 weeks. "It’s going to be really hard; it’s a commitment," she says. "You’re going to be working out six times a week and you’re going to be working out hard. But that is such a little fragment of time when you think about it, and you will reap that reward for the rest of your life with having a higher metabolism and having a body that you never thought possible. Not that everyone can reach a goal in 12 weeks, but normally you can get so much done in 12 weeks that [you are] hooked."