Diet Detective - Q&A with Steve Zim


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Q&A with Trainer Steve Zim


By Charles Stuart Platkin 
December 20, 2007 

Steve Zim is the founder and owner of one of Los Angeles' hottest gym, A Tighter U. Since 1988, Steve Zim has personally trained celebrities, professional baseball players and boxers, Olympic athletes, and thousands of satisfied clients. 

Steve's extensive health and fitness certification, a bachelor's degree from Boston College, and a love for fitness have helped him achieve both local and national acclaim.

Steve currently is NBC's National Weekend Today Show on-air fitness expert, as well as the author of the best selling book, Hot Point Fitness. He is often quoted in such leading magazines as Muscle and Fitness, Glamour, Men's Fitness, Self and Cosmopolitan. Steve's fitness expertise is regularly featured on top rated TV shows including Extra, Entertainment Tonight, VH-1, ABC & NBC news, etc. 

Also listed as one of the '201 top L.A. activities', Steve Zim has been repeatedly endorsed by popular magazines such as Self, Marie Claire, Elle and the national television show Good Morning America. His latest book is The 30-Minute Celebrity Makeover Miracle: Achieve the Body You've Always Wanted


Name: Steve Zim

Birthday: January 28

Location: Boston, MA


Diet Detective: Hello Steve, thanks for agreeing to do this interview! You’ve been helping people get in shape for years, and my first and probably most important question is what do you think is the most important thing that makes or breaks a diet/fitness program? 

Steve: The most important thing that makes or breaks a diet/fitness program are people realistically being able to stick to a program.  People tend to go on programs that are way too restrictive and deprive you of too many foods.  In the beginning, you lose some weight, and eventually you break and start to eat those foods you were depriving yourself of.  Inevitably, they revert back to their old ways of eating and end up at a weight above where they started.  Many workout programs are often way above the average person’s ability and are too demanding.  Essentially, people try and come in at too high a level and burn out.

Diet Detective: I realize that the copy for your new book was written by the publisher (The 30-Minute Celebrity Makeover Miracle), but the idea of working out for 30 minutes, three times a week, that you can a “body of your dreams” – it just seems a bit far fetched. Can you clarify for us please? 

Steve: If you actually read the book, what’s very different is not just the 30 minute workout, it’s the 30 minutes of aerobics and weight training - you don’t stop! Your heart rate is up on an average at the 80% level, while you’re also doing weight-bearing exercises.  The average-weighted person will burn a min of 300 calories in the 30 minute workout, a minimum!  Many will burn a lot more.  The big key is, since we are doing aerobics with the weights, the weights tear down the muscle while we’re working out.  You will then be repairing that muscle over the next 48 to 72 hours, which will burn hundreds of calories more over the next two to three days.  So it’s the combination of the weight-bearing exercises with the aerobics that causes your body to burn a lot more calories than if it was 30 minutes of one or 30 minutes of the other separately.  Then the actual exercises that we use, if you take a look at them, are very unique.  A lot of them a re very unique and really target the muscle and muscle groups to get the most out of every movement.  I am going to include a few infrared images and regular images so you can compare the two and understand what I mean by “targeted”.  The redder the area, the harder that muscle is working.  Many celebrities only give me that much time a week because they’re too busy shooting shows to keep them in shape.  I had to come up with a program that could do this in that amount of time.

Diet Detective: What is a “day-in-the life” of a celebrity trainer? 

Steve: At the gym by 6, train straight through until 12:30 or 1, I snack about one minute in between clients, then between 1 and 3 I get my own workout in (which is really important.  After my workout I go eat, answer my phone calls, and do my interviews like I’m doing now.  Between 4 and 5 I begin again until 9 at night.  That goes on Monday through Friday, while Saturday I only work 7 to 12.  During the course of the month, I prepare for segments on the National Weekend Today Show on NBC, write different fitness articles for magazines that range from Marie Claire and Seventeen Magazine, toMuscle and Fitness, and then I do many different television shows, from Extra to the celebrity makeovers for the TV Guide channel, and things along those lines.  Plus, over the course of the last year, I was writing my new book (which comes out in January), 30 Minute Makeover Miracle.

Diet Detective: What do you do at your gym (and when you train clients) that is unique and that you believe is not getting done at most gyms?

Steve: I know what’s not getting done are the kind of exercises that hit the intended muscle.  I created exercises using infrared technology and was able to determine if traditional exercises did what they said they would.  If not, I saw a way to tweak or create new exercises to target specific muscle groups.  This way you get the most amount out of the exercises in the least amount of time. If you want to see my results, both celebrity and others, you can log onto the ”client results” page on for before and after pictures.

Diet Detective: How do you get a client motivated to stick to a fitness program?

Steve: One word:  Results. They need to see a change in their first week of working out.  You’ll feel the difference in the first workout, you’ll see something within one week, and your friends and family will be commenting within two.

Diet Detective: In all your years of training what do you consider the best non-weight related exercise (e.g. lunge)  

Steve: The penguin.  I will send you a picture along with an infrared image.

Diet Detective: If you could only do only one strength training exercise (using weights) what would it be? 

Steve: A squat to a shoulder press – two exercises combined into one.

Diet Detective: What is the worst strength training exercise for women? Or one that is the most frequently done incorrectly?  

Steve: The squat. What is one of the best exercises for women? It is also the squat, if done correctly.  Positioning is everything - if it’s off, even by an inch, the exercise can cause harm.

Diet Detective: Can you tell us one strength training myth that we probably have not heard about? Or would be surprised to learn?  

Steve: “Never stretch out before you start working out.” Most people come in and think they need to stretch and then begin. That’s incorrect. You need to first warm up your body with a minimum of 5 minutes of aerobics - run, walk, ride a bike - whatever you do to raise temp in your body.  Now you can begin either stretching or exercising because now the temperature of your body is elevated and your muscles are much more pliable, and you won’t get injured.  Think of your muscle as a piece of taffy and think of your fingers as tendons.  If you put the taffy between your 2 hands and try to pull it apart, the taffy won’t move, but your fingers will come off of it.  Warm up that piece of taffy and now try to stretch it.  Your fingers have no problem and the taffy stretches perfectly.  So if you try to stretch cold muscle, you can actually injure your tendons.

Diet Detective: If you could eat one forbidden or unhealthy food (candy, cakes, etc.)whenever you wanted without gaining weight, what would it be?

Steve: Ice cream – mint chocolate chip.

Diet Detective: What is the one food or meal you always eat before training? What do you advise clients to eat? 

Steve: Nothing an hour and half before your workout.  My favorite thing to eat 2 hours before my workout is 1 banana, 2 scoops of egg white protein, with a glass of ice, and a half a cup of water in a blender.

Diet Detective: What do you consider the world’s most perfect food?

Steve: I’d have to pick salmon.

Diet Detective: On those days when you're not motivated to work out, but you should, what's the one thought that gets you going?  

Steve: In a bathing suit, on the beach, not feeling comfortable in my own skin.

Diet Detective: What person do you respect most, or who motivates you? 

Steve: Other than family members, in my business I happen to be a big fan of Jack La Lanne.

Diet Detective: What do you do to reduce stress/relax/center your mind? Do you participate in an organized relaxation activity such as yoga, meditation or tai chi? 

Steve: No.  To be honest, working out is my most relaxing thing I do.  The two hours a day that I spend working out. That’s why I work out so much – I really enjoy it.

Diet Detective: Do you have a Calorie Bargain? What food did it replace? Was that an important food in your diet, since you ate it so often?

Steve: Watermelon.  Watermelon keeps me from craving sweets (e.g. ice cream, chocolate).  With 5g of carbs per slice, it’s not going to make much of a dent in my calorie intake.

Diet Detective: What about a healthy recipe—do you have one that stands out? Can you share?

Steve: I’ll give you the biggest trick for a sweet tooth – protein pudding.  Take sugar-free powdered pudding mix, mix it up with 2 scoops of your favorite protein powder (dry), add the appropriate amount of 2% fat milk, follow the instructions and refrigerate, and there you have the greatest substitute for any kind of dessert.

Diet Detective: What was your worst summer job?

Steve: I worked for city of Newton, Massachusetts paving roads.  But, I actually liked it!

Diet Detective: Define failure. 

Steve: Failure is not giving 100% towards achieving my goal.

Diet Detective: What’s the best book about health that you’ve read? (Aside from your own)

Steve: A book called  Anatomy.  It’s basically a book about every single muscle and body part and I could see how they interconnected to every minute piece of our body.  That was the most fascinating book I personally ever read.

Diet Detective:  What did you want to be at the age of 5? (as far as a career)?

Steve: I wanted to play center field for the Boston Red Sox.

Thank you!!!!