As every woman out there can surely tell you, we are quickly coming up on bikini season. After spending all winter hibernating and overindulging on holiday treats, now it is time to stand in front of the dreaded department store mirror assessing the damage, while trying to pick out the most flattering swim suit. There are many gimmicks and “lose weight fast” schemes out there, but unfortunately there is no magic pill to make you look like a supermodel. The truth of the matter is, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. I have found that the only way to lose weight and keep it off is with a proper balance of nutrition and exercise. In this article, I will tell you how I was able to lose 20 pounds in three months and keep it off for over a year. This may not sound like the huge success stories you are used to hearing about on infomercials, but on my petite 5’2″ frame, 20 pounds makes a huge difference.
Reduce Your Calorie Intake
It is really quite simple if you think about it. A calorie is a unit of energy; if you are putting more calories in than your body is expending, then you are going to store those extra calories as fat. I have found it helpful to use an app on my phone to keep track of my daily caloric intake. There are a lot of different apps out there to help with this, I personally like to use My Fitness Pal. I can just scan a barcode or type in the food and it will not only keep track of my calories, but also the nutrition information. I can keep track of what nutrients I am lacking for the day so that I can add them into my next meal. I can also see if I am eating a well-balanced diet with the proper amount of carbohydrates, fat and protein. You can put in your goal weight and how quickly you want to lose weight and My Fitness Pal will calculate what your calorie goal for the day is. It also allows you to add in your exercise and automatically subtracts the amount of calories you have burned off.
Choose Nutrient- Dense Food
It is important that you not only reduce your calories, but also choose more healthy options. If you are only able to eat 1,200 calories a day then you want to make sure you are packing them full of vitamins and nutrients. You do not want to fill up your body with a lot of empty calories such as chips and sweets. There are many suggestions out there for proper diet and nutrition such as organic, low-carb and gluten-free. I personally am not dedicated enough to totally cut out carbohydrates or gluten. My philosophy is everything in moderation. I have drastically reduced my soda intake and cut out unhealthy snacks. If you keep nutritious snacks on hand, I have found you are more likely to stick to your diet. Carrot sticks, apples, bananas, salad and low-fat yogurt are some of my favorite snacks. The most important thing is to choose healthy foods that you like and eat a variety so you will not get burned out. You want to make lasting changes, not just a quick fix.
A Proper Balance of Cardio and Strengthening Exercises
Proper exercise is just as important as nutrition. It is not just about losing weight, but also about looking good and feeling good. There has been much debate over which type of exercise helps you to lose the most weight, cardio or strengthening. I feel that both are essential. Cardio does burn a large amount of calories; but let’s face it, Zumba class is not always filled with a room full of skinny people. This is partly because some people see exercising as an excuse to over-indulge. If you work out and then go home and scarf down more calories than you burned off, then you just wasted your time. Don’t get me wrong, you will need to eat a snack after working out, but it should be a healthy, high-protein snack not a snickers blizzard. However, another reason those who just focus on cardio are not seeing results is because your body needs strengthening exercises as well, to build those long lean muscles. This does not necessarily mean heavy weight lifting. As a woman, I do not want to look like the next Arnold Schwarzenegger. I focus more on toning and lengthening muscles for a strong, yet feminine look. To achieve this I do a lot of Pilates and ballet style exercises.
I try to do an even mixture of cardio and strengthening exercises, working out at least 5 days a week for a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour. I really enjoy dancing so most of my cardio focuses on that. I have found that if you incorporate things you enjoy, you are more likely to continue doing it. I also enjoy hiking; running is hard on my knee, but I have found walking to be just as beneficial. For strengthening exercises, I do a lot of Pilates- style exercises, daily push-ups and planks. One of my favorite workout videos is Ballet Beautiful, which includes a lot of lengthening and strengthening exercises for your thighs and butt. With my short legs, this is definitely my problem area. FYI, I have never taken any ballet classes so you can be a complete novice and still get a lot from this program. It focuses more on repetition of strengthening exercises than actual ballet technique. For my abs I use an older video series called The Firm. It looks a little outdated, but gives you quite an abdominal workout in 6 minutes (it can also be found on YouTube). Whatever exercise you choose, make sure it is something you enjoy and stick with it. Remember, this is the beginning of a new, healthier you.