Here’s an idea: take those weight scales and banish them to the basement because you won’t need them anymore. Instead, make this your next feel-good goal: drop a dress size! Being able to fit into a new suit (or that mini-skirt you’ve stashed away in the closet) gives you a realistic picture of what’s going on in your body, says Renata Anderson, a personal trainer and nutrition specialist at Durham College in Oshawa, Ont.
Here are 10 easy steps that can guide you to success:
Size yourself up
Put your bathing suit on and stand in front of a full-length mirror. What parts of your body need attention?
Write it down
On a piece of paper, note your dress size and the measurements for your chest, waist, hips and thighs. Date it. On the same day one month later, take your measurements again. “That will give you enough time to see a change,” says Christine Carlson, a personal trainer and nutrition and wellness specialist in Edmonton.
Kick up your heels
One pound of body weight equals 3,500 calories and the only way to burn off those calories is through activity. Choose something you love so you’ll stick with it and put it at the top of your priority list. A total of 60 minutes of physical activity every day is recommended, but for maximum benefit, do at least 20 minutes of continuous movement at a time, says Anderson.
Calculate your energy output
For every activity you indulge in, figure out how many calories you burn. For example, you use up 3.5 calories per hour per pound of body weight when you swim. So if you weigh 150 pounds, doing the breast stroke for an hour would equal 525 calories burned (150 x 3.5 = 525).
Strengthen your core
Your abdominals and back are command central when it comes to toning. Every move you make involves those two parts of the body, says Anderson. When you strengthen them, you’ll have more stamina to do more activities with less likelihood of injury. The best exercises for your abdominals are crunches. Do as many as you can every day. An exercise called “superman” is a great strengthener for your back. Lie on your stomach, lift one leg and the opposite arm straight up, then lower. Repeat with the other leg and arm. Do 12 to 15 on each side every day.
Increase your muscle mass
One pound of muscle burns up to three times the calories as one pound of fat, says Carlson. So it’s time to pump up the largest muscles in your bodyyour legs and buttockswith lunges and squats.
Do the soup can workout
Want to go sleeveless and look buff? Go to your cupboard, grab two soup cans and do bicep curls and chest flies two to three times a week.
Eyeball your food
Just like you don’t want to use scales to monitor your weight, you don’t want to have to count calories to watch your intake. But how much is too much? See Sizing up servings to make sure you’re eating the right amounts. Use the Daily eating log to make sure you’re not exceeding your recommended number of servings for each food group.
Eat protein at every meal
When you’re exercising regularly, you need proteinalong with your carbs such as fruit and veggiesthroughout the day. The reason: protein helps repair the microscopic tears in your muscles after a workout to build better muscle mass. Women tend to eat all their protein at lunch and dinner, and skip it at breakfast, says Anderson. An active woman should get 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight. So if you weigh 150 pounds (68 kilos), you need between 54 and 82 grams of protein a day. (One ounce equals 28 grams.) Here are some protein-rich ideas to help you start your day off right: spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese or light peanut butter on rye toast; scramble some egg whites with green and red pepper; add a small handful of slivered almonds to your low-fat plain yogurt.
Watch for subtle signs
Here’s the fun part: as you continue your regular daily activity and strength training, you’ll notice that your rings fit looser, your belt can fasten a notch tighter and the buttons on your blouse aren’t threatening to pop off anymorejust the motivation you need to keep up the good work!