Every year around this time, gyms get the influx of new members wanting to get “beach-ready” bodies in time for summer. We go crazy trying to find a “30 Days to Perfect Abs” workout and the right fad diet that promises to make us fit and fabulous by the time we need to get into a swimsuit.
Is there anything wrong with that? I mean, at least people are trying to get into shape, right? There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to shape up for summer, but it’s important to go about it in a healthy manner that promotes your overall wellness and doesn’t push you toward unhealthy fad dieting or injury from overly intense workouts.
Ignore the hype and lose the extremes. If a program offers “instant” results—AKA, 30 days or less—it is probably either nonsense or extremely unhealthy. As fabulous as it would be to go from size 12 to size six in one month, it’s simply not feasible or sustainable. The kinds of diets that promise this kind of impossibly fast change are usually those that encourage you to starve yourself and deprive your body of essential nutrients in favor of dropping pounds. This is unsustainable because your body can’t function off of gummy bears or cotton balls for long before it starts deteriorating. You’re also pretty much guaranteed to gain back the weight afterward.
The summer fitness obsession distracts from the joy of the season and is often the reason so many people’s healthy goals fail. Listen up: Just because beach weather is a few weeks away does not mean you have to go on a crazy crash diet. Instead, I suggest you take action with these expert tips to get your body (and mind!) in tip-top shape—the healthy way.
How to Be Fit Without Obsessing About It: 10 Tips Getting in Shape for Summer the Healthy Way
1. Avoid falling into the “quick fix” trap and make small changes consistently.
Instead of jumping on the next ten-day juice cleanse or giving up carbs forever, make small, healthy consistent changes. Many studies have shown those who focus on slow and steady lifestyle changes are far better at sustaining it. Start small and make healthy changes that work for you. Anything from eating a better breakfast or adding one more workout to your week counts. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day—the secret to lasting lifestyle change is to keep going in a positive direction.
Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going.
2. Get off the scale.
This is controversial advice, as many studies have shown people who weigh themselves regularly are more successful at long-term weight loss. The problem with the scale is that it can lie, it can be frustrating when it barely budges, it doesn’t reflect gaining muscle, and it can just become something you hate doing (or cause more body obsession—not a good thing). While the studies show regular scale users are better at weight loss, they haven’t been compared with what I think are far more positive things to measure, such as miles run each week, weights lifted, fitness classes attended, fast food meals avoided, healthy meals prepared, and fruits and vegetables consumed.
There are better ways to assess results, like how your clothes fit, your energy levels, and even your sex drive. If you can use the scale in a way that elicits a positive mindset, then go ahead, but if it stresses you out, consider tossing it, and tracking other more important variables instead.
3. Stop comparing yourself to other people.
It’s okay to be in friendly competition with your gym buddies. It’s not okay to get so caught up in trying to be the best that you become discouraged when others seem to be making more progress than you. Everyone is different. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, with differing metabolic rates, body fat percentages, and capabilities. The best thing to do is to judge your own progress. If you’re doing better than you were last month, or last week, then you’re doing something right.
4. Get Your heart pumping.
Regular exercise helps you achieve both physical and mental wellness. Make movement part of your life and exercise most days of the week. For cardio, aim for at least 20 minutes, everyday for health; 30 to 45 minutes five to six days per week for aerobic and fitness improvement. There’s no need to hit the gym hard everyday. Vary your cardiovascular training with low, moderate, and high intensities.
5. Build lean muscle and body confidence with strength training.
Strength training is the secret to maintaining a healthy body and mindset throughout every season of your life. It gives your metabolism a major boost by increasing the metabolic rate, allowing the body to burn more calories throughout the day. It also increases lean muscle mass and overall strength, helping to improve performance, endurance, and energy levels. These things work to help you maintain your weight goals over a long period of time.
Lifting weights has also been shown to improve psychological health, by increasing self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth (all key components if you want a healthy body and mind for your lifetime). Aim to strength train two to three times per week to reap the lifetime benefits.
6. Find your team.
A good support system is a vital element to reaching your goals in a healthy way. Often times it’s not about getting tons of support, but about finding the right people to help you. Communicate your goals to people in your life who will hold you accountable, help you overcome obstacles, and keep you from going crazy with extremes (no 30-day juice cleanses!) when it comes to reaching your goals. I’m a big believer in coaching, as I have seen the rewards that investing in yourself can bring. A coach can help you overcome roadblocks, keep you moving toward the life you want, and give you constant encouragement and support. The secret to a life of lasting healthy habits is surrounding yourself with others who lift you up and keep you in check so you don’t become “obsessed” with a bikini-brain mindset.
7. Don’t diet. Just eat healthy.
If you go on a diet you will eventually have to go off a diet. Want lasting, healthy, positive change that doesn’t have a yo-yo effect? Improve your relationship with food and learn to nourish yourself. Don’t just eat salads this summer—learn about nutrition and how to eat to feel amazing—it’s worth investing time in and will help you eat healthy for all the seasons.
8. Mix it Up.
Routine is the enemy of results. After doing the same routine your body adapts and you burn fewer calories. Eventually your results—weight loss, muscle definition—will slow down. And repeatedly placing stress on the same muscles and joints could lead to an overuse injury. Also sticking to a super strict routine can cause you to become too obsessed with it. If you feel like you have to run ten miles a week or do yoga on Mondays at noon, it might be time to force yourself out of your routine comfort zone.
Here’s your action plan: Once every two to three weeks, change one thing about your workout regimen. Take a dance class instead of your Saturday run, or use a resistance band instead of dumbbells. Not only will you see better results with a varied plan, mixing things up may help you stick with exercise in the end. Refresh your mind, body, and spirit on a regular basis by mixing things up consistently.
9. Stop criticizing your body.
Quit grabbing the skin around your waist and staring at it angrily in the mirror. Stop complaining to your friends about how bloated you are or how much you’d rather look a certain way. None of this is helpful. Obsessing over how great some model looks or how you wish you had a different body part is only detrimental to your health. If you continue to beat yourself up over your imperfections, you’ll never be happy with yourself. You are going to be in your skin for the rest of your life—you might as well learn to love and get comfortable in it.
10. Think beyond the bathing suit.
Focus on how your life feels. Getting into shape is great for beach season, but it’s also much more than that. Eating cleanly and exercising regularly won’t just make you look good—a healthy lifestyle will make you feel better all-around. So while getting bikini ready might be a good starting point for your fitness journey, it shouldn’t be the sole reason for the changes you make to your lifestyle. Because of the culture we live in, we’re always going to be under-impressed with our own bodies. It’s human nature to constantly feel like we could do more and look better. But if your perspective is to focus on how you feel more than on how you look, you’ve got a much better chance of sticking with your goals and being healthy long term. Besides, feeling good is addicting! The more energized and productive you feel, the more you’re going to want to continue doing the things that are contributing to your well-being. Live a life that feels good on the inside, not just one that looks good in a bikini.
Health is not a 30-day thing, a 60-, or a 90-day thing. Healthy is not about being “fit” for summer, it’s about living mindfully for your lifetime.
There are so many other amazing things to enjoy this summer. Don’t waste your days in a diet and workout obsession trying to get to an image of “beach body” perfection that doesn’t exist. Love yourself, accept yourself, take care of yourself, and enjoy the season fully in health and happiness. Now how does that sound for a summer vacation?