Everyone and every body is completely different, and there are so many different health and fitness goals that different people might want to achieve. Throughout my whole life I’ve struggled with being overweight, and I recently began to feel it impacting upon my health, so in January I decided to stop trying a different fad or restrictive diet every week and finally get educated on how to achieve my goal of becoming a healthy weight and getting more toned through a lifestyle change, rather than a dangerous diet. Since then I’ve lost some weight and learned a LOT about health and fitness, and most importantly I’ve really enjoyed doing it. So now I’m going to use my new found outlook on health and fitness to write about a few tips that you can apply to absolutely any goal, whether you want to tone, become stronger, reach a healthy weight or just feel generally fitter.
A little disclaimer: I really can’t stress enough the importance of body positivity and loving yourself! By writing this post I am in no way saying that anybody should feel the need to change how they look, this is simply to help anybody who is struggling to reach an existing goal. I titled this post ” How to Achieve YOUR Ideal Body” because everyone has their own individual goals and every body is unique so in no way should people feel like their goal is to conform to society’s expectations of a ‘perfect body’.
Track your calorie intake.
This is the most important step for most goals and still the step that most people overlook. There are so many ridiculous myths regarding weight loss (for example a friend of mine was convinced that crisps were the cause of belly fat… if only I’d known sooner, I could have cut them out and had a six-pack by now), but no matter what the internet, TV, or your friends say, scientifically the only way to lose weight is to be in a calorie deficit and the only way to gain weight is to be in a calorie surplus. This basically means that you need to be eating more or fewer calories than your body is burning off. It’s that simple. So to be able to do this effectively you need to begin by working out how many calories your body needs to meet your goal. You can use these formulas to do this:
Lose Weight: bodyweight in lbs x 10-12
Maintain Weight: bodyweight in lbs x 13-14
Gain Weight: bodyweight in lbs x 15-17
So for example, if somebody weighing 180lbs wanted to maintain their weight they would multiply 180 x 13 to equal 2340 and then 180 x 14 to equal 2520 and their daily calorie intake would fall somewhere between these two numbers, dependent upon how active they are.
To manage calorie counting effectively my number one tip would be to download a calorie counting app (I use MyFitnessPal but there are tons available) as they have huge databases of the nutritional value of pretty much every food available, so all that you have to do is scan and it counts it all up for you.
Don’t be scared to weight train.
Another huge misconception, and often a fear that so many women I know have is that the second they pick up a weight they’ll transform into some huge, bulky Hulk-like creature. Trust me, that won’t happen. Unless your primary goal is to make the number on the scale go down without caring about toning or changing the way that your body looks, weight training is one of the most beneficial exercises that you can do to achieve most goals. In terms of fat loss, whilst endless hours of cardio might burn a ton of calories whilst your doing it, weight training continues to burn calories for up to 24 hours after you’ve exercised and also increases the number of calories that you burn at rest, meaning that overall it is much more beneficial than cardio. If toning is your goal, then performing 12-15 reps of a weight that you can comfortably lift will work your muscles and help you to tone up your body, and there are so so so many different types of weight-based exercises to target different muscles, allowing you to tone up specific target areas. If you want to build visible muscle and grow stronger, performing 5-8 reps of a weight is the perfect amount to build up your strength and endurance.
Whatever your goal may be, when it comes to weight training progressive overload is key. This basically means that you need to be increasing your workload as you gain more endurance and build more muscle, and you can do this by increasing the weight that you’re lifting, increasing the number of sets that you’re carrying out or decreasing the rest period that you have between sets.
Nutrition is key.
Although calorie counting is flexible and allows you to fit pretty much anything into your diet, eating a balanced diet with plenty of non-processed and nutritional food should be a priority for achieving any goal. Protein, carbs, fats, vitamins and minerals are all essential for feeling healthier overall, but avoiding processed food can also assist you in fat loss and muscle gain. However, don’t feel as though you need to avoid processed foods with less nutritional value completely, as eating these kinds of foods whenever you crave them can help to keep you motivated.
My best advice for eating nutritiously is to follow the 80/20 rule, which basically means that 80% of what you eat is high in nutritional value, and 20% is saved for processed foods that might not be good for you but are definitely yummy.
Don’t focus on the scale.
The scales can fluctuate on a daily basis for a HUGE number of reasons, maybe you ate a big meal late last night or retained more water than usual, but gaining a pound or two overnight is rarely the result of actually gaining that much body fat overnight. It can be so unmotivating to watch the scale fluctuate every day, so my advice for most goals would be to ditch the scales and focus on off scale victories instead. This could be anything from buttoning up a pair of jeans that used to be too tight, lifting a heavier weight than you previously could or even just feeling a little less breathless walking up a steep hill or a huge flight of stairs. I’d really recommend taking progress photos as these can remind you of how far you’ve come, without making you feel as though all of your hard work isn’t paying off.
Of course if your only goal is to lose a few pounds of body fat for health reasons then you need to check the scales every now and then to see if you’ve made progress, but I would recommend checking the scale no more than once a week to prevent forming an unhealthy addiction to checking your weight.
Protein Protein Protein.
Eating plenty of protein is not only beneficial for muscle gain, it can support pretty much any fitness goal (and all of the best foods are filled with protein: chicken, cheese, nuts yes please!). If your goal is either to become stronger or tone up then protein is essential as it assists muscle growth massively. It’s recommended that you eat 1g of protein per lbs of your body weight if you’re looking to build muscle. If you’re looking to eat healthier or simply lose weight protein can be beneficial for this too, as most protein filled food is not processed and filled with nutrients, and to make it even better protein is low in calories and really filling. Basically, it’s the holy grail of health food (no wonder you never see a fitness influencer without their protein shake).
I know that it’s cliche and the absolute last thing that anybody wants to hear, but ultimately, achieving a health or fitness goal requires a huge amount of time and patience. I spent years dieting unsuccessfully because I expected to see results instantly which will never be the case, so having patience and adapting your outlook to focus on a lifestyle change rather than a fad diet is the most important tip in terms of achieving your goal. You can be doing all of the right things, but without the right mindset, you may never be achieve the body that you want.