This time of year I hear lots of worries about the coming warm weather—specifically, about the swimsuits, tank tops, and shorts now called for. Suddenly, women start to fret once again about upper arm flab, the size of the thighs, weight overall. It doesn’t seem to matter exactly what shape a person’s in—the complaints cut across every age and weight category. Along with these worries may come plans for fasting diets, meal skipping, or things from weight loss informercials.
I’m not against toning up for swimsuit-and-short season. While I’d like us to aim for fitness year-round, I can understand the extra push that comes with seeing more body exposed. I’m skeptical, though, of “new body in six weeks” thinking. Here are some things I think it’s important to keep in mind now:
1. Your body is your body, and it serves you well in many ways. Don’t use this opening to beat it up. No matter how successful you are, you won’t necessarily look that much different in a few weeks or months. So be kind to yourself. You’ll then be better able to assess what options might really help. Starving yourself, starving and then gorging, relentlessly criticizing yourself or complaining about your body: any of these will make you feel bad and will most likely assure that you won’t reach new fitness goals.
2. Remember that hundreds of scientific studies prove that the lose-weight-quick schemes don’t work, no matter what the ads say. And if you don’t believe the science, ask around. Search for someone who’s gotten into great shape and stayed there with a quick scheme. There’s no substitute for learning new habits that last.
3. Think of changes you can implement now. Set a realistic goal or two. Can you start to walk each day? Can you get to the gym twice a week? Can you start to eat more vegetables? Can you start bringing lunch and a snack to work? Can you cut out a sweet you’ve gotten hooked on? You may not mold a whole new body this way, but you may be able to lose a few pounds to start with. Or, you might get a good habit going that will reap benefits for years.
Finally, put enjoying the season at the top of your list. You can now walk outdoors easily. Soon you can swim. Maybe you can look forward to vacations, a more relaxed schedule, or more time with your kids. You can do those things whether your arms are perfect or not.