Sometimes it feels impossible to live in a world where the ideal, beautiful size is a zero. There have been thigh-gap trends, bikini-bridge fads and thigh-brow hashtags that constantly paint a picture of what women should strive to look like. Because of these unattainable weight and body goals, diet fads and quick ways to lose weight have become a common thing in our everyday lives. But how can we become a healthier version of ourselves without the BS and with as little exercise as possible?
Most experts say one of the most important things you can do is to put an emphasis on “health” and not “weight.” A majority of women won’t ever be a size zero; bone structures and typical weight loss just don’t allow for that. But you can lead a happy and healthy life by following these tips.
1. Don’t treat exercise as the end-all be-all
We read it in magazines, see ads on TV and spend hundreds of dollars on outfits for it: working out. But is it worth it? Some say, not really. “If you want to talk about weight loss then exercise has very little impact,” says Todd Whitthorne, a prominent national speaker and the president of ACAP Health Consulting. “In fact, for some folks, it even makes it harder to lose weight.” This doesn’t mean not to go for your morning run or stress-relieving yoga session. There are so many other benefits from your workout; however if you’re doing it solely to lose those few extra pounds or become a new person, size wise, it’s not going to cut it -- at least not by itself.
“Exercise has about a thousand benefits but weight loss is not one of them. It does help in weight loss maintenance and in the prevention of weight gain…but not in weight loss,” says Whitthorne. According to him, this is a very important takeaway, especially for college women trying and not seeing results.
2. Eat well, not with fads
To put it simply: diets do not work – at least not in the long run. There may be a change, possibly even a quick one; however this is most likely due to a smaller intake of food and will only undo itself soon after. It’s more important to worry about the types of food you’re eating and not necessarily how much. “There’s a lot more to eating than just the number of calories we consume,” says Whitthorne. “Yes, the quantity is certainly a factor to consider. However, I believe that quality is of even greater importance.” If you’re eating a small bag of chips a day, yes, you’re consuming less calories than others. However this is far inferior to a diet that includes multiple meals a day with foods containing actual substance, like vitamins and proteins, that your body needs.
Whitthorne recommends something along the lines of a Mediterranean diet, although not as a diet, but as a great starting point when thinking of exactly what foods you should and shouldn’t be eating:
A perfect foundation for meals include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, herbs and spices
Try to eat eat fish and seafood at least twice a week
Chicken, turkey, eggs, cheese and yogurt are good in moderation
Obviously limit red meats, sugar and excessive salts
Carly Lockman, a certified holistic health coach, agrees. “Limiting or completely removing processed foods, especially processed sugars, from your diet is paramount,” says Lockman. And if you’re having a tough time making these health changes because you can’t see yourself giving up processed food? She says to give your body time to adjust to the real stuff. “We were created to eat real, unprocessed foods, so I think on a primal level, given enough time to detox from a processed foods diet, the mind really begins to gravitate toward, and love, healthy, whole foods,” says Lockman.
“Staying busy will also keep you from mindless snacking, which is extra, pointless calories,” says Sophia Walker, a senior at Bowdoin College. Walker is an athlete and picked up some good tidbits from her trainer. “Paying attention to what you eat is easy, too! Lots of healthy things have way more calories than you think they do! Peanut butter, for example.” She says that counting calories isn’t the most important thing, but that paying attention to what you’re consuming is the key.
Related: 5 Reasons Why You’re Always Hungry
3. Workout when you want to
Alright, so even though exercising isn’t going to make you lose weight by itself, it will help maintain the body you’re getting from eating right!
Stuck on what workout tape to pop in or what new lifting method to do? Successful exercise mechanisms can be super simple. “In fact, it can be argued that practices which mimic more natural patterns of movement, like cleaning, yard work and gardening are more beneficial to the body overall and more effective at helping a person to maintain their optimal weight than hitting the gym,” says Lockman. And actual collegiettes agree! “Taking the stairs is always a great option, especially if you live in a dorm building,” says Amanda Goecke, a junior at Carthage College. “That way, you're getting in a little stair workout every day without really thinking too much about it.”
Lockman also says that “sitting is the new smoking,” so as long as you get moving, you’re doing the most! We all sit in class or at work way too long sometimes, but she said even stretching for 20 minutes will help and make an impact in the long run.
4. Eat to power your body, not just because you’re hungry
Conscious eating is definitely an important factor when thinking about effortless ways to lose weight. Some people like to munch when they’re bored or snack as soon as they get home. While you might think you’re hungry, you should ask yourself: “Am I really, though?” And, of course, if you decide that you need to eat, get something with protein or that’s healthy.
This can also be said about breakfast. In America especially, we assume that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Whitthorne mentioned the 2014 study done by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that showed breakfast “had no discernable effect on weight loss in free-living adults who were attempting to lose weight.”
But if you’re on the pro-breakfast train, it is a way to fuel your body for the rest of the day and hopefully curb your hunger until lunch. Goecke is of this mindset. “Eating breakfast with a full glass of water is always good rather than skipping it - that way you wake up your metabolism,” she says. “I also recommend talking to a doctor or doing an online calculator based off of your weight, age, activity level, etc. to see how much water you should be drinking! Proper water intake helps curb unnecessary snacking.” Goecke ran cross country and track in college and has had her fair share of experience with doctors and nutritionists.
For a great breakfast to power you all the way through the afternoon, Whitthorne recommends something full of fiber, such as Greek yogurt with Kashi cereal, granola and almonds, an omelet or scrambled eggs, or oatmeal. A breakfast smoothie as also a quick option!
And going for coffee with your breakfast is a good idea too (or anytime of the day for that matter, because let’s be honest, who only drinks coffee in the morning?). “Coffee suppresses your appetite and raises your metabolism,” says Walker. “It can be dehydrating though, so make sure to drink water to compensate. Black coffee has no calories, if you like it black!”
So, in case working out seems tedious or scary to you, start slow and know that you don’t need to do that in order to lose weight. It’s important to orient your health around you. Eat foods that you enjoy, work out when you have the most fun and adopt healthy habits that not only benefit you and your body, but that are easy for you to do. Trying to change yourself or your habits just because society has told you that’s what’s acceptable won’t stick. Be a healthier you because for yourself and you’ll surely see results.