How to Get Your Best Body Ever

Written by Liz Dolce
Thursday, 01 May 2008 00:00

An Introduction to Overall Wellness and How to Get that Bikini-Ready Body!

With summer fast approaching, I’m noticing that more and more of my girlfriends are going into what I’ve dubbed, ‘Bikini panic mode’. Frankly, this bothers me on numerous levels, but mainly because nearly everyone starts some sort of ridiculous crash diet and goes about ‘shaping up’ in the absolute worst ways humanly possible. Crash dieting will set you up for just that – a crash, and a rude awakening when those plans to ‘tone up’ don’t work out like you had been hoping them to. I’m going to share some basic pointers and information about how to get ready for summer and bikini weather without driving yourself into a frenzy in the process! From setting up and following a healthy diet and meal plan, to ‘secret weapon’ moves to target those troublesome areas that most women deal with, it’s all covered. The following will not only help you get motivated to be healthy and ready for summer, but to stay healthy and continue to focus on overall physical and mental wellness, even when it’s time to greet Fall and the holiday season rolls around!

First off, the most important part of any dietary and fitness regimen is setting realistic goals. Allow me to point out the two most important and vital words in that last sentence: realistic goals. I can not stress that enough. What is a, ‘realistic goal’? What differentiates a good goal from a bad goal? What’s a good goal to start with that is attainable? Well, it’s going to vary from person to person. But my suggestion for a great starter goal is a simple one: To treat yourself and your body well. It’s a simple goal that’s very easy to attain, and it covers both our physical and mental health! I mention mental health because keeping our minds healthy is just as important as keeping our bodies healthy. Without a positive, healthy mindset, we’re losing out on a huge motivational resource – ourselves!

Once we’ve set a simple goal, lets look at where we are today as far as intake (diet; what we eat and drink on a daily basis) and exercise. Think about a typical day and what you eat and drink from rising in the morning until you crawl into bed at night. How active are you? Did you go to the gym today? If you don’t have a gym membership, did you go for a run, take the dog for a walk, or get in any exercise for the day? If you’re not liking the answers you’re already responding with, then it’s time to make some small changes that can (and will) make a big impact!

To help us get familiarized with the bare basics on nutrition and healthful eating, I’d like to share some information to help point out the most important parts of ‘eating clean’! A healthy diet should include:

  • Proteins, such as chicken breast, turkey breast, egg whites, low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese, low-sodium deli meats, lean beef, veggie burgers, vegetable proteins, tofu, fish (salmon, tuna, swordfish), shrimp, crab & lobster, low-sugar protein powders, etc. Protein is essential for building lean muscle - eat up!
  • Carbohydrates. These include whole grains, (such as whole wheat bread and pastas, oatmeal, tortillas, and natural granolas), fruits, veggies, beans, potatoes, yogurt, high protein and high fiber cereals, brown and wild rice, reduced fat popcorn (which is also high in fiber!), etc. Choose whole wheat bread and pastas over white bread and regular pasta. They’ve got more nutritional value, fiber, and flavor!
  • Healthy, un-saturated Fats. Just like protein and carbs, fat is also an essential part of a healthy diet. Not only is it necessary to help the body absorb certain nutrients, but it makes you feel satisfied longer, makes your hair and skin soft, and adds flavor! Good sources of heart-healthy fats include natural peanut and nut butters, fish oils, nuts and seeds, low-fat cheeses, sunflower, flax seed, and olive oil, avocado, and more.

Try to moderate or avoid saturated fats such as greasy fried foods, butter, full-fat creams, and the like. These are unhealthy fats that should be kept in moderation.

What to eat and how much varies from person to person. If you’re unsure as to how many calories you should be consuming daily, you may want to look into getting your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate [the rate at which your body burns calories while at rest]) tested. I had mine tested not too long ago and it was 1510. It’s a very quick and simple test and it costs about $45 at your local health club or gym (although some medical clinics offer them for free). As far as caloric breakdown goes, personally, I like a 40/40/20 split of 40% carbs, 40% protein, and 20% fat, but everyone is different. Some people training for athletic events prefer a 50/25/25 split, others a 40/30/30 split, etc. What matters most is finding what’s best for you.

Lets go back to diet talk for a moment. Diet. Ah, a word that scares the pants off millions. But the word, ‘diet’ is so butchered nowadays. If you look up the word, ‘diet’, dictionaries define it in a very simple phrase: The food one consumes on a daily and/or regular basis. It’s that simple. Don’t let a word send you into a panic or worry mode! Instead, learn to make that word a healthy part of your life. A healthy diet starts with first analyzing where we’re at and what our current diet looks like. The next step is to simply clean it up, and make some healthy changes and improvements to the areas that need it. Lets start with breakfast. It’s not called the most important meal of the day for nothing! It’s a vital meal that everyone needs to start their day with. Forget Poptarts, sugary cereals, pre-made packaged drink mixes loaded with sugar and preservatives. Go for energizing foods that will give you the energy to fuel your mornings and prevent you going into school or work feeling tired and sluggish. Instead of a bowl of sugary cereal, go for oatmeal with some fruit and a drizzle of honey, if desired. It’s fantastic morning fuel, and fruit is naturally sweet and healthful. Some other suggestions: an egg-white omelet with diced veggies and a lean meat and some fruit, a bowl of natural/organic cereal (my personal favorite is Kashi’s GoLean Crunch! with a nice big handful of fresh berries!) with skim or low-fat milk, various diced fruits for a quick and easy ‘breakfast fruit salad’, fat-free or low-fat cottage cheese and fruit, and whole-wheat, organic waffles topped with a serving of natural peanut butter and a sliced banana. They’re all delicious (and nutritious!) ways to start your morning off right.

When lunch time rolls around, forget about hopping in the car and going to the drive-thru window. You can save some money and still get in a good, figure-friendly meal that will help prevent falling into the dreaded mid-day slump due to too much work and fatigue. Swap that greasy fast-food mystery-meat burger, and instead, go with a veggie burger and some baked home fries made with either yams or potatoes. You’ll save yourself hundreds of unhealthy calories and fuel up on a filling meal that you can still feel good about! Not in the mood for a burger or just not a fan of veggie meats? You can still make a traditional ground-beef burger for any meal, but when in the meat dept., try to pick up the leanest beef available. A 15% fat to 85% lean ratio is a great choice. Ground turkey meat is also a wonderful selection because there’s so much you can do with it! A bowl of soup and come whole-grain crackers is another great option, but avoid heavy cream-based soups that are often loaded with saturated and trans-fats. Vegetable soups are a great choice. Pair a cup of soup with a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat and you’ve got yourself another easy lunch option! Salads are great too, but don’t allow it to be boring. One of my favorite salads is a ‘California citrus-style’ salad. Just get a bag of pre-packaged, mixed salad greens, add in some fresh orange segments, a handful of dried cranberries, whatever other salad condiments you like, some grilled chicken, and top of with a low-fat raspberry pecan or vinaigrette dressing. It’s refreshing, an awesome way to get in some extra fruit and vegetable servings into your day’s intake, and sure to satisfy a hungry tummy!

It’s dinner time! …And don’t even think about walking through the door, falling onto the couch, and ordering a pizza or take-out. If you plan ahead for busy days on the weekends (or whenever your schedule allows), you can come home to a satisfying and healthy meal with little to no effort. I usually buy a package or two of boneless, skinless chicken breast and cook it up during the weekends on the grill, or I’ll just toss it in the oven and broil it. That way, I have a healthy meal-starter on hand for my busy days when I come home and don’t feel like playing the, ‘What’s for dinner?’ game. Keep a healthy staple on hand for your busy days and you’ll have nothing to worry about when you come home! A good protein source is a must, but if you happen to be a vegetarian (or simply don’t like chicken), you can cook up a nice big pot of vegetable soup, or any healthful starter of your choice. Chicken happens to be my usual go-to because there’s so much you can do with it. I’ll chop it up and toss it into a nice big salad at least 2 nights a week. It also makes for a wonderful sandwich or a stir-fry add-on. Pre-packaged, already chopped and ready-to-go stir-fry veggies are available in just about every store nowadays, and are relatively cheap. They’re great to keep on hand because the prep work is already done for you! Simply toss in a wok or large frying pan, add in stir-fry sauce or whatever seasonings you like, add in a low-fat, lean protein, cook up for a few minutes, and enjoy! I usually make a big batch because the next day when all the flavors have had time to mingle and marry, it tastes even better! When making dinner I try to aim for three parts to a meal: a lean protein, a veggie, and a healthy carb, such as brown rice. Some people find it to be boring and bland, but if you simply swap out the water and instead, use chicken or vegetable stock to cook your rice, it comes out loaded with flavor!

But, lets not limit ourselves to just three square meals day in and day out. Small, healthful, energizing snacks are a must! And remember, 5-6 smaller, square meals per day help charge up our metabolism! But it’s important to ‘snack smart’. Forget chips and vending machine fillers. If you pack up some quick snacks to bring with you to work or school, the evil vending machine won’t even phase you. Some of my favorites include natural peanut butter and a banana or apple, baked pita chips and hummus, various mixed veggie sticks, rice cakes with natural peanut butter or reduced-sugar preserves, all-natural pretzels, mixed fruit salad, a can of albacore tuna or salmon on top of some fresh salad greens, lean deli meat and a few slices of low-fat cheese, natural trail mix…the possibilities are endless!

When it comes to grocery shopping, if you’re just cleaning up your diet for the first time or you’re truly serious about starting to eat better but aren’t sure where to start, I've included a sample grocery list that I resort to whenever I need some healthy ideas. Also, note that it’s a good idea to have a healthful snack or meal before going grocery shopping. That way, you’ll be less likely to give into temptation and buy any sugary sweets or fattening treats!

Now that we’ve covered the basics on the dietary portion of shaping up for summer, lets discuss the physical part! Yes, it’s time to get ready for a good ole’ workout! Not sure where to start? What should a cardio routine include? Not to fret! The following information will guide you in the right direction!

 Aside from a healthy and balanced diet, a proper and effective fitness regimen is composed of two parts: cardiovascular workouts and strength training (lifting weights).

Cardio is a must if you really want to burn excess fat. However, what to do and how much really varies from person to person, as every body is different. It’s up to you to determine what works best for your body and specific goals. Different body types and goals aside, you should try to get in at least 30 minutes of cardio 3-4+ times each week. It doesn’t mean you have to get outside and run 5 miles on a hot summer day. Cardio is simply whatever gets your heart pumpin’! It can be running, power tumbling, cycling, sports, sprints up & down stairs, dancing, swimming, jogging, jumping rope, etc. Not to mention there’s a variety of great machines at most gyms and health clubs, too (such as elliptical cross-trainers, rowing machines, climbers, and stair mills). The key is to get your heart rate up in your THRZ (Target Heart Rate Zone) for the appropriate amount of time. You can find more information about exertion levels and heart rate zones right here.

If you’re new to regular workouts or just starting out, start off slow and work your way up to longer and harder workouts. 25 minutes 3x / week is fine to start out with. You can increase your time by 3-5 minutes each week or two until you reach a level that you feel works for you. But, be careful not to over-do it! Doing excessive amounts of cardio if you’re not training for an athletic event (such as a marathon or triathlon) can do more harm than good. It can cause your metabolism to go into “emergency mode” and actually hold on to excess fat stores, the breakdown of healthy muscle tissue, dehydration, and more negative consequences. Stick with 30-45 minutes maximum and you’ll get in an effective cardio workout without over-exerting yourself.

I know any ladies out there may cringe at the thought of lifting weights, but stop! Get the idea of huge, bulky muscles out of your head - it’s quite difficult for women to build excessive muscle in anyway. It can be done, but it takes a serious desire and drive to get into competitor mode.

Strength training is both a must and a very beneficial move for everyone. In short, weightlifting builds and strengthens the muscles. Muscles use fat for fuel. Thus, the more lean muscle mass you have, the more overall fat-burning power your body has!

Starting out in the weight room can be intimidating at first, but start slow, and set realistic goals. don’t just reach for the 50 lb. dumbbells on your first go. Start with the 10’s, or even the 5’s. Each exercise should be done in a series [also known as sets], and each series should have a certain amount of repetitions [reps] each time. For example, if you’re executing a bicep curl, you might plan out 3 sets. The first set will be 8 reps, the second set will be 8 reps, and the third and final set will be 7 reps. It may not seem like much for one muscle, but if you incorporate a variety of different exercises and target various muscle groups, you’ll definitely feel and see results if you stick with it. Also, remember to focus on QUALITY over quantity. 10 slow, steady, well-formed reps will be much more beneficial than doing 30 fast, sloppy, shotty ones. When you build up your strength and find the same weights to be rather easy, slowly increase the weight-stacks so that you continue to have a challenge to look forward to. And, remember to mix your lifting routine up! This will prevent both boredom and plateauing.

If you don’t have a gym membership, don’t fret! For as little as $40-$50, you can set up a very useful ‘mini-gym’ right in your own home. All you need is:

  • A small, weighted medicine ball
  • A large, 50-60cm yoga ball
  • A set of free weights/dumbbells
  • A jump rope
  • Fitness DVDs. I HIGHLY recommend anything by Denise Austin!

Yes, it can be as simple as that. If you’re not on a budget and want to invest in more, go for it, but those basics are certainly enough to ensure an effective workout!

Now that we’re covered on the basics, lets go over some kick-butt moves to make that booty, hips, and thighs look fantastic for summer!

Squats, dead-lifts, and lunges. Ah! Three amazing power moves that work the back and end legs like magic (along with that healthy diet, of course)! Integrate these three moves into a lower-body workout, and you’ll see noticeable changes quicker than you may think. I guarantee that you’ll definitely feel them! How do you think miss Jessica Simpson got that amazing body for her role as Daisy in ‘The Dukes of Hazard’? Her trainer himself even said that he had her do those three moves. If you stick to your healthy lifestyle, and if these three simple moves are done correctly, you’re going to strengthen and tighten that tush and have legs that make jaws drop!

We’ll go over some more ‘double-duty’ moves (or exercises that target more than one muscle group at a time) next time. But in closing, I’d like to share some last-minute dietary and fitness & exercise tips to ensure success!


  • Eat a variety of colored fruits and vegetables every day. Not only are they good for you, but they also contain many phyto-nutrients that our bodies need! The more color and variety, the better.
  • EAT BREAKFAST! It’s the most important meal of the day. Start your day off right by fueling up properly. Even if it’s just a glass of juice (but make sure it’s 100%).
  • Avoid skipping meals. You should eat 5-7 small meals each day (about every 2 1/2-3 hours) to keep your body energized and the metabolism revved up!
  • Cut back on sugary sodas and beverages (those extra sugars are just empty calories that often end up being stored as fat). Instead, stick with water, mineral water w/ a lime wedge, natural teas, Crystal Light, and juice (always make sure it’s 100% juice).
  • If you’re a social drinker, remember to enjoy alcohol in moderation, as it also contains empty calories.
  • Be aware of serving sizes and portions. If you’re new to estimating, it’s a good idea to purchase a small kitchen scale to help you get familiar with serving sizes.
  • DRINK WATER! Proper hydration is always a must - even when you’re not working out. It’s also great for your skin and complexion. Try to drink at least 1 cup of water for every soda or cup of coffee you have, as caffeine and sodium can actually dehydrate you.


  • Always stretch before and after you workout! I can’t stress this enough. Hold each stretch for at least 10 seconds (and be sure not to bounce while you hold it).
  • Try to consume a protein and carb combo within :30-:60 minutes following your workout. Protein is essential to both build muscle mass, and to repair what you trained while working out. A general rule of thumb is to consume at least 1.2 lbs. of protein per pound of bodyweight (this is a total to aim for in your overall daily intake).
  • Switch things up a every 6-10 weeks to prevent boredom and plateauing.
  • Realize that there is a difference between challenging yourself and pushing (or forcing) yourself. Workouts should be fun! Not a form of punishment.
  •  When lifting, allow yourself at least 10 seconds to rest in between sets.
  • Allow yourself at least 1-2 rest days each week.
  • Stay hydrated during workouts. You should down at least 32 oz. of water for every 30 minutes that you exercise.
  • Set REALISTIC goals. If you’re looking to lose weight, aim for 1-2 lbs. per week. Anything more than that on a regular basis is unhealthy and can actually result in loss of muscle mass (excess water weight may result in a higher loss in the first week due to changes in fluid intake and exercise).
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re trying a new move or machine at the gym. No one comes out of the womb pumpin’ perfectly formed flys and dips! It’s vital to know the correct form for an exercise to ensure you’re doing it properly and not hurting your joints.

Best of luck to everyone on your venture to a better you, and overall health and wellness!

Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites
Reddit!!JoomlaVote!Google!Live!Facebook!StumbleUpon!Yahoo!Free social bookmarking plugins and extensions for Joomla! websites!