Last weekend was – at least in the Northeast – the official beginning of the summer season. If you’re like me, you’re rummaging through boxes of clothes in the basement (or, let’s be real, online shopping), trying to assemble your summer wardrobe as temperatures jumped this week. Living on the Jersey Shore, for example, I know I’m going to be in a bikini a lot this summer.

But maybe you’re dreading the return of summer weather, because ideally you’d like to be a little leaner before throwing on shorts or tank tops (or swimsuits) again.

If that’s you, this blog post was written just for you. I have five “dos and don’ts” that will make lifestyle strategies more effective, plus mindset tips that will keep you centered and positive along the way.

Shift #1

DON’T: Fall prey to unachievable body image standards.
DO: Take advantage of motivation.

A change in season can bring fresh awareness – it’s simply a matter of not getting caught up in negative self-comparison and unrealistic standards. Maybe putting on shorts makes you realize that you’ve neglected your body – that you haven’t been exercising as much as you would like, or that food has become too often a default de-stresser.

(Or maybe like me, you realize you probably need a spray tan or at least a little Jergen’s.)

Take advantage of motivation to get into a new routine, but make sure to also monitor your self-talk, be aware of what imagery you’re taking in via social media, and stay focused on balancing outcomes (“results”) with process (enjoyable, realistic habits).

Shift #2

DON’T: Over-do HIIT, or be addicted to feeling completely exhausted after exercise.
DO: Strength train, following a progressive plan that gets you working hard!

Strength training is essential for meaningful physique change. To truly change your appearance as well as your well-being, it’s more than about simply weight loss on the scale. It’s also about lean muscle, especially for women. Strength training of any kind – even bodyweight strength training – will help to build muscle and lose fat.

But a common mistake is to be addicted to the feeling of complete exhaustion after exercise. But this doesn’t help you make faster progress – it just wears you out faster and makes exercise less fun.

The smartest way to approach strength training is to follow a progressive program that starts where you are and gets harder and more sophisticated as you progress each week. You don’t need to feel completely zapped for strength training to “count” as a workout. Each set should be quite challenging, but every workout doesn’t have to leave you in a puddle on the floor. On a scale of 1-10, I like for my clients to end sets at an 8. Meaning, maybe you could do 2 more reps, but that would be absolutely it. This is where people make the most steady progress, both in terms of strength increase and physique change.

How often should you strength train? If you don’t do it at all right now, twice a week is perfect! If you strength train inconsistently, 3-4 times a week is a nice step up. The goal is to pick something achievable that you can stick with consistently.

(Currently I’m offering a special option to test my DIY 12-week strength training program for women – it’s a new program with 4 workouts a week and I’m still refining it… so it’s on a discount. Want to jump in? Click here).

Shift #3

DON’T: Burn out on endless cardio.
DO: Move more!

This is something my clients hear me say alllllll the time:

Do not underestimate the power of walking.

Low-intensity movement like walking is incredibly impactful for weight management and fat loss. Often, when people want to drop a few pounds, they immediately start running. The problem is that jogging doesn’t always provide the stimulus for weight loss that you really want (and sets you up for injury if you’re extremely disorganized/random in your approach). Instead, keep most of your movement in the low-to-moderate intensity zone, and move a lot. If you introduce running, follow a gradual program that allows your body to improve week to week.

Low-intensity movement like walking adds up significantly, and contributes dramatically to weight management.

(I am a runner myself and am very pro-running. But it should never be the first offense on weight – it should be enjoyed for its own sake! I share with my clients that about six years ago when I trained for a half marathon, I wasn’t any leaner than I am now, running 3 miles a few times a week!)

Shift #4

DON’T: Jump into a strict diet or weight loss challenge.
DO: Follow my 5 P’s for better eating habits.

“Mindful” eating is a pretty broad umbrella term. However, it is something that I like for clients to cultivate. While mindful eating encompasses improved self-awareness and often spiritual growth, in my role I mainly focus on the habit-driven aspects of mindful eating, which for me are the 5 P’s:

  • Protein
  • Planning
  • Portions
  • Places
  • People

These are all considerations that will help you improve your eating habits and your self-awareness around food, preventing mindless overeating and tuning up your relationship with food.

Interested in learning more about my 5 P’s? Check out this YouTube video where I dive into more detail.

Shift #5

DO: Accept and enjoy your body, dressing comfortable and cool.
DON’T: Wait to meet certain physical criteria in order to wear shorts or sleeveless dresses or tank tops.

I grew up in the Deep South, and even though I didn’t have any “real” weight issues as an adolescent, I wasn’t in sports and I wasn’t as fit as my peers. Self-conscious about my legs, I wore jeans even in the heat of summer. I still remember what this felt like. Even a few years ago, I persisted in wearing leggings past my knees if I was running outside, regardless of the summer weather.

Now, if I waited until I was cellulite-free to wear shorts, I would literally never wear shorts, and that’s just unacceptable to me. It’s important to accept that body image fluctuates – we all have “good” and “bad” days in terms of our self-perception of how good we look. It is unfair to our bodies to only dress cool and comfortable for summer when our self-image lines up with the cultural “thin ideal.”

Instead, buy clothes that make you feel great, but also allow you to enjoy the summer weather and not feel suffocated or chafed.

You don’t have to meet expectations either from other people or from yourself in order to dress appropriately (whatever that means to you) for hot weather.

In short?

Take advantage of motivation, but stay aware of unrealistic expectations and maintaining a positive mindset.

Strength train, working out hard, but not constantly doing HIIT that leaves you feeling completely zapped.

Move more, but make the majority of your movement lower-intensity, like walking.

Improve your mindful eating habits, rather than jumping into a restrictive diet with set rules.

Wear comfortable clothes now – don’t wait to fit a particular body image ideal.

Need help structuring a fitness program for yourself that focuses on strength training, includes nutrition coaching, and is mindful of body image and self-esteem? Need a little push, organization, or direction? Schedule a consultation for free. I’m taking one new one-on-one clients for summer.

Rachel Trotta

I am a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Physique and Bodybuilding Specialist, and Women's Fitness Specialist. I live in New Jersey in the NYC metro area, and I coach clients online all over the world. As a trainer and health writer, my mission is to make healthy living sustainable for the average person. I’m also a wife, mom, nature lover, runner, avid cook, weightlifting aficionado, history nerd, travel addict, and obsessive podcast listener. Get in touch!

Free Download

Get My Free 28-Day Meal Prep Guide