Weight loss occurs when you burn more calories than you consume. While cardio exercise can help you accomplish this, many women shy away from strength training for fear of becoming too bulky. However, this is an important step for toning and defining your muscles as you burn the fat off of them. Combining cardiovascular exercise and strength training with a low-calorie and well-balanced diet is the best way to lose weight and keep it off, as well as to tone the muscles all over your body. Talk to your doctor before beginning a new diet or exercise program.
Cut 500 to 1,000 calories from your daily intake. This helps you lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. The best way to do this is to fill your plate with a variety of foods from each food group, including fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean protein and whole grains. These choices are generally low in fat and calories, but are nutrient-dense and satisfy hunger. Avoid fast food, fried food, frozen dinners, soda, candy, cookies, cake, packaged snacks and chips, which are high in calories and hinder weight loss.
Engage in at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each week. This guideline generally applies to women at a healthy weight. If you are new to exercise, this might be enough to jump-start your weight loss. If you already engage in exercise, you may need as many as 300 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each week to lose unwanted pounds. Walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, organized sports and biking are good choices.
Add two to three 20- to 30-minute strength-training sessions each week. Cardiovascular exercise burns fat off your body, but strength training defines your muscles. Target each major muscle group during each session for a well-proportioned look. Rest for a day between each session, which is when your muscles recover and gain strength and size. Lifting weights and using resistance bands are good choices.
- If you have difficulty committing to large chunks of time for exercise, break your workouts into smaller sessions. For example, rather than one 30-minute workout each day, aim for three 10-minute sessions. This offers similar benefits, but allows you to get in enough exercise on a daily basis.
- Keep a food and exercise journal as you work toward your weight loss and muscle definition goals. This holds you personally accountable, allows you to track your progress and lets you see which aspects of your plan work and which ones don't.
Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.