When it comes to toning up and losing weight, the formula is the same no matter whether you're short, tall, petite or "big-boned." A healthy combination of exercise and calorie consumption typically works to help people of all sizes slim down, build muscle tone and feel healthier. As you work to slim down and tone up, it's important to focus not on the size of your bones -- which don't have much to do with the amount of fat on those bones -- but instead on reducing your body mass index and developing a long-term, manageable fat-loss regimen.
Calculate your body mass index (BMI) and measure the circumference of your bust, waist and hips to get an idea of your size before starting your new fitness routine. As you get started, it's important not to focus on your weight or dress size, but instead to monitor your progress by the size of your various body parts and how you feel. Also keep in mind that as you build muscle, you may find that you gain weight, and some parts of your body may become thicker.
Do moderate cardiovascular exercise for at least 150 minutes each week, or do intense cardiovascular exercise for at least 75 minutes a week, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As mentioned, the only way to tone up and slim down is to lose fat -- and you'll do that faster by getting regular exercise. Start out by jogging, walking, cycling or doing any other physical activity that you like, for as long as you can maintain it. As your body adjusts, you'll be able to do longer sessions. Don't start out exerting yourself excessively, as that may cause you to burn out and stop doing your exercises. Also, find other ways to move your body throughout the day; for instance, take the stairs, ride your bike to work or walk to the grocery store.
Do strength-training exercises at least two times a week -- or more if you can fit it into your schedule. Not only does lifting weights or doing body-weight exercises help you build muscle, but it will help you burn fat faster, since muscle burns fat more efficiently. Start out with one or two sets of arm and leg exercises, two days a week. As you get stronger, work up to three sets, and increase the amount of weight you're lifting every three weeks or so. For each exercise, you should be able to lift the weight 10 to 12 times, feeling fatigued on the final repetitions. Give yourself at least one day of rest in between weight training one muscle group; for example, don't lift arms on consecutive days, but instead take at least 24 hours of rest between sessions.
Cut calories, while at the same time refraining from extreme dieting. Keep a diet journal for a week or so, writing down everything you eat. Then look for things you can trim from that routine -- cut out sodas, desserts or other extras in small increments, so you hardly notice you're missing them. Replace starchy snacks and convenience foods with more fruits and vegetables. You'll need to burn about 3,500 calories through reduced calorie consumption and exercise in order to burn 1 pound of fat, but it's best to do it slowly so you don't lose focus.
Maintain a positive attitude about your body type, but at the same time stay realistic. In one study mentioned on the Rodale website, obese women who perceived themselves to be "overweight" were less likely to gain weight over time than women who perceived themselves to be "normal." In other words, thinking "I'm just big-boned" may cause you to take less action about your size, since you may think you were born that way and there's nothing you can do about it.
- Monitor your measurements and BMI over time to get an idea of where you're making strides, but focus less on the numbers and more on sticking to your new, healthier routine.
- If you need additional help sticking to a fitness or health plan, talk with a fitness coach or trainer to get tips and a plan that works for your lifestyle.
- Be sure to talk to your doctor before you start any new fitness or weight-loss routine.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.