We’ve all seen them … those articles that appear, like flowers in the spring, telling us we can “Be Bikini Ready by Summer.”
I call bullshit.
Here’s the problem: they give no consideration to where you’re starting out, where you want to be, your age, your lifestyle, or anything else. They give a one size fits all solution to a very individual problem. And, sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but you didn’t accumulate your “issues” in three months, and you’re not going to get rid of them in three months.
I honestly think all this thrill of victory talk about Being Your Bikini Best in 90 Days does nothing but create unrealistic expectations that set you up for the agony of defeat.
Here’s a better headline: Find a Healthy Way of Eating that’s Sustainable for you, Incorporate Movement into Your Life in a Consistent Way, Develop Good Habits, and in 90 Days you can Start Seeing Real Progress.
But it’s a bit long, isn’t it? And it’s not nearly as sexy or sensational, it’s just the plain, boring truth.
Those over-promise and under-deliver articles do get one thing right though – spring really is a great time to start cleaning up our act, for a few reasons: the holidays are well out of the way, we’re starting to look forward to a bit more exposed skin – sleeveless tops and skirts or dresses and, dare I say it … a bathing suit, and it just sort of makes good sense, since everything else is getting re-birthed.
So here’s the article that will never make the front cover of a magazine … the honest version. You can start seeing real change in the next 90 days by implementing these simple things into your life, your way:
If you’ve read my book Creating the French Metabolism: Eat, Drink, and Be Beautiful, you know I don’t believe in “diets.” They’re generally not sustainable and only work when you’re on them, since how you look is a reflection of how you’re eating right now. I do believe in having healthy meals in moderate proportions, made of quality ingredients, with the occasional indulgence – nothing is off limits.
Also, about a year ago I watched a documentary on Netflix called The Game Changers. It’s about pro athletes who eat a completely plant-based diet, busting the myth that you need massive volumes of protein to survive. It was entertaining and informative without any of the you’re-going-to-die-if-you-eat-a-steak vibe.
Being French at heart, I’m not an all-or-nothing girl. I have healthy, home-prepared, plant-based foods at least 90% of the time, but if I really want a burger and fries, I’ll have a burger and fries. However, the documentary made a pretty compelling case for a plant-based diet for overall health, even if it’s only a few times a week. You don’t have to jump in and do the plant-based thing whole hog. Or whole broccoli.
Either way, preparing the majority of your meals at home from natural, quality ingredients is your best guarantee of controlling what you’re eating. If you really don’t have the time or inclination to prepare meals, consider a healthy meal delivery service rather than relying on restaurant food.
I’m a broken record when it comes to water. But here’s the thing – you can’t live without it, and you can’t live really well without enough of it. Tired? Drink water. Dry skin? Drink water. Can’t get your weight to budge? Drink more water.
You need to be aiming for half your body weight in ounces at a minimum – more (I recommend at least a gallon a day) if you’re trying to lose weight.
My conversations with people I’ve coached who have hit a plateau go something like this:
Me: How much water are you drinking?
Client: A couple of glasses a day, is that good?
Me: It’s great … if you weigh 32 pounds. Try to get a gallon a day and you’ll start losing weight.
Client: But I’ll have to pee all day.
Me: Yes, but try to get a gallon a day and you’ll start losing weight.
Client: I’m not really thirsty.
Me: Right, but try to get a gallon a day and you’ll start losing weight.
Client: But I don’t like water.
Me: Ok, but just drink the f*cking water and you’ll lose weight.
A week later they’re thanking me.
You know that the “good” fats, the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, nourish your skin from the inside out. But they have a lot of other benefits, like lowering LDL (lousy) cholesterol, lowering blood pressure and risk of heart attack, improving joint health, and keeping you satisfied until the next meal. Plus, they’re delicious, so they’re easy to include in your diet.
Make a salad dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pressed garlic. Throw in an avocado, lettuce (my preference is arugula), and pine nuts lightly toasted in olive oil. Boom – delicious, light, healthy meal and fat bomb all in one.
The Other 95% of Your Skin
I’ve written a fair amount about taking great care of your skin, but in case you haven’t noticed, the majority of your skin isn’t on your face.
Caring for your skin won’t make you skinny (kind of ironic, right?), but the condition of your skin makes a tremendous difference in your overall appearance, making you look younger, slimmer, and healthier.
Nutrition, enough water, and healthy fats plays a big part in helping your skin from the inside out, but there’s still more you can do on the outside.
Same as your face, the essential steps of skincare are cleanse – exfoliate – moisturize.
Look for a body wash or soap with ingredients that will moisturize your skin – things like coconut oil, shea butter, and glycerin. Use the gentlest products you can that get the job done.
On a regular basis, once or twice a week, exfoliate to remove dead skin cells that block pores and make skin look dull. I like to use sugar scrubs, first because they’re natural, and second because I have a 100-year-old house with 100-year-old plumbing, and I know sugar will dissolve without clogging my 100-year-old pipes. You can buy sugar scrubs at every price point, or make your own with a cup of sugar, two or three tablespoons of oil (olive, almond, grapeseed, etc.), and a few drops of a favorite essential oil if you like. Simply apply it before showering, giving your body a good, gentle scrub, then shower off as usual.
Finally, moisturize with a good lotion or oil (you can simply use coconut or olive oil) when coming out of the shower, and before bed, when your body is working to restore itself.
Technically, this is known as exercise. But I like to think of it more existentially.
You see a lot of fitness advice, from hours-long gym workouts to seven-minute HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts. Here’s the real deal for real people – do more than you’re doing now, and do it consistently.
When should you work out? Mornings are great – it gets your day off to a positive start, sets the tone for making healthier choices through the day, and helps increase fat burning throughout the day. But if you can’t work out in the morning, the best time to work out is when you can.
What exercise should you do? Basically, whatever you like enough to do consistently. Walking is great; it’s free and anyone with legs can do it, and you can pick up the pace with a little jogging if you want. Yoga is a great full-body workout, and there are a ton of free yoga routines on YouTube. And if your goal is to develop some muscle definition, you’re going to need to pick up something heavier than the cat. You can find lots of targeted routines on Pinterest and YouTube.
How much time should I exercise? Well, how much time have you got? 30 or 45 minutes a day would be great, but maybe you don’t have that. If you’ve got 20 minutes, then 20 minutes is perfect. If you can do more, do more. Don’t not exercise (double negative, I know) because you don’t have 30 minutes a day.
. . .
If any of these are new habits for you, set up some triggers to help you incorporate them into your life. For example, set out your sneakers and workout clothes before you go to bed, so they’re there as a reminder in the morning.
I work out at home. I have my yoga mat, a few sets of weights, and an exercise bike in case the weather doesn’t permit getting outside, but I still like to “gear up” before I exercise. Putting on the workout clothes makes a commitment to at least start, and once started it’s easier to keep going.
Set an alert on your phone or use an app to remind you to drink water. Clean out the fridge and cabinets of any unhealthy foods, and stock them with healthy ones, so there’s no other choice.
Is all of this a magic bullet? Well, sort of, if it’s a slow-motion, Matrix kind of bullet. It’s all just a matter of consistency, managing realistic expectations, and perseverance. And celebrating small victories along the way.