How can I build lean muscle without losing weight?
Transforming our approach to fitness, the goal is to adopt the mindset of an amateur athlete rather than that of a dieter. Think of it as training for life’s marathon, not just a seasonal sprint. This means embracing a lifestyle akin to that of long-term athletes, who focus on maintaining their fitness year-round, rather than […]

How can I build lean muscle without losing weight?

Transforming our approach to fitness, the goal is to adopt the mindset of an amateur athlete rather than that of a dieter. Think of it as training for life’s marathon, not just a seasonal sprint. This means embracing a lifestyle akin to that of long-term athletes, who focus on maintaining their fitness year-round, rather than fluctuating between extremes.

For women, this shift in perspective is particularly empowering. It moves away from the often toxic cycle of dieting – where food choices are tied to self-worth – and towards building foundational strength and tone through consistent, intense training. This could mean engaging in some form of exercise four times a week or even daily, coupled with nutritious eating habits.

The emphasis here is on creating and nurturing a lifestyle where good nutrition and regular exercise are norms, not exceptions. This approach promotes a more balanced relationship with food and exercise, one that is sustainable and healthy. It’s about recognizing that occasional indulgences do not define our worth and that our fitness journey is about progress, not perfection.

By adopting this athlete-like mindset, we shift our focus to discipline, motivation, and overcoming challenges. It’s about building a resilient mindset that sees failure not as a setback but as a stepping stone to greater strength and determination. This perspective is especially crucial for women, breaking free from the harmful dieting mindset that can lead to emotional eating, diminished self-esteem, and an unending cycle of weight gain and loss.

So, let’s embrace this new paradigm of becoming ‘body tone athletes.’ This isn’t just about physical appearance; it’s about cultivating a mindset of discipline, health, and self-empowerment. It’s a celebration of what our bodies can achieve with consistent effort and the right mindset, moving beyond superficial goals to a deeper, more fulfilling sense of well-being.

The three steps you need to tone up each area of your body are:


1. Embrace Nutritional Abundance, Not Calorie Deprivation:

In the journey towards better health, whether it’s about toning, weight management, or overall fitness, the focus should be on adding nutritional value, not just cutting calories. This perspective offers a positive path, steering clear of the dieting mindset that often leads to a frustrating cycle of weight loss and regain, and a harmful correlation between self-worth and food consumption.

The more productive approach is to concentrate on what you should include in your diet for a healthier lifestyle. It’s like the saying, ‘Don’t think of a pink elephant’ – the more you try not to think about it, the more it dominates your thoughts. Similarly, fixating on foods to avoid can inadvertently intensify cravings for them. Instead, our focus will be on crafting a diet rich in nutrients that should be part of your everyday meals.

Adopting the mindset of an athlete, it’s essential to consume a well-balanced mix of all macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats – with an emphasis on healthier options. This balanced approach ensures that your body receives the necessary fuel and nutrients not just for daily activities but also for your fitness regimen.

More tone requires more nutrition

Tailor your diet to meet your physical, not just weight loss, needs. This means this nutrition plan is ideal for those committed to regular physical activity – at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, plus toning exercises 2-4 times a week. By aligning your eating habits with your physical activities, you work towards your fitness goals while promoting overall health and vitality.


  1. Protein – sources or a combination of grains, seeds, and plants. Protein is crucial for muscle repair and growth.
  2. Carbohydrates – Your Energy Source: Focus on complex carbs, which provide sustained energy. Include whole grains, brown rice, potatoes, pumpkin, and oats in your diet, aiming for 5-7g/kg per day.
  3. Fats – Essential for Health: Prioritize healthy fats like omega-3s, found in deep-sea fish, walnuts, extra virgin olive oil, almonds, and seeds. Include some saturated fats but avoid trans fats completely.
  4. Minerals/Electrolytes – Vital for Function: Ensure you’re getting enough sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and glucose. Women should be particularly mindful of iron and calcium; consult your GP if you have concerns about deficiencies.
  5. Water – Hydration is Key: Use this formula to calculate your water needs: Your weight in kg divided by 30 equals the liters required on a light training day. Add 0.35 liters for every 30 minutes of higher-intensity training.
  6. Treat Foods – Balance and Enjoyment: It’s okay to enjoy treats like sugar, chocolate, white bread, pastries, and ice cream. If possible, have them 4 hours before an intense training session for energy, or afterward for recovery. Try to limit these to no more than once a day for balance.

Remember, this is a guide, and everyone’s body is unique. It may be a good idea to double check with your GP or nutritionist what nutritional requirements your body needs right now. It’s always a good idea to listen to your body and adjust based on how you feel during and after workouts. This balanced approach to nutrition supports your physical activity and overall well-being, keeping you energized and healthy on your fitness journey.


2. Practice self compassion mantras .

  1. Embracing Imperfection: “I am not perfect; I am wonderfully human. Each day is an opportunity to learn and grow. I embrace my journey of self-discovery and celebrate my progress, no matter how small.”
  2. Learning and Loving My Unique Body: “I am on a fascinating journey of learning about my unique body. Its strengths and vulnerabilities are part of my story, and I love it for what it is. I am committed to understanding and nurturing it with kindness and patience.”
  3. Celebrating Incremental Fitness Achievements: “Every step towards fitness, no matter how small, is a victory. I cherish the process of chipping away at my fitness goals every week. Each workout, each healthy choice, brings me closer to where I want to be.”
  4. Nourishing with Good Food: “I love adding nutritious, wholesome food to my diet. Every healthy meal is an act of self-care, fueling my body and mind for the challenges and joys of life.”
  5. Affirming Self-Worth and Capability: “I am more than enough. I possess all I need to feel fit, strong, and toned. My self-worth is not defined by external standards but by my own sense of well-being and vitality.”
  6. Mastering Mind and Body: “I am the master of my mind and body. My thoughts, actions, and choices are mine alone, and I wield them with wisdom and power. I am capable of incredible things, and I choose to pursue my goals with courage and determination.”

3. Conditioning Muscles – Feel the Burn:

Focus on engaging different muscle groups – arms, legs, abdomen, and back – through targeted exercises. The key is to feel the ‘burn’ in these areas, indicating that your muscles are being effectively worked. This sensation is a sign of your muscles responding and strengthening.

  1. Stretching and Breathing – Rejuvenate Your Body: Incorporate stretching and mindful breathing into your routine. These practices are not just about flexibility; they’re essential for rejuvenating and restoring your body. Stretching helps prevent injury and aids in recovery, while proper breathing techniques enhance performance and relaxation.
  2. Challenging Movements – Push Beyond Comfort: Embrace exercises that challenge your body. When you feel the burn, aim to push for an additional 5-10 reps. This extra effort is crucial in building endurance and strength. It’s about moving beyond your comfort zone to achieve greater results.
  3. Building Muscle – Tailored Approaches:
    • For Muscle Building: Focus on fewer reps with heavier weights. This approach stimulates muscle growth by providing a higher intensity workout for your muscles.
    • For Lean Muscle: Aim for more reps with lighter weights. This strategy tones and defines muscles without necessarily increasing muscle size.

Remember, the goal is to listen to your body and adjust your workout to suit your personal fitness objectives. Whether you’re looking to build muscle or achieve lean, toned muscles, these strategies can be adapted to meet your needs. Consistency, proper technique, and a focus on overall well-being are key to a successful and sustainable fitness journey.

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