I've been on Spark a long time, and one of the recurring themes on message boards I see are women saying, "I need to lose weight, but I don't like exercise. I don't want to lift weights because I don't want to look like a body builder."
These women are setting themselves up to fail.
Ladies, you will not bulk up without a very specific training regime and eating plan. Most people cannot do this without advice of a trainer or coach.
What you eat and how you exercise determines what your body looks like.
This is runway model Adriana Lima:
Here's how she gets this look. Before a runway show:
"She sees a nutritionist, who has measured her body’s muscle mass, fat ratio and levels of water retention. He prescribes protein shakes, vitamins and supplements to keep Lima’s energy levels up during this training period. Lima drinks a gallon of water a day. For nine days before the show, she will drink only protein shakes – "no solids". The concoctions include powdered egg. Two days before the show, she will abstain from the daily gallon of water, and just drink normally."
Powdered eggs and water. Yum?
This is Oxygen fitness model Linda Minard:
I couldn't find an article that describes what Linda eats, but I know that Tour de France competitors eat 9,000 calories per day. That is not a typo. 9,000 on average.
Linda is 5'2" and weighs about 130lbs. That's pretty close to me. 5'0" and 128lbs. Except I don't look like her.
This is me:
Linda has WAY better abs and arms than I do! I definitely have more bodyfat than she does. I'm guessing she is about 14% bodyfat, which is very low, and 'competitive' range. I'm currently about 28% bodyfat, which is the upper end of 'normal'. Clearly, muscle makes her leaner for a similar amount of 'weight'. She's built like a cheetah.
Muscle is smaller, denser, and tighter than fat. Fat takes more volume per pound.
Here's a visual example. These are pictures I took at the Whole Foods meat counter.
This is a non-organic, corn-fed beef ribeye. This cow has eaten corn feed most of its life, and not much access to pasture, if any. It has a high degree of fat on it. There is a lot of marbling - streaks of fat - embedded within the muscle tissue. Basically, this cow was obese.
This is a grass-fed, free range, pasture raised beef ribeye. The muscle tissue is tight and compact. There is very little fat on it, and very small if any, steaks of fat within the muscle tissue. This was a thin, healthy, muscular cow.
I'm not anywhere close to 'fitness' model body composition, but because there are so many health problems these days, I am comparatively 'thin' for my area. My pet peeve at the moment is restaurant servers who say I can 'afford' to get the dessert because I can 'afford' the calories. Or that I have a 'high metabolism'.
No, I do not. This takes work and good choices. I eat mostly clean, and as few processed foods as possible. Most of my workouts are designed to combine both resistance training and cardio at the same time - more bang for the buck. It's the strength training that makes you lean, not cardio.
I see people get on elliptical machines and run at a very high cadence. Comparatively, I must look like a slacker. I workout at a pretty slow cadence. But if you were to look closer, you would notice that I set my resistance at moderate to high levels. When I get on the treadmill, you'll never see me running. I set a walking pace of about 3-4mph, but my incline is between 10-15%.
Whenever I get up from my desk, I do a few stretches, and about 20 squats.
For my arms, I like resistance bands. It's easy to stretch and pull while seated at my desk. Due to a wrist injury when I was 8, I can't do push ups, which is a shame because using body weight is a great way to build muscle. At the moment, I have a crazy fitness goal that I want to be able to do pull-ups. Why? Because I've never been able to do one!
We are relative newcomers to where we live, and I've had people say to me that I'm 'lucky' that I don't have a weight problem. They didn't know me when I was 42% bodyfat. Luck had nothing to do with it.
While I'm not a Tour de France competitor, and I don't eat 9,000 calories per day, I do eat well.
I can strength train with moderate cardio, eat about 1,400-2,200 calories per day and be fit. Or I can drink powdered egg protein shakes and be thin.
It's not luck. It's a choice.