Here are just a few questions I've thought of before ... let me know if there any others you have that you'd like to see here!
I'm a girl. I don't really want to put on a bunch of muscle. Should I avoid doing any weights?
No! Muscle is one of the most misunderstood parts of the body and working out. Muscle doesn't have to be huge and buff (and honestly, if you're a girl and you end up looking like Schwarzenegger, that's incredible anyway since you'd have to get your body fat down below your essentials and most girls have a BASIC body fat of 12%, but most sit at more than 25% :). Muscle is also one of the best ways to burn body fat. Why? Aerobic, cardio exercises burn the calories now, but the metabolic increase goes away when you're finished. Anaerobic (muscle building exercises) can make you gain muscle (lean muscle, too...) that literally increases your metabolism permanently (or as long as you keep the muscles up). Long story short, gaining muscle is the only way you'll truly keep the body fat off.
What are some facts about body fat?
A woman's essential body fat is 12%, though most women sit more in the 20-30% range (what this means is, you, as a woman, HAVE to have around 12%. Athletes, like Lindsey Vonn, the Olympic skier have somewhere around 13-15%:) or even higher. It takes a lot for a woman to fall below 12% body fat, and you're not going to get really buff until after that. Most men tend to already be in better shape or a much lower body fat than women, just based on their body makeup and chemicals. Men have an essential fat of 4-6% and athletic for them is much lower than athletic for us. And, most men just tend to be luckier than women, since they never have to have children (my husband, for instance, has LESS than 4% bodyfat and he doesn't even workout - EVER! ... makes me sick;)
How much weight should I try to lose?
Here is a good place to go to determine how much weight you should lose. Basically, if you don't feel like reading the three paragraphs on the other page;)... You need to determine how much of your weight is essential weight by multiplying your weight by the percentage of body fat. Your weight, less that number, equals your essential weight in your body. Then subtracting how much you WANT to lose from your current weight gives you your "target". Take the essential weight number and divide it by the target number and you'll probably come up with a number like .889. That particular number means that, if you were to reach that target weight, you would have only 11% body fat left (100%-88.9%), therefore your goal is unhealthy. Okay. I tried to explain it. The website I referred you to above makes more sense. Less mathematical:)
I would recommend to anyone to buy a body fat calculator, which I got on Amazon for less than $30. It helps me monitor my body fat and also how much weight I actually can lose in a healthy way. For me, falling much below 130 begins to be unhealthy. Losing more than 10 pounds is, for me, unrealistic and/or unhealthy.
Do I need to go on a really strict diet?
In my opinion, no. You know what's healthy. You know what's unhealthy. Try to stick to the healthy stuff, but don't completely deprive yourself of some popcorn at the movies every now and then, or, if you're a sugar craver like me, eat a small portion of that candy or ice cream you love so much. Slowly try to cut it out of your diet but TRUST ME - don't go cold turkey. You WILL be tempted and eat the whole bag/bucket/box. However, don't be afraid of protein and good fats, and even carbs (seriously, it makes me SICK when people don't eat fruit because it is a "carb." That is RIDICULOUS!!!!) It's okay to eat red meat. It's okay to eat beans and ham and cheese and low-fat yogurt. It's okay to eat toast for breakfast, and lots of watermelon now that it's summertime. All of these things are good nutrients. Fat isn't always bad ... it's the overly processed fats that get you. But a string cheese once a day with your breakfast or morning snack is NOT going to make you fat. In fact, it's kind of like drinking water to help you get rid of water retention. Good fat can help flush out bad fat.