I'd tell you this:
The following advice comes from my personal life experience. These are rules I follow to get and stay in shape. I also touch on the subject of why most women fail at it...
You're probably not eating enough- EAT MORE. If you are beginning a workout regiment, in the middle of one, or a workout guru, you should be getting plenty of good food to fuel your body. An extremely common mistake mostly women make is cutting out too much food which in turn makes it very difficult for your body to work to its full potential. This means you won't be able to burn as many calories or build the lean muscle you need to boost your metabolism. Now, I am not saying go hog wild and eat a 2,500 calorie diet every day, but you should not feel deprived during the day. Eat when you are hungry and become familiar with the feeling of your body feeling full. A healthy eating routine consists of LOTS and LOTS of h2o (waaaaay more than you think!), high fiber, low sugar (check those labels- especially cereal!), low fat, high protein, and many, many fresh vegetables and fruit.
Breakfast is your most important meal- eating breakfast boosts your metabolism right off the bat so don't skip it! Eat a good breakfast within the hour you wake-- water and fiber first thing in the morning help flush the body of all the toxins you may have previously consumed. Yes, you might be running to the bathroom a few more times than usual in the a.m., but its worth it, I promise.
Your diet (and when I say diet- I don't mean the preconceived notion of a restricted food regiment- I simply mean "what you are eating") is 65-70% of weight loss- yes! Working out is important, but if the diet is not in check, it is almost impossible to slim down. So, eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a peasant.
Remember the no eating past 8p rule? Forget it. During the nighttime hours, you are literally fasting- you are not consuming food. Therefore, your body can go into "starvation mode"- which means it thinks that you are starving it and being the incredible machine that it is, it in turn stores fat in an attempt to help save your life. So, instead of eating dinner at 7p and then not eating again until maybe 8a, have a little something half hour before you go to bed- half a small apple and a few slices of cheese, or half a cup of cottage cheese or lowfat yogurt- something low in sugar and carbohydrates. This helps your body rest easier through the night, recover from any hard work you've down throughout the day, and prevents the starvation mode cycle. This is also why it is so important to eat breakfast right away (to break the fast!!)
Familiarize yourself with correct portion sizes. The average person probably eats 2-3 times the recommended portions of food. If you're serious about changing the way you eat- measure your food! It might sound silly but until you feel like you have a good grasp on what is half a cup, one cup, a small apple vs. a large apple, number of chips per serving, etc., etc., get out your measuring cups, food scales and tablespoons and measure out your portions.
Don't get stuck in the rut. Whether you're a calorie counter or not, each day, your eating should be tweaked just a bit to keep the body guessing. When your body becomes familiar and comfortable with your eating routine- thats when you run the risk of plateauing. For example, if you do count calories, you want your counts to "rollercoaster" throughout the week, i.e.- if you eat 1,800 calories on Monday, Tuesday you should drop to 1,300, Wednesday back to 1,700, Thursday and Friday could be 1,500 and Saturday- 2,000 and so on and so worth. This will keep your metabolism high and prevent you from halting your progress. Its also important to give yourself one or two (max!!) cheat meals per week. This means forgetting the calorie count and chowing down. This not only keeps you sane and satisfies your urges, it can also jump start your metabolism back up after days of eating very healthy food that your body becomes accustom to.
Lose the booze or you won't lose- I promise you this. If you're drinking all the time or binge drinking on weekends, even if its only vodka & water, it will be extremely difficult for you to lose weight. A couple drinks (2-3) once or twice a week won't do too much damage but you must remember it is not only the calories in alcohol that inhibit weight loss- it is the affect they can have on your metabolism days after you drink them.
Get on a regular sleep routine. Your body cannot take care of itself if its constantly getting too little or too much sleep. 7-8 hours is PLENTY of sleep! 7-8 hours is also required! Sleep is so, so important in keeping your body healthy. Try your best to stick with the same sleep routine each day- even the weekends! Remember this, it is much better to get up the same time you normally would and then perhaps take an afternoon nap than it is to sleep until 10 or 11 on weekends when your body is accustomed to getting up at 8 on the week days. I, personally, am an early morning gal. I feel my best when I can get to bed by 10 or 11 and awake at 6 or 7. This allows me plenty of time to get up, let my body wake up, eat a good breakfast and have 1-2 cups of coffee before I workout and get on with my day.
Get on a good multivitamin! It is almost impossible for an average person to get all the nutrients they need from just diet alone. Find a high quality (yes, brand and quality matter!) multi and get in the routine of taking it every day. I take one twice a day- one after breakfast and one after lunch.
Don't be a stranger to strength training... and use heavier weights! Lifting weights 2-3 times per week will help you build lean muscle ladies! And lean muscle boosts your metabolism- which means you'll be able to eat more without gaining weight. Do not be afraid to pick up a weight thats heavier than a 10 or 12 pounder. It is nearly impossible for a woman to "bulk up" like our male counterpart unless you're using a steroid or medical supplement- we simply don't have the testosterone to do it. So, don't be shy, grab a 15 or 20 lb dumbbell and get cranking. With that said, do start slow and listen to your body. Push yourself, but don't overdo it so much that you won't be able or want to ever do it again.
Get a heart rate monitor. Besides a personal trainer, it is your best investment for working out. Learning about your heart rate and using a HRM during your workouts will help you determine if you're working hard enough. You'll be able to push yourself harder and avoid cheating yourself out of time and effort. If you only have an hour to work out, using a HRM will assure that you're getting the most out of that hour. There is a long explanation and many facets that come with using a HRM. Get in touch with me if you are interested or have more questions. I use a Polar F6. I don't go anywhere without it and its on me during every workout or Yoga session.
Water, water, water. Simple as that. The more you drink, the better you'll feel. You'll be less bloated, your skin will look younger, and you will be flushing your body on a regular basis. I might be the biggest advocate of h2o you'll ever meet. I believe it is the cure for almost everything and it is certainly one of the most underused, underestimated weight loss tools. It is, without a doubt, at the top of my list of secrets to staying slim. And its FREE and right at your finger tips!
Get sweaty. Real sweaty. If you're not sweating during your workout, you probably aren't working hard enough. Whether you like to run, walk, dance or play sports for your cardio- you MUST work up a sweat. Cardio should be done 3-4 times (or more) per week and that is particularly dependent on where you are in your fitness journey and varies greatly from person to person. If you're doing a lift and cardio in the same day- do your cardio LAST! This is one of the most common mistakes I see women making at the gym all the time. Your body needs that fresh energy at the start of your workout in order to perform best while lifting. You will work harder in the weight room if you save your cardio for afterwards and you will then burn more fat when you do do your cardio. Interval training (speed up, slow down) is one of the most effective ways to do cardio. It blasts fat and calories faster and more effectively, keeps your body guessing, and gives you more visible muscle tone than steady state cardio (i.e., running miles and miles and miles). With interval training, you can burn double the amount of calories you would during steady state cardio in HALF THE TIME (...if you're doing it correctly)! Interval training is another lengthy explanation and must be done right to get the benefits, so please study up on it or get at me if you have questions.
Take a day off. Give yourself one (or two if you're just starting a workout regiment) days to rest, recover, and relax.
Practice Yoga. I have babbled enough in previous posts on the benefits of Yoga so I won't go into detail here but I will tell you that if you practice regularly, you WILL become longer, leaner, more flexible, stronger, more focused, less anxious and more appreciative of the body that you have and all the amazing things it is capable of.
Love yourself. Love your body. You'll never be happy in the body you have until you learn to love it FIRST. This takes years and years of practice. I haven't even fully mastered this one yet. Pat yourself on the back when you overcome challenges, repeat mantras to help you accept your body (ex: "I love my body exactly the way it is" or "I have a beautiful and strong figure"), don't be too harsh or judgmental when you have a slip up or can't quite fit into the size you'd like to be in. Your body will work with you- but you have to give it love and take care of it in order for it to respond to your hard work. If you're always unhappy with your body, no matter how thin, or ripped, or strong you get, you'll never be satisfied. When you're constantly degrading yourself and thinking negatively about your body, you will literally project that self-image to not only you, but the world around you. Self love and love of your body has so much to do with your mind and the way you think about yourself. Loving your body will give you confidence. And when it comes down to it, looking good is all about confidence.