You know those annoying AF women who are always in shape? The women who work out every day (even on vacation) and always seem in control of what they eat, as if they’ve never binged an entire sleeve of Oreos during one commercial break. Come winter or summer, they always have a lit-from-within glow and way too much energy (yes, even on Monday mornings before the second cup of coffee). You might even have a coworker, friend, or roommate so consistently healthy and motivated that you’ve wondered if she’s taking a magic pill, or maybe she’s just born with it (major groan).
But here’s the good news for us mere mortals: there is no genetic trait or magic pill that keeps you in shape. Instead, it’s a series of simple habits. This means that lit-from-within glow and unwavering motivation is not only possible, but achievable. First, let’s define what being “in shape” means. Regardless of what it used to mean, I’d like to rebrand it to be your healthiest self, which looks and feels different to everyone. Being in shape is not a number on a scale or even a six-pack of abs. After all, a certain pants size could never be powerful enough to give you that lit-from-within glow and limitless energy (duh!). But these habits will. Here are 10 habits that women who are always in shape have in common:
1. They look for enjoyment in exercise
Maybe you think that always-in-shape women are the rare breed that came out of the womb loving to go on long jogs, but that just isn’t true. Instead of innately enjoying intense exercise, they find joy in exercise. Maybe they have a go-to workout like barre or ballet that they love, maybe they go on runs to clear their mind and feel centered, or maybe they’ve found peace and stability in the daily ritual of exercise. No matter how they do it, they find joy in exercising and work out because they want to, not because they have to.
2. They think about what to eat instead of what not to eat
I first stumbled across this wisdom while reading French Women Don’t Get Fat years ago, but it’s a principle that shows up in my diet philosophy in so many ways (like the adding instead of subtracting ideology). Diet culture has taught us to focus on what not to eat: no-fat products, low-carb diets, or “no added sugar” labels. Instead of worrying about what they shouldn’t be eating, women who are always fit get excited about the foods they do eat: fresh salads, warming stews, tasty veggie dishes, and refreshing smoothies. When it does come to indulging in ice cream, cheese, or Fettucine Alfredo, they enjoy the real thing instead of restricting or bingeing on artificial alternatives.
3. They stay active outside of the gym or designated workout time
Women who always stay fit don’t limit activity to a 60-minute workout session or time at the gym. Instead, they live a more active lifestyle overall. Oh, and they’re not pacing around their living rooms before bed to get in the last of their 10,000 steps either. They move more and sit less because it’s natural for them. Try adding more non-exercise movement to your life. Even if you have a typical desk job, there are many ways to fit more movement into your day. For example, walk your dog more often, stand while working, try gardening if you have a yard, clean your house more, walk everywhere you can, dance while cooking or getting ready, stretch while watching TV, and get outside to take conference calls.
4. They rest
If you think staying fit is only about how much you work out, think again. That’s right–women who are always in shape know that the key to health is balance, not perfection. Your body needs recovery just as much as it needs movement, so take advantage of your rest days like you would any workout day. Think gentle stretching if you’re feeling tight or taking a luxurious bath to soothe muscles and relax the mind. Also, prioritizing sleep is one of the most important things you could do for your body. Detox your sleep routine by sticking to a schedule, having a relaxing nighttime routine, and perfecting your sleep environment.
While damaging diet culture has made us think eating less is always a good thing, in-shape women know that our bodies should never feel deprived or hungry to the point where we feel weak or “starved.” Feeling overly hungry stops us from being intuitive about what the body wants and making choices based on what we would really enjoy. Also, food is not the enemy; it’s energy. And the body needs a lot of energy just to exist, much less to work out, chase after kids, or have back-to-back meetings all day. If you find yourself getting hungry soon after meals, try adding more fiber with veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Carry around nourishing snacks with you at all times in case hunger strikes, and consider a mid-afternoon tossed salad or snack on some veggies if the gap between lunch and dinner feels too long.
On the other hand, overeating to the point of feeling “stuffed” can make us feel lethargic, sick, and hinder digestion. Try eating more mindfully and chewing slower, so you’re aware when you’re no longer enjoying your food and just eating because it’s in front of you. Also, be conscious about eating when you’re not even hungry. It might be out of boredom, emotions, or stress, so feed yourself in other ways if you find cravings coming on that have nothing to do with hunger cues.
6. They listen to their bodies instead of doing fad diets
Fad diets are never sustainable. If a diet does help you get in shape, it won’t help you stay in shape. In fact, fad diets don’t exist for women who are always healthy. Instead, their method of eating is a lifestyle, not a diet. They know which foods make their bodies feel good and which ones make them feel lethargic or sick. The secret to being healthy comes from within, not from external sources like trendy diets or meal plans. Your body already knows what it needs to be healthy; you just have to listen to it.
7. They drink lots of water
No surprise, the most basic nutrient has a wide range of health benefits. But more important than how it can boost health is that it’s crucial for health; water is the body’s life force, and staying hydrated is critical for every organ, cell, and system in it to be healthy. Up to 60 percent of the human body is made of water, so we can help over half the body function by simply staying hydrated. It’s no wonder that women who are always in shape are constantly sipping on water. Not sure if you’re drinking enough? Here are seven signs you’re not. And if you get bored with regular ol’ H2O, try adding these ingredients to your glass for more nutrients and flavor.
You know that staying in shape is a series of simple habits, which means that women who are always in shape know how to create habits, and then turn those habits into routines. Habits are helpful because you don’t have to debate whether or not to follow through with each healthy habit; you just do it. Routines are also helpful because they provide consistency, even on the busiest days.
For example, if a daily yoga flow is a part of your routine, you won’t have to think about if you should or shouldn’t fit it in on a busy day; you’ll prioritize it because it’s a non-negotiable. To build healthy habits, start with something even easier than you think. Two push-ups a day can turn into 60-minute workouts while easily turning exercise into a daily habit. Designated morning and nighttime routines are also crucial for an overall healthy life because they set your entire day up for success.
9. They keep their lives interesting
Perhaps the most underrated health habit of all is consistently trying new things. The healthiest people know that the secret to a long life is staying interested and challenged. Yes, this means trying new workouts and experimenting with new recipes, but it also means trying new things outside of a health and fitness routine, as well. As cheesy as it sounds, having a zest for life not only keeps you happy, but keeps you motivated. When you’re feeling fatigued or tired during the day, it’s probably a sign that you haven’t done enough that lights a fire in you. Stay curious, try new things, and spend more time chasing interests, hobbies, and causes that you’re passionate about. Whether they’re “health-focused” or not doesn’t matter; they’ll make you healthier, and more importantly, make you happier.
10. They know what they deserve
We often struggle with eating healthy, taking care of ourselves, or working out because we don’t see ourselves the kind of person who would. A vicious cycle, no? Confidence is a state of mind, not a circumstance. Confident people have a better chance of staying in shape (not the other way around) because confidence is really just a matter of keeping promises to yourself. You build confidence when you consistently show up for the things you want to show up for (yes, it is that simple!). And when you love yourself, you eat, move, and live in ways that nourish and care for the body, and not out of punishment, self-consciousness, or resentment. Being “in shape” is not a size or number on the scale; it’s about giving your body the tools to feel its best because you deserve it.