This time of year I hear lots of worries about the coming warm weather—specifically, about the swimsuits, tank tops, and shorts now called for.  Suddenly, women start to fret once again about upper arm flab, the size of the thighs, weight overall.  It doesn’t seem to matter exactly what shape a person’s in—the complaints cut across every age and weight category.  Along with these worries may come plans for fasting diets, meal skipping, or weight loss informercial products.

I’m not against toning up for swimsuit-and-short season.  While I’d like us to aim for fitness year-round, I can understand the extra push that comes with seeing more body exposed.  I do oppose, though, the “new body in six weeks” kinds of thinking.  Here is some of what I find important to stay mindful of now:

1.  Your body is your body, and it serves you well in many ways.  Don’t use this opening to beat it up.  No matter how successful you are, you won’t necessarily look that much different in a few weeks or months.  So be kind to yourself.  You’ll then be better able to assess what options might really help.  Starving yourself, starving and then gorging, relentlessly criticizing yourself or complaining about your body:  all of these arise from that harsh stance.  And they will make you feel worse and will most likely assure that you won’t reach new fitness goals.

2. Remember that hundreds of scientific studies prove that the lose-weight-quick schemes simply don’t work, no matter what the ads say.  And if you don’t believe in science, ask around.  Try to find someone who’s gotten into great shape and stayed there with a quick scheme.  There’s no substitute for learning to change habits.

3. Think of changes you can implement now.  Set a realistic goal or two.  Can you start to walk each day?  Can you get to the gym twice a week?  Can you start to eat more vegetables? Can you start bringing lunch and snack to work?  Can you cut out a sweet you’ve been treating yourself to?  You may not mold a whole new body in six weeks, but you may be able to lose five pounds, or get a good habit going that will reap benefits for years.

Finally, put enjoying the season on the top of your list.  You can now walk outdoors easily.  Soon you can swim.  Maybe you can look forward to vacations, a more relaxed schedule, or more time with your kids.  You can do those things whether your arms are perfect or not.