I was a professional dancer for two decades before I became a personal trainer. While I no longer live for the applause of an audience, today I live to see the joy that radiates from clients when they reach their fitness goals.

I'll never tell women to work out a certain number of times a week in order to see results. Instead, I try to give people the tools they need, so that if they put in the time and effort, they'll come out stronger, healthier, and happier. Here are some ideas I share with all my clients, and I hope you find them helpful, too.

1. Diets don’t work.

Eating well and working out does. Approach weight loss as a lifestyle change, not a diet. Unless you’re going to be on a diet for the rest of your life, you’re just going to go back to your former way of eating and likely gain back any weight you’ve lost. Eating whole, nutritious foods has to become a daily habit.

2. Graze like a cow!

Think of it like this: your metabolism is a fire, and when you put more wood on it, it burns hotter. If you deprive it of wood, it dies out. Continually supplying your metabolism with fuel by eating four to six small meals a day means it's always burning hot, incinerating fat and burning calories.

3. Start your workout with Mirror Minutes.

Stand about a foot away from a mirror and look into your eyes. No, not the floor, or the coffee table, or the mole on your cheek—your eyes. Spend some time here. See yourself for who you are right now.

Mentally list your attributes. Do you like your lips? Your collarbones? Your booty? Your abs? Give yourself some positive credit. Be patient and kind to yourself. Your emotional state has a lot to do with shedding pounds. A good mind-set is key to a good workout!

4. Pick a mantra.

When you’re struggling with Mirror Minutes or with any other exercise, repeating a mantra in your head can give you strength to push through fear and doubt. Some of my favorites are: Confidence, strength, beauty or This time is mine.

5. Make a playlist!

The right music can make a workout inspiring and uplifting, and motivate you to keep going. Faster music can help pump you up for cardio, while chiller tunes are great for toning and sculpting. Set a playlist you know you have to get through entirely before you finish your workout. When it’s your favorite music, you can get lost in it, and before you know it the hour is up!

6. Keep a food and exercise journal.

This allows you to reflect on the day—maybe see where that extra cookie or glass of wine could be avoided. It also gives you a chance to set goals and track your progress so you can see just how far you’ve come. Just like any other to-do list, it’s very satisfying to write down your accomplishments at the end of the day.

7. Take selfies.

I have absolutely no idea how much I weigh, and I don’t particularly care. Your weight is nothing more than a measure of how hard gravity is working to pull your body toward the center of the earth. It does not take into account your muscle mass, your fat mass, how much you ate that day, or how much water you’re retaining. Most of us take selfies all the time. How about skipping the scale and putting that technology to use for your health and snapping a few photos of your body in the here and now? Take a candid look at these photos—no negative talk allowed—to check in as you progress and see how your body is changing.

8. Dress for success.

Wear clothes that make you feel good about yourself. If you love your arms, wear a sports tank. If you adore your calves, get some capri pants. As you make progress, allow yourself to splurge on a new top or bottom to show off your sexy new muscles. Not only will this help to keep you motivated, but paying attention to your clothing’s fit is a much better way to gauge weight loss than a scale.

9. Know that strength training is a must.

Many women fear the words "strength training," but it's absolutely essential for women of all ages. Not only does it help you get in shape by building muscle and burning fat, it also helps to increase bone density and defend against osteoporosis. Plus, a great strength-training session is the perfect way to manage stress and let off some steam.

10. Work out with a girlfriend.

Tons of research suggests that exercising with a friend increases adherence to a program since workout partners provide motivation as well as accountability. I highly recommend buddying up with a friend or two and having a real Girlfriend Workout. Both of you will get into shape and have fun doing it!

Photo Credit: Zoë Buckman