Contestant in Swimsuit. Pageant weight loss tips.Katie Garza, Mrs. United States 2015, went from pregnancy to the Swimsuit Award in just 3 months!

The fitness competition can often be the most intimidating aspect of your pageant. And to make matters worse, there’s a lot of confusion about how to lose weight and achieve your fitness goals. To avoid stressing out about your upcoming pageant, just follow these pageant weight loss tips.

1. Look at food as fuel. In order to be successful with your pageant weight loss, it’s important to have the right mindset when it comes to food. Try to look at food as fuel instead of as a way to express how you’re feeling. Avoid stress eating, using food to celebrate, or as the focus of social events. Instead, think of food as the fuel your body needs to be healthy and fit. It takes a real mind shift on your part so that you can make choices to select healthier options at the grocery store or when eating out. Based on years of experience as a pageant coach, I promise you that by switching to nutrient-dense, healthy foods you’ll experience a difference in how you look and feel on-stage!

2. Eat five to six small meals each day. Studies show that eating six meals with roughly the same amount of calories helps stimulate weight loss. Your caloric burn drops when there are large gaps of time between meals. Experts recommend small meals, of roughly the same calories, every two to three hours. Frequent meals fuel your body and prevent a drop in the rate at which you burn calories.

3. Do cardio to jump start weight loss. There’s nothing like a good cardio workout to get your weight loss headed in the right direction. Whether it’s a simple walk in your neighborhood or a bike ride thru a local park, just get moving! To get a top fitness score, you’ll probably want to do some type of cardio six days a week. And aerobic workouts actually stimulate important “feel good” hormones that will help you stay positive. So get up off the couch and get moving towards your fitness goals!

4. Add weights for consistent calorie burn. Top contestants know that one of the biggest secrets to weight loss is to build muscle by training with weights. When you train with weights, you’re building muscle. And because muscle burns more calories than fat, you raise your base metabolism. While cardio is great for quick weight loss, if you want to sculpt your body and permanently raise your metabolism, you’ll need to engage in a regular weight lifting routine.

5. Commit to 12 weeks. Research shows that to lose weight, you should commit to your fitness plan for a minimum of 12 weeks. In our culture, we’re all looking for a quick fix, but you must be dedicated so that you don’t get side tracked by the little ups and downs along the way. Yes, it will be hard. You’re working out six times a week and adjusting to a restricted eating plan. But your investment of time and energy will pay off when you start seeing progress. Any pageant coach will tell you that even if you’re not able to reach your long-term fitness goal in 12 weeks, you can make enough progress in that time period that you’re hooked on living a healthy lifestyle! There’s nothing better than feeling great about yourself – whether you’ve just finished a workout or are wrapping up your fitness modeling routine on-stage.

Follow these pageant weight loss tips to impress the judges and get a top Fitness score!