Exercise and nutrition is an ever-growing science, with more data and information available everyday. It's amazing how far we have come in understanding exercise, nutrition, and navigating what works and what doesn't. However, with new fad diets and 'guaranteed weight loss' methods popping up every time you turn your head, it's easy to get overwhelmed by and/or become misinformed about your exercise and nutrition habits. Because of this, your well intended New Years resolution or general goal to become healthier and more fit, can easily turn into a whirlwind of headache and heart break.
Will Lifting Weights Make You Bulky?
Many women hover around the cardio equipment at the gym and are scared to step foot in the free weight area because they fear developing a 'bulky' or 'manly' looking physique. Well, I have good news: Women simply don't produce enough testosterone to develop the extent of muscularity that typically attributes to 'bulky' looking muscles via strength training alone. But what about [insert jacked female's name here, with incredibly large, defined, borderline masculine looking muscles]. I can tell you right now, without even seeing her, that she falls in one of two categories: a) she uses steroids (it's an unfortunate truth), or b) she has worked years and years to develop her muscles to that degree (and eats and trains accordingly), and it is certainly no fluke or accident. Either way, engaging in weight lifting will not result in bulky muscles or a manly physique for 99% of women. Furthermore, in order to develop larger muscles or put on mass of any sort (whether it be muscle or fat) your body will require a decent caloric surplus. This means that if you eat at maintenance calories or below (or even in a slight surplus) it would be nearly impossible from a physiological standpoint for you to develop a larger physique. In fact, strength training accompanied by a reasonable calorie intake will likely contribute to a leaner, smaller physique. This is because muscle is more dense than fat, meaning that if you are able to maintain your bodyweight but begin strength training and get stronger, you will likely be gaining muscle and losing body fat simultaneously (especially if you are a beginner), thus creating a smaller and leaner figure. And if weight training does cause bulkier than desired musculature (which it won't), all you have to do is back off on the amount of weight you are lifting or the frequency/volume at which you are lifting and the problem will be easily reversed.
Bottom Line: Lifting weights is the only way to give the muscles the commonly desired 'toned' and curvy look, and is not likely to cause unwanted bulk (that comes from a large calorie surplus). Due to the fact that muscle is more dense than fat, it will also likely help with body composition (meaning that you could weigh the same amount, but have significantly less body fat and look smaller). Bulky muscles generally require a hormone balance that women don't naturally have.