This is the time of the year that everyone starts to get serious about losing weight. After all, holiday parties can make you feel stuffed, bloated and overweight in a hurry and they all flow seamlessly together from one to the next which leaves you with no time to hit the reset button. When it comes time, typically on January 1st, to start losing some weight, everyone seems to overthink the process. The media and popular culture has us convinced that the easiest and healthiest way to lose weight is through eating less calories and exercising more.

In all my years of coaching people, I rarely see this approach work because it’s too unsustainable in todays busy world. If those types of diets came with a warning label that told you to except hunger, moodiness and low energy then I’m willing to bet that no one would try them. Let me be clear, a lot of popular approaches like paleo, gluten free and the low carb high fat diet do work but something works better without cutting calories.

The answer is to build some lean muscle.I understand what the term “build muscle” conjures up in the minds of most people. They think of a blocky, unattractive and veiny bodybuilder and I completely understand where that image comes from but it’s far from reality. The plan I’m about to lay out doesn’t advocate spending hours a day in the gym, it doesn’t promote supplements and it certainly isn’t designed to make you unappealing.

Rather, increasing your lean muscle slowly over the course of the next few months will have a profound impact on how you look come summer time. Here’s just a few of the benefits that building lean muscle can have on your waistline and health.

1) Building muscle may help you live longer. Studies have shown that the more lean muscle that you have the greater your lifespan may be (1). The researchers also said that the amount of muscle you have may be a greater predictor of lifespan than your total cholesterol or blood pressure levels. Do you know what the second predicator of extended lifespan was? Muscle strength! Lean muscle gain increases strength gain so building muscle has double benefits.

2) As you build lean muscle you gain better control over your insulin levels and you become more sensitive to insulin. When you eat carbohydrate or sugar rich foods, they are turned into glucose or blood sugar in your body. In order to clear the blood sugar out of your body, your pancreas releases the hormone insulin. Done every once in a while, this is fine but think about if you have to release insulin all day, every day because you eat a typical American diet filled with starches and sugars.

You would require more and more insulin which is one reason why people get type II diabetes. Everyone else gains fat, primarily around their midsection. By building more muscle you can better tolerate carbohydrates and the insulin you release for less body fat gain and better blood sugar health.

3) There’s a direct relationship between the amount of muscle you have and the calories that you burn. Studies have suggested that for every pound of muscle you gain you will burn an additional 50 calories a day. Let’s say you gain 5 pounds of lean muscle between January 1st and June 1st. That’s a base level of 250 new calories burned per day without doing any aerobic cardio or food restriction. There are 151 days between the start of January and June. 151 days times 250 calories equals 37,750 new calories burned. Pretty impressive right?

4) Building muscle creates a more positive frame of mind and builds self confidence. Think about all the negative comments that you may have overheard at a holiday party.

“Oh I’ve gained weight” or “My pants don’t fit anymore.”

While these might be said in a joking fashion, they are created in a very conscious reality. Negative reinforcement vey rarely works when it comes to weight loss so I prefer to create a positive self image by gaining more muscle. As your clothes start fitting tighter in the right places and looser in other places, you’ll feel empowered to continually make positive lifestyle changes to improve your health.

So the next time you come across an article about why shouldn’t lift weights, you’ll know the truth that building muscle can help you live a healthier life, increase your metabolism, improve your blood sugar health and create a positive self image.