When you think of getting in shape, what comes to mind? For most women, images of a smaller, tighter body likely flash in their mind's eye, perhaps accompanied by a tinge of guilt or feelings of failure for not already fitting the bill. It's less of an ideal and more of an expectation: Women often strive to lose weight, take up less space and effectively shrink themselves into a specifically acceptable shape.

What would happen if, instead of being distressed at a higher number on the scale, you felt accomplished? If instead of viewing exercise and food as conduits of deprivation, you used them as fuel to feel more powerful?

That's where bulking and muscle gain comes in.

The trouble with trying to lose weight

High-calorie burns and low-calorie consumption in the pursuit of weight loss may bring unintended consequences if done without caution.

"Long periods of calorie deficits can lead to loss of lean body mass, osteopenia or osteoporosis and dysregulated hormones," explained Brad Dieter, Ph.D. and NASM-certified nutrition