Summer is right around the corner. At least it’s supposed to be. Although yesterday, it was in the 40s here in Minneapolis and our pool is scheduled to open this weekend. So, here’s to hoping it warms up quick.
At any rate, it’s about this time of year when people start thinking more about slimming and trimming up for summer.
I'm not big on quick fixes, fasting or going on a restrictive diet, as it really isn’t the solution to long-term weight management or health for that matter.
However, there are some seemingly simple or small changes that we can make that can help us slim up for summer.
5 Simple Tips to Slim Up for Summer
1. Save Your Starch For Dinner
When we start the day with a hefty dose of starch, i.e. cereal, toast, bagels, muffins, we end up burning carbohydrates all day long.
Since we’re burning carbs instead of fat, we have cravings all day long, and our energy levels ebb and flow.
By eating protein and fat, along with some non-starchy vegetables and perhaps a piece or two of fruit throughout the day, not only does it keep the cravings at bay, it also helps us maintain a consistent level of energy.
It also allows our body’s to burn fat for fuel.
There seems to be some additional benefits in shifting our carb intake to the evening.
We better secrete serotonin, which helps us calm down and get to sleep. We’re also less likely to store the carbs as fat when we eat them at night.
A study on overweight police officers showed that when they ate the exact same foods, but shifted their carb intake to the evening, they lost weight, improved markers of metabolic syndrome and had reduced levels of inflammation.
Of course, this does’t mean we should binge on junk food at night. It just means that if we want to eat some potatoes, rice, gluten-free bread or sweet potato chips, the best time to do that is with dinner.
2. Eat, Don’t Drink Your Calories
In working with clients over the years, this was one of the easiest ways to get rid of unnecessary sugar and calories in the diet. There is nothing healthy about calorie-filled beverages like juice, dessert-like coffee drinks, or alcohol.
One could argue that a glass of red wine has some health benefits, but they’re not more powerful than the health benefits of losing extra weight.
I guess one exception would be a protein shake, something like whey protein, unsweetened almond or coconut milk and some berries.
Along those lines, I'm often asked about juicing or smoothies. Again, there is so much sugar in these drinks that they just aren’t worth it.
One of the biggest issues with drinking calories versus eating them is that the liquid calories rarely fill us up. As a result, these calories are extra calories, on top of what we’re already eating.
That’s why eliminating them has such a powerful effect on people’s body weight. They might eat the same foods, but without the extra 200-500 calories, mostly made of sugar, each day, their weight comes off without much effort.
Instead of drinking juice, soda, sugary tea or other sweetened beverages, drink a few liters of water each day and add a few drops of your favorite citrus oil to give it some flavor.
3. Power Up Your Meals With Protein
One study after another shows that higher-protein diets support better body composition.
Protein helps you feel full longer, helps keep blood sugar levels more steady, makes your metabolism work harder, and helps you maintain muscle and bone density.
As I worked with clients over the years, we rarely started off discussing fat or carbohydrates.
Instead, one of the first habits I had my clients work on was eating protein with breakfast.
I even told them they could keep eating their cereal or drinking their juice, but they had to first eat a few eggs, or have 3-4 ounces of chicken or Canadian bacon, or eat an omelet with 20-30 grams of protein.
They had to eat that first. Then if they still wanted the cereal or juice they could have it. Of course, they quickly dropped the cereal and juice, as the protein (and fat) was satiating and they felt better, with more consistent energy levels throughout the day.
After a protein rich breakfast became a healthy habit we'd tackle lunch and dinner.
4. Sleep Yourself Skinny
As it stays lighter later, and gets lighter earlier in the northern hemisphere, it gets easier to stay up later and later. The trouble is, we don’t sleep in any later.
The amount of sleep you get dramatically affects the body’s metabolism.
Shortened sleep, even for one night, makes us more insulin resistant (that means we store carbs as fat), suppresses growth hormone levels, makes us less productive and more likely to make bad choices. We’re less likely to exercise and we tend to crave junk food more.
The most effective, productive and healthy people do everything possible to get to sleep at a consistent time and get eight hours of sleep each night.
Getting enough sleep will help you be more active, make better nutrition choices, help control stress hormones and help your body be a better fat burner.
5. Shop Smart, Only Healthy Food in Your Cart
A friend of mine likes to say “No one ever got mugged by a donut.” Zig Ziglar often said that when he was overweight, he was overweight on purpose, meaning he acknowledged that he made choices each day that led to his weight gain.
The best place we can make changes to what we eat is in what we buy. If it isn’t in the house, we won’t eat it. And foods that lead to weight gain for us do the same for our spouse, kids and anyone else in the home.
If food is in the home, it will be eaten. Studies show that we have a very limited amount of willpower. Eventually, cake, candy, chips or cookies will get eaten, even if we don’t want to.
If we choose to have the foods in our home, we’re usually making the choice that we’re going to end up eating them.
The cool thing is that when it comes to healthy food, it’s almost always perishable. If you buy a bunch of produce, or fresh meat, you’ll be more likely to cook and eat it because it will spoil.
Just remember, if it’s not good for you, it’s not good for the rest of the family, so eat what will help everyone be healthy.