The desire to look our best now that summer is here can feel like a last-minute sprint to the finish line. There are tons of fad diets out there, but those methods can be unhealthy, and they don’t always offer lasting results.
“The clients I see will try to cut back on their calories too much to lose the weight and try to stick with very low calorie levels,” registered dietitian nutritionist Deborah Jeffery says. “They then become hungry and cannot stick with the plan, and it becomes counterproductive.”
Thankfully, there are realistic and safe daily steps you can take to achieve your summer fitness goals.
Set Realistic Goals and Create Healthy Habits
Now that summer is here, you may want to shed a few pounds—and fast. However, it’s necessary to understand everybody is different and to set realistic goals accordingly. Eating healthier food and exercising more is important, but different bodies with varying metabolisms will lose weight at different rates regardless.
”Realistically, you should aim to lose only about 2 pounds a week,” Jeffery says. “Anything faster is dangerous and not maintainable.”
Depriving yourself of nutrients that come from food for a fast solution can have dire effects. Jeffery notes that you need a certain amount of calories to function and significantly cutting down will lead to a greater chance of binging later.
“The most common mistake is going [to] an extreme and cutting back too far on calories,” adds Cheryl Harris, nutritionist at Harris Whole Health. “Then the next time you’re hungry, it’s much easier to overeat whatever is available.”
Don’t Cut Carbs
Dieters will often make the mistake of completely cutting carbohydrates. However, your body and brain need carbs to function, and removing them from your diet completely can be unhealthy and make you feel woozy throughout the day. Instead, replace processed white carbs that spike blood-sugar levels with healthier carbs that can be found in brown rice and oats. Eating fewer white grain products like white rice and pasta, which can cause bloating, can help you reach a healthy body weight.
Take a Vacation from Alcohol
One of the swiftest ways to lose weight is to cut out unnecessary calories in sugary alcoholic drinks (insert sobbing here). Sadly, alcohol consumption can slow weight loss. “A lot of people are good during the week, and then the weekends hit where people are being sociable, going out and drinking more, so it throws off the balance of the clean eating that happens during the week,” Jeffrey says. “You have to be consistent.”
When you serve food for yourself, make a little less. Don’t eat all of your dinner; stop eating once you feel full. Listen to your body and take in smaller portion sizes.
Jeffrey also suggested opting for foods that take longer to break down in the body. “If you want to lose weight, don’t cut out entire food groups. This will cause severe nutritional problems,” she says. “Instead, eat foods that are satisfying and take longer to be digested. [Place] an emphasis on protein, because proteins are your healthy fats and high in fiber, so they take longer to be digested and are good for you.”
Adjust Your Coffee Order
As much as Northern Virginians are in shape, they are also addicted to their coffee. A simple change that can make a significant difference in your health is changing your typical coffee order. Instead of sugary confections, opt for black coffee or, better yet, green or herbal tea.
Make Exercise Fun
It can feel near impossible to squeeze in 30 minutes on the elliptical or treadmill, but when you add some joy to your workouts, it won’t seem like they take time out of your day but rather add to it. Take your furry family member on a walk or explore NoVA’s rolling hills and scenic landscapes during a family hike. When you spice up your exercise routine, you’ll be more inclined to maintain it.
Water has zero calories, making it the perfect thirst-quencher and healthy drink option. Replace juice and soda with some good ol’ H2O, and if water is too boring, add some fruit to liven it up.
Hit the Hay
Sleep boosts metabolism, and lack of sleep can lead to weight gain. Adding even 30 extra minutes of sleep per night can help you wake up feeling more refreshed and energized for the day ahead—including workouts.
Overall, the key is planning for the long term, not the immediate. “Build habits you can keep with foods that you enjoy and movement that is enjoyable,” Harris says. “Plan for the structure and support to help you make the changes long-term.”