6 Simple Slim-Down strategies
Set Reachable Goals
When it comes to getting healthier and fitter, there are many ways to measure success beyond weighing yourself. Don’t let the number on the scale deter you from your plan to make this your healthiest summer yet. Take time to update your goals for the season and be careful not to become overwhelmed by attempting too much at once. Remember, a slow and steady weight loss always wins the race. For example, make it your goal to work out more than once a week, or to prepare a new vegetable (like kale perhaps) or a whole grain (like quinoa) more often. Simple goals like fitting into your favorite sundress and climbing up a flight of stairs without losing your breath may seem small, but they can be part of your overall vision for success. Be sure to also celebrate your victories—no matter how big or small. Rewarding yourself (just not with food!) will help keep you motivated.
Develop Some New Tools
The key to losing weight is changing your lifestyle, and this includes reinventing the way you track the foods you eat, where and how often you exercise, and even how you measure success. Keep a food and fitness journal to ensure you’re eating three well-balanced meals and two protein- and fiber-rich snacks daily and that you’re getting regular exercise. If you see that you are eating the same foods every day, swap some for what’s freshest in the market, and then add some herbs and spices you haven’t tried before to season your dishes. Also write down when you exercise during the week and the kind of workouts you do. Be sure to alternate interval and core-strenghtening exercise on different days. If you have a smartphone, you can track your progress using a food journal and/or exercise app, which can tally the foods you eat and/or the amount of time you spend exercising (some apps can even calculate the number of calories you’ve burned during each workout). At the end of each week, think beyond the scale and look at other aspects of your lifestyle that have improved. How do you feel in your clothes? Have your cravings disappeared? Do you have more energy? Do you feel healthier in general? All these successes count, too.
Adopt a summertime eating routine
Now that the weather is hot and vegetables and fruits are at their peak, shop, cook, and eat the way the season dictates—and stay cool too. Whether you’re shopping at your supermarket, farmers’ market, or food co-op, look for bell peppers, green and yellow beans, summer squash, eggplant, lettuces and other greens, and vine-ripened tomatoes, along with luscious plums, peaches, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and melons. Instead of slaving over a hot stove, enjoy crisp salads and fire up the grill for veggies, poultry, lean meats, and seafood. You can even grill fruits for dessert. And why not enjoy an al fresco picnic at a nearby park on your lunch break? Dr. Arthur Agatston, author of The South Beach Wake-Up Call, emphasizes the importance of taking time to enjoy your meals, indoors or out, and savoring every bite. Relaxing while eating also gives you a chance to de-stress and clear your mind. Prepare a flavorful picnic salad, using arugula or spinach, radishes, shredded carrots, slices of grilled chicken, and some nuts for crunch. Dress it up with a citrusy South Beach Diet-friendly lemon vinaigrette.
Take a Break from the Gym
Are you getting bored with the sea of treadmills, elliptical machines, and free weights at the gym? If so, it could be a sign that you need to switch up your exercise routine along with the place you do your workouts. Summer is the perfect time to take a break from the gym and head outdoors. And the refreshing change of scene will keep you interested. You can do interval walking, in which you alternate periods of intense activity with periods of recovery, at a school track or around your neighborhood. If you have a dog, play Frisbee or ball at the park or in your yard to burn some extra calories. Families can play doubles tennis or go on a biking adventure around town. And remember, swimming lends itself to intervals too; head for the nearest lake or outdoor pool. If you’re a fan of yoga, take your mat outside for a change. The park or beach is a great place to meditate and get some fresh air too.
Get More Quality Sleep
How many hours of sleep did you get last night? If you got less than eight hours, then you’re not catching enough zzzz’s, and it might be impacting your health. Studies show that being sleep-deprived can sabotage your weight-loss goals and cause a host of ailments from diabetes and heart disease to colds and flu. Getting the recommended minimum of eight hours of quality sleep each night is the place to start. Be sure to stick to a regular sleeping schedule, in which you go to bed at about the same time each night and wake up at about the same time each morning. Shut off electronics and remove distractions from your bedroom that may be keeping you awake, including your cell phone, laptop, and TV.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
Once you’ve adopted all these strategies, remember to keep your goals firmly in mind and don’t allow small setbacks to get in the way. If you slipped up on your healthy eating plan and ate a cookie or two, or missed a day or two of exercise, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just get right back on track. Some people find that posting visual reminders of success and inspiration, like hanging a picture of a coveted bathing suit on the refrigerator or a slightly too small dress by their closet door, can help them stay positive and think twice about giving in to temptation.