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GET YOUR BODY READY FOR THE SUMMER
Still hanging on to holiday pounds you gained over the winter? Are you dreading pulling out your swimsuit to see if it still fits? Well don't start starving yourself just because summer's around the corner. We've got a better way: Healthline talked to a number of nutrition and fitness experts and discovered that you can get your beach body ready in a truly healthy way. So get in shape for summer and keep the weight off for good with these 10 simple tips.
1. Keep yourself accountable.
"Keeping a food diary is the single most powerful accountability tool when you are trying to lose weight," says dietitian Cynthia Sass, co-author of The Ultimate Diet Log. Cynthia says it is the ultimate way of raising awareness about not just what, how much, and when you eat but also why. Losing weight is not only about avoiding the cookies, but rather about making a connection between your thoughts, feelings, and patterns around what and when you eat. Once you make that connection, you'll start to really shed pounds.
2. Focus on Food.
When you eat in front of the TV or while driving down the highway, you're not fully aware of how much you are actually eating. You wind up scraping the bottom of the pint of ice cream or scrounging the last crumbs in the bag of chips before you even realize you've reached the bottom. Make it a rule to eat only in designated places like at the dining room table. Food is meant to be enjoyed - be mindful of every calorie coming in and savor them.
3. Use a smaller plate.
The average plate size in America has increased 36% since the 1960s. The result? Americans eat larger portions these days without even realizing it. If you eat from a salad-sized plate (or any smaller plate), your eyes will see a plate full of food and tell your brain that it is getting a decent portion. The same amount of food on a larger plate looks like less food. The empty space on the bigger plate may translate into feelings of emptiness in your stomach, and you won't be as satisfied.
4. Eat often.
Snacks between meals provide a bridge to prevent extreme hunger, provide fuel, and stabilize blood sugar. Cynthia recommends planning snacks carefully. "Random acts of snacking can lead to mindlessly eating too much," she warns. The right snack is a combo of protein and some carbs. In other words, don't just eat a bag of potato chips. "Carbs alone may wreak havoc on blood sugar levels and actually rev up hunger," she adds. Aim for eating a healthy snack every two to four hours throughout the day.
Here are some suggested carb/protein combos:
a handful of almonds or pistachios
Greek-style yogurt (twice the protein as regular)
nutrition bars with protein (SoyJoy, Zone, Luna, Kind)
slices of apple dipped in almond or peanut butter
low-fat string cheese or Mini Babybel or Laughing Cow cheese wedges with a few whole grain crackers.
5. Drink up.
Staying properly hydrated may help you lose weight and improve metabolism. Dietitian Elisa Zied, author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips, suggests hydrating with low- to no-calorie beverages like plain water, seltzer, or club soda. If that sounds boring, "punch in a bit of flavor [without adding calories] by adding a splash of 100% fruit juice, some fresh berries, cucumber slices, or a slice of lemon, lime, or orange," suggests Elisa. How much water should you drink? There's lots of competing theories out there, but one tried-and-true standard is to drink enough water so that your urine is just barely yellow.
6. Fill up on produce.
Fruits and veggies are the lowest calorie foods around and are also filling and nutritious. "Produce is loaded in fiber and has high water content so it is a great way to satisfy your appetite and taper hunger to prevent overindulging," says Elisa. She recommends buying in-season produce and using it in salads, as side dish, or as a stand-alone snack (veggies and hummus or a simple a bowl of berries). Aim for at least 4 to 6 cups of combined fruits and veggies every day.
7. Eat the right kinds of fat.
Not all fats are created equal. "New research shows that monounsaturated fat, found in olive oil and avocado, tends to be satiating, while saturated fat, found in fatty meats and high-fat dairy, may stoke appetite," says Cynthia, who was the creator and co-author of Flat Belly Diet. Focus on fats from nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocados, olives, and oils like olive, sunflower, and sesame. When choosing meats, select the leanest cut available.
8. Get your zzzz.
"Sleep is critical for optimal health. It's a time for rest and recovery," says Jennifer Lea, an exercise-performance coach at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Fla. What does that have to do with weight loss? Sleep deprivation can cause hormonal imbalances of leptin and growth hormone. "Studies show that low levels of growth hormone may make it harder to keep muscle on the body," says Jennifer. "And low levels of leptin can lead to craving carbs." Ultimately the result is putting on extra pounds of fat. Lea recommends getting seven to eight solid hours of sleep each night.
9. Move more.
"Movement breaks throughout the day improve blood circulation, increase metabolism, and boost energy levels," says Jennifer. Moving your body improves the circulation of oxygen, which in turn increases energy. Movement also increases glucose uptake into the muscle, providing energy and preventing excess fat storage. Lea suggests taking a movement break every 60 to 90 minutes during your day. Examples include standing up, walking, shoulder rolls to relieve tension, stretching, or doing some lunges or chair dips for toning.
10. Tone muscle and shed fat.
There is no solid way to tone muscle and burn fat from your body other than good, old-fashioned exercise. Toned muscles not only look good while basking in the summer sun, but they have lasting effects as you age. "The more fit you are, the lower your risk for premature death and the stronger you will be as you get older," says Jennifer. "You will be more resilient to handle what life throws your way." Aim for doing something physical most days of the week to keep your heart and muscles strong and lean.