You may have heard that weight loss is simply about calories: burning more than you eat. While that is strictly true, my work with clients has shown me that there is another huge factor to examine, and that’s readiness: being prepared with the right attitude and environment to successfully meet your weight loss goals.
Read on for 10 tips to slim down for summer that make sure to take a look at foods, fitness, healthy perspectives, and personal environment. The idea is help you have the right attitude to help you reach your goals, and to provide the practical tips on what to eat (or not eat!) to get you there, too.
- Fill your day with non-starchy vegetables. These foods are naturally low in calories because they have so much water in them. Their high water content means they’ll take up plenty of space on the plate and in the stomach. Our bodies and our planet are mostly water, so why not our plates, too? Their volume and their fiber will help keep the body satisfied. Their vitamins and minerals will keep the body nourished. Some examples: cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, celery, lettuce, leafy greens, squash, asparagus, onions, artichoke, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cole slaw, bok choy, jicama, radishes, water chestnuts, and more.
- Don’t be afraid of the big fat truth. Which is that good fats are part of a healthy diet, and can even help with weight loss. That’s because fat is metabolized more slowly than carbs or protein, so including it in balanced snacks and meals will keep the body satisfied longer. Examples of good snacks are apple slices and a stick of string cheese, dried tart apricots and unsalted almonds, an avocado-grapefruit salad, or cucumber slices in Italian dressing. It’s still important to keep overall calories low, so keep snacks in the 100-200 calorie range.
- Stop drinking liquid calories in general. This is a huge area for cutting calories. Liquid calories usually come from added sugars that we simply do not need in our diets. Plus, researchers have found that people who drink more sugary drinks actually have a higher risk of belly fat, weight gain, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and gout. Pick still or sparkling water instead. Unsweetened black, green, white, or oolong tea are great choices, too.
- Stop drinking alcohol. This may seem plain mean, but the truth is that if you’re looking to cut extra calories, one of the first places you should look is your pre-dinner cocktail, brunch mimosa, dinner table wine, etc. Alcohol has 75% more calories than carbs or protein (7 calories per gram of alcohol compared to 4 calories per gram for carbs or protein). Plus, whether we agree or not, the body considers alcohol a poison, so it gets to cut to the front of the line to get metabolized by the liver; leaving the rest of our meal to sit around and wait to get processed. Metabolism stays sluggish for 24-48 hours, not to mention alcohol’s effect on lowering inhibitions and simple dehydration make it more likely we’ll overeat.
- Make time for exercise every day. If you have trouble finding the motivation to work out, remind yourself that you don’t have to whole-heartedly want to do something to start doing it. That is, as the saying goes, just do it. Walk yourself into your local gym or neighborhood park, and just get started. Then keep at it. Doing anything at all already puts you miles ahead of everyone still sitting on the couch. Aerobic activity such as running, swimming, cycling, and dancing will burn more calories than resistance training. Walking around throughout the day helps, too!
- Stand up for yourself. That is, stand up tall. Literally. This tip is a bit of a cheat, but if you want that statuesque look, part of it can be accomplished through good posture, supported by a strong core. Tightening your core and pulling your shoulder blades down and back to stand up tall goes a long way to present a longer, slimmer picture. Pilates is a great way to strengthen your core and become more body-aware. No time for Pilates sessions? Learn and practice good form for the plank position.
- Portion it, then put it away. Hunger and appetite are not the same thing. Hunger is a cue to replenish a physiological requirement for food. Appetite is the reason we eat everything else. Our appetites often outpace our hunger. The easiest way to put a check on an appetite that overfloweth is to portion food appropriately. That means serving yourself as much as fits into your eating plan, then putting the rest of the food away. If you finish a meal or snack and still feel very hungry, try doing something else for 20 minutes – go for a walk, read a magazine, organize your closet, whatever. If you’re still hungry after that, maybe you do need a little snack!
- Use smaller plates, bowls, and glasses. When your flatware is smaller, it takes less food to fill them up. This helps those of us whose appetites are governed by our eyes first and our biological hunger cues second. You still get to fill your plate, but it should naturally contain less food and therefore fewer calories.
- Track everything you eat or drink, as well as your physical activity. There are many free mobile apps on the market today. What I love about the mobile aspect is that it makes it that much easier to accurately track calories-in vs calories-out. Knowing how your eating and exercise habits balance (or don’t) is essential to finding where you can, and are willing to, make changes. Be honest in your tracking, even when your intake far exceeds your needs for the day. Just a couple of the popular apps that do this are Lose It! and My Fitness Pal.
- Expect a challenge and rise to it!
For more healthy eating tips, and savings on delicious, healthful foods, check out my Healthy Living for Less page.