With beach days thankfully around the corner, most of us are starting to think about dusting off our summer wardrobe. The first thing that usually comes to mind? The dreaded bathing suit. Yep, your days of living in leggings, sweaters and knee-high boots are now officially numbered as the colder months come to a close. But have no fear—getting your body feeling and looking more in shape in just a couple months is completely doable. It all starts with an action plan.
One thing I tell all my patients is that slow and steady wins the race. For the love of good health, don’t try any of those crazy diet trends that cause you to drop pounds in too little time. They’re almost all unhealthy and can even cause you to tack on more weight at the end of the day. Instead, incorporate a manageable plan that not only helps you slim down and boost up confidence, but also helps pave the road for healthier months, years and decades to come.
Here are my key strategies for getting summer-ready, stat:
Pile your plate high with veggies and fruit
You might think the first step to shedding pounds is to remove food from your diet, which isn’t entirely untrue, since you do have to nix some of the unhealthy food choices. But I actually encourage my patients to fill their plate with even more than than their normal share of healthier food choices, like high-fiber vegetables and antioxidant-rich fruits. Both brightly colored fruits and vegetables can arm your body with protection from the inside out and give you more energy throughout the day.
Drink more water
Guzzle this good stuff down! Your body is made up of more than 60 percent of it, so you absolutely need your share 24/7. In addition, your body can sometimes mistake thirst for hunger when your hydration levels are depleted, so getting your fair share can help prevent mindless and unnecessary snacking. Aim for the 8×8 rule: eight 8-ounce glasses a day (AKA 2 liters or a half a gallon).
Get gut smart
When your digestive system is a wreck that’s when you feel those pesky, unpleasant symptoms including acid reflux, constipation, abdominal pain and bloating. And, believe it or not, but it’s true that it’s near impossible to lose weight and feel good, regardless of how much you diet or exercise, when you’re not taking care of your digestive system. Add probiotics and digestive enzymes—especially ones that include amylase and lipase because these help digest the food we eat—to your daily regimen and look out for foods that may be affecting your digestive process, like gluten.
I know this one well. Stress disrupts cortisol, the stress hormone which then affects insulin, the other key hormone for weight loss. I often describe it as a light switch that gets turned on and suddenly your waist expands, your arms feel fuller and you don’t recognize yourself. Watch your stress and try to minimize it, even if you’re in the midst of a tough time. Devote at least 20 minutes per day to calming your nervous system down using meditation, journaling, drawing or just laughing. Schedule down time to create some boundaries between the stressors, preventing your stress hormones from becoming erratic.
Don’t skip breakfast
They call it the most important meal of the day for a reason. Not only does eating first thing in the morning kickstart your metabolism for the day, but a healthy breakfast filled with protein and good-for-you fats help boost brain activity (and who couldn’t use a little more of that in the A.M.?). If you’re in the mood for something hearty, have yourself an egg-white omelette with as many veggie scraps as you can find in your produce drawer—or, hollow-out an avocado, crack an egg inside and pop in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes at 425 degrees. Delish! If you’re craving something sweet, my family favorites include protein pancakes and protein-packed banana bread.
Add apple cider vinegar to your diet
If you’ve heard that sipping on apple cider vinegar can help you shed pounds, unfortunately the jury is still out. There’s never been research to back up that claim specifically, but there are countless benefits we do tout about apple cider vinegar—for example, it can help lower your blood sugar. Yep! A study published in the Journal of Functional Foods found that drinking the stuff before a meal can lower blood glucose levels. In addition, apple cider vinegar can help balance your body’s pH level, which works to decrease your risk of infection and increase your energy levels—two unexpected perks to help you in the summer heat!
Pay attention to portion sizes
This goes without saying, but how much you eat is almost as important as what you eat. Even if all you ate was “healthy” food, but you ate 3 or 4 times as much as you should, you’re going to gain weight—it’s simple math. Also, did you know that portion sizes in the U.S. have grown tremendously over the past 30 years? Specifically, one study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that hamburgers have expanded by 23 percent, a plate of Mexican cuisine by 27 percent, soft drinks by 52 percent and snacks by as much as 60 percent! In addition to maintaining a healthy diet, do make sure you’re not overdoing it when you pile your meal onto your plate. A good way to help your hungry self out is by prepping your meals. When you pre-portion everything and store it in your fridge or freezer for grab-and-go lunch and dinners, you’re less likely to overeat or reach for something unhealthy.
Drop your fork between bites
There’s a good reason I encourage family meals—and it’s not only because it’s the perfect opportunity to catch up on how everyone’s day went. Having conversation while you eat encourages you to eat more slowly, which is one of the easiest things you can do limit your calorie intake. Believe it or not, but it’s true that feeling full can take up to 20 minutes, so the longer you stretch out your mealtime, the less you’re likely to consume in that one sitting. Another perk? Your food might even taste better, too. According to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, slow eating boosts the flavor of your food!
Commit to healthy eating on the weekends too
Don’t give up your eat-healthy goals just because it’s Saturday or Sunday. When you’re taking the healthy, slow-and-steady approach to slimming down, not tacking on cheat days is of utmost importance. Instead, find healthy recipes that satisfy your cravings for less healthy comfort foods. For example, try my recipe for Homemade Dairy-Free Ice Cream or Avocado Egg Salad (no mayo!).
Clock sleep—but don’t hit snooze!
Without sleep, we wouldn’t be able to function—that should be enough incentive to get it in the proper doses. In the age of technology, when it’s far more than our TV sets distracting us and emitting a bright light that keeps our minds running, it’s even more essential to pull the plug on activities that tend to keep us up later our bedtime. Aim for between seven and nine hours of uninterrupted sleep a night and try to stick to your alarm when it rings for your wakeup call. Hitting the snooze button repeatedly can confuse your body for the following days of the week, making your original wake-up time feel earlier than the days before.