SheKnows.com spoke with Heather Huey, director of nutrition for LA Weight Loss, about how to slim down for summer the healthy way.
The first thing you need to do if you want to shed your excess winter weight is get moving. Being physically active will not only make you feel good, it burns calories – the only way you're going to drop extra pounds. How you get moving is up to you and will depend on your current fitness level. We don't suggest diving into an intermediate spinning class if your current idea of physical activity is walking from your office cubicle to the vending machine down the hall – the idea is to do something you'll actually enjoy. "Pick something you can see yourself doing consistently," Huey suggests. "If something isn't fun and you don't like it, you won't stick with it."
Think about your schedule and what will be most convenient. If you need to be out the door at the crack of dawn and don't get home until late, you may not feel like hitting the gym for an hour at night. Think about breaking up your activity into two or even three smaller chunks -- you don't have to do it all at once, Huey says. Whether you work out for 45 minutes or in three 15-minute intervals throughout the day, you're still burning the same amount of calories. "You're still getting the same fitness benefits because your metabolism is being boosted two or three times a day," she says.
The best thing you can do for your body when you're trying to get in shape is to build muscle, Huey says. "The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn and the higher your metabolism is at rest," she explains. If you're intimidated by the weight room at your gym, Huey suggests booking one personal training session to get a better idea of how to use the equipment and which exercises would be most beneficial to you. Otherwise, get yourself a set of five-pound dumbbells and incorporate some weight-bearing moves into your weekly routine. You can also tone and build muscle by using your own body weight. Think push-ups, pull-ups, tricep dips, squats and lunges.
Short-term goals – like losing 10 pounds by June 1 – can add a lot of undue pressure to your already busy life. Rather than paralyze yourself with such strict parameters, think about long-term health vs. seasonal weight loss. "Looking good is a short-term goal. Knowing how healthy you're becoming inside is a much better way to think about it," Huey says." Tell yourself that this isn't going to be easy, but it will be rewarding." To put this into practice, set smaller, more realistic goals, such as starting the day with a healthy breakfast, walking to work every morning or incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet.
If you want to lose weight, it's important to get rid of anything that can sabotage your efforts. Processed foods, we're looking at you. Toss anything with added sugar, added salt, added fat and that is made from refined white flour (think crackers, cookies and other snack foods that amount to empty calories). "Just removing those things from your diet makes a huge difference," Huey says. If they aren't sitting in your cupboard, you won't be tempted to eat them. You will feel less bloated and lighter on your feet because your blood sugar won't be getting a spike from the sugars and refined flours (that quick burst of energy after a handful of Oreos -- that quickly dissipates).
Also say sayonara to sugary drinks – soda and specialty coffee drinks make it especially hard to lose weight. "There's nothing I hate more than people drinking their calories," Huey says. Drink water instead, or if you're having a hard time transitioning to plain old H2O, cut your juice or ice tea with water until you're drinking mostly water.
How and what you eat make a big difference when it comes to losing weight. Huey suggests switching from eating two or three big meals to five or six smaller meals a day, ideally every three hours. This way you are constantly feeding your metabolism and giving your body less to break down at one sitting.
Trade the unhealthy items mentioned above for whole grains, at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables (the more colorful the better), low-fat dairy (a good source of calcium and protein), lean meats, legumes and nuts. Every time you sit down to eat, think about how your plate is divided. Half of your plate should contain vegetables (cooked or raw), and the other half should contain both a lean protein and a whole grain. This will help ensure you're getting everything your body needs and not filling up on high-calorie, low-nutrient foods.
Here's to eating right, moving more – and looking great this summer!
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