What do beach balls, bare feet, and Slim Fast have in common? They remind us of summer. While the first two conjure images of enchanted childhood and July afternoons, the latter unfortunately signifies, for many of us, the annual “I-have-to-lose-weight-fast” ritual. How else to squeeze into last year’s bathing suit? For those of you cringing at the thought of another Slim Fast race to lose weight, you can avoid crash dieting by simply starting to get into bathing-suit shape now. Here’s how:
Skinny isn’t always swank. Think about what looks attractive. Thinness is not always best, despite current societal ideals. Good posture and an air of confidence can do wonders for any couch potato body. To look like a million dollars regardless of your weight, practice standing up straight and walking as if you don’t have a care in the world.
Get buff. Add upper-body strength training exercises to your weekly routine to tone your upper arms, back and abdomen. Start now and you’ll have visible results by June. If you don’t belong to a gym, buy a light barbell set or several dumbbells at your local sporting good store and create your own program at home. There are several books available that can help you get started,
But I want to lose weight. If you’re truly motivated to lose weight before summer, here are a few tips. First, set a realistic goal. Don’t try to lose 50 pounds in two weeks. Instead, aim for a gradual reduction of one to two pounds per week. Sure, you can temporarily lose weight faster on the latest fad diet, but you’ll spend the rest of the summer watching those pounds (plus more) come bouncing back.
Lose the Super-Size
The mere fact that food now comes in bigger sizes may make people eat more. Consider a recent study conducted at the Food and Brand Research Lab at the University of Illinois. It found that people who were given a medium-sized tub of popcorn, a large-size tub or a jumbo-size tub ate about half the popcorn in each tub regardless of the size of the tub. In other words, the more you get, the more you’ll eat.
Kill your snack tray. After you set a reasonable goal, take a close look at your eating habits. Do you snack while watching television? If so, what are you eating and how much are you eating? Extra calories are easy to take in when you aren’t paying attention. Try having lower calorie snacks available, such as fresh fruit or veggies, when watching TV. Or do the unthinkable: turn off the TV and do something productive.
Cut back on added fats. You can easily shave up to 300 calories a day with these painless measures:
• Use skim or 1 percent milk instead of 2 percent or whole milk
• Skip the “special sauce” or cheese on your hamburger
• Refrain from super-sizing (see below)
• Replace French fries with a garden salad
• Munch on pretzels instead of potato chips
• Use wine or broth for stir-frying instead of oil or butter
• Split an entrée with a friend or take the other half home for tomorrow’s dinner
• Get a sub sandwich (roast beef, chicken, or turkey) instead of a burger and fries
A warning: don’t go overboard trying to reduce your fat intake. Some fat is needed for health and let’s face it: fat tastes good. Just aim to cut back on “unnecessary fats.” That’s the easiest way to lose weight without feeling like you are on a diet.
It’s all marketing. It’s hard to keep from eating too much when we are surrounded by good-tasting, fast, and inexpensive food. Almost every gas station now contains a fast food franchise and it’s reported that McDonald’s corporate goal is to have no American more than four minutes from one of its restaurants. By being aware of the encroachment of fast food into our daily lives, you can learn to resist the marketing ploys urging you to eat it everyday and everywhere.
Sweat! Of course, the most important step toward shedding a few pounds is to get some aerobic exercise on a regular basis. Running, biking, and swimming are all good aerobic activities, but there are many others such as kick-boxing, hiking and brisk walking. To lose body fat, the intensity needs to be cranked up a notch or two—long, slow aerobic bouts do not burn more fat as many people believe. Granted, a long, slow workout has other health benefits, but if your goal is to lose body fat, be prepared to sweat.
The take-home lesson: start now to get healthy. Don’t wait for the hot summer sun to prod you into action. In a couple of months, the three things that remind you of summer will be beach balls, bare feet—and heads turning your way.