Spring is just around the corner and that's when thoughts of summer days spent on the beach or at the pool start coming to mind.
And with that, of course, comes that anxiety of slipping back into a bathing suit.
While there are no really healthy ways to lose a lot of weight quickly, the good news is there is still time to drop some of those holiday pounds and gain more confidence before hitting the waves.
Get Off the Couch
Working out is a no-brainer when it comes to achieving a slimmer figure, but adding exercise to your daily routine will help you put those pesky pounds in their place. “Use cardiovascular activity to help burn fat and don’t forget to include toning exercises to tone the muscle underneath the skin to give you a sleek beach body,” says Grace Derocha, dietitian and diabetes educator at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “You cannot just target one body part with one type of exercise to reduce the fat. You need to do cardiovascular activity and resistance training.” Don’t have a membership to a gym? No problem. Derocha recommends walking or running outside, as well as workout DVDs for home.
Don’t Deprive Yourself
That slice of chocolate cake can make those skinny jeans feel tighter than usual, but if you push it aside, you might be tempted to indulge in it anyway. Skip the guilt trip and instead, use common sense when it comes to savoring the foods you love. “Deny yourself very little when it comes to food,” says Carol Cottrill, author of "The French Twist: Twelve Secrets of Decadent Dining and Natural Weight Management." “Restricting food sets up a response that leaves us physically and emotionally craving more, Cottrill says. "But remember, that indulgence has to be moderated.” Cottrill suggests elevating the quality of your meals with real foods, like fruits and vegetables, which will keep you feeling satisfied with less. Also, she also states to eat slowly, which will allow you to pay attention to your body when it’s feeling full.
Snack on Avocados
Some may assume this creamy fruit may be too fattening for daily consumption, but it could actually be key to curbing those cravings. Betsey Day, a clinical dietician at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences recently revealed that avocados have leptin, a stimulated hormone that can control hunger. Plus, avocados make a delicious addition to any bland salad.
Enjoy Fat-Burning Foods
Are there really certain ingredients that can help you burn more calories? Dr. Lori L. Shemek, professional health coach expert, says there are three specific ingredients that can help boost your weight loss efforts. “Adding grated lemon zest to food can stop the urge to snack. The pectin in lemon peel turns into a sticky gel that equals to fat burn,” insists Shemek.
Let’s not forget flavorful mustard and peppers, which, like lemons, can easily be found at your local supermarket. “Hot peppers, such as jalapenos, have a compound that prompts cells to burn stored fat by raising your metabolic rate by 25 percent,” says Shemek. “Also, as little as one teaspoon of mustard during your meal can boost your metabolism by 20 to 25 percent.”
Eat Whole Grains
If there’s one thing personal trainer and nutritionist Ana Alexandre recommends tossing aside, it’s white starches. “Switch to whole grains,” she says, and with good reason. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, whole grains, which are rich in fiber, will keep you feeling fuller longer, especially if you start it off in the morning. And while adding whole grains is a smart move, Alexandra warns to be mindful of how much foods you consume in general. “Be aware of portion size,” she says. “A bowl of pasta can be up to three!"
Limit the Alcohol
Minty mojitos could be perfect for kicking off happy hour, but they can also be loaded with sugar. Before you belly up to the bar, Cottrill says portion control also applies in how many drinks you have. “Alcohol doesn’t mix well with fat loss. Even in small servings booze has an effect on your body’s ability to use up fats for energy, disrupting the balance of nutrition, fluid and hormones needed to lose fat,” she explains. Cottrill proposes curbing back to two drinks and sipping slowly. This will not only help you enjoy your cocktail more, but you’ll be less likely to reach for the bar snacks. “If you need some help adjusting to a slower pace, have a spritzer in-between cocktails,” says Cottrill.
What’s a girl to do without beloved carbs? Reach for proteins, which are essential for a balanced meal. “It takes more energy to digest protein that carbohydrates or fat,” says Shemek. “That means high-protein foods are natural fat burners. Add more of the lean varieties of turkey, beef and ‘fatty’ fish to your diet.” The CDC advises to check with your physician first to make sure you’re eating enough and if you lack in the protein department, you can also get them from tofu, nuts and grains.
Need another reason to stock up on fruits? In a 2006 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, obese patients who consumed half a grapefruit before meals were more likely to experience weight loss. While the connection between weight and eating grapefruit is unknown, this citrus fruit is packed with water and fiber, two essentials for achieving a trimmer body. Just make sure to check in with a physician first before adding grapefruit to your daily diet as it could conflict with certain medications.
Getting the proper amount of rest not only re-energizes you, but it also reduces stress, which causes weight again. “Remember that most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night,” says Derocha. “If you don’t get enough rest, your body may not allow you to lose weight naturally because it is fatigued.” And when it comes to reducing stress, working out can also help with that. “Stress increases levels of cortisol in the body,” adds Derocha. “Cortisol and body fat, especially belly fat, are related. Exercise is a natural stress reducer. Mix it up and try some yoga or tai chi to get those deep breaths in.”