It’s getting to that time of year again when everyone starts thinking about their summer holiday plans – and realise that those Christmas puddings and Easter eggs pack more of a punch than they thought. A fitness or health regime starts in earnest and the words ‘chocolate’, ‘cake’ and ‘cream’ are re-categorised as ‘swearing’ under new totalitarian house rules. The cupboards are purged of all temptation and a gym membership card is frantically dug out from the pile of paperwork where it’s been lurking since January.
But realistically, we all know from experience that a knee-jerk reaction rarely succeeds. Instead, try taking a sensible, achievable route to the look you want by introducing simple, everyday changes that will hold you in good stead not just for the summer but throughout every other season as well.
Here are my top five tips for a sustainable, workable summer body regime:
- A little chocolate is good for you
The latest medical research on what diets work best seems to have a good dose of common sense in it: they suggest that eating chocolate, red wine and dairy products can help you lose weight. Their logic is that denying ourselves the foods we enjoy is more likely to push us off the diet wagon as we begin craving those foods. Of course, moderation is the watch word of the day; try to limit the amount you eat, and aim for dark chocolate over milk or white (a lower sugar and fat content, plus it contains more antioxidants) as well as trying to opt for healthier dairy options – skimmed milk instead of semi, Greek yoghurt instead of cream. Soya alternatives are also worth a go, although you’ll need to make sure you get calcium from other parts of your diet if you’re cutting dairy out altogether.
- Slow and steady wins the race
By this I mean that instead of diving into a drastic fitness regime, take things at a steadier pace. Aim to increase your daily exercise in small, simple ways. Aim to use the stairs and not the lift at least once each day. Park at the far end of the car park so you have to walk just that little bit further each day, whether it’s at work or at the supermarket. If you have an outside space, invest in a pair of badminton racquets (they’ll help keep your game from spilling into next door) and get outside for a quick match once or twice a week. And don’t forget that plenty of household chores count towards your exercise – so there’s no excuse for letting the garden get overgrown or the vacuuming be forgotten.
- Get drinking
Of course, by this we mean water. This is especially important at the start of any new health push, as it helps flush out any toxins in your system and puts you in the right frame of mind to get fitter. It’s also crucial to stay hydrated during exercise, so try to get into the habit of always having a bottle of water on you. It’s easy, too, to take a sip if you’re feeling peckish, to stave off hunger pangs until your next meal.
If plain old tap water doesn’t appeal, then flavoured waters are just as effective. Squashes should be used with caution, as they can be high in sugar, so opt for low-sugar versions or drink weaker solutions. Sports drinks are good during moderate to high intensity activities, as they not only replace fluids but body salts and nutrients. However, they shouldn’t be your main source of hydration throughout the day as they can contain high amounts of sugar.
- Make friends with your gut
Recent studies have shown that the ‘friendly bacteria’ in your gut seem to have a direct impact on your metabolism and your ability to gain and lose weight. Obese people tend to have less varied gut flora than those with an average body mass. Keep your gut happy with a combination of probiotic (good-bacteria producing) and prebiotic (bacteria-nourishing) food sources such as root vegetables, apples, beans, garlic and bananas.
- Pamper yourself
I mean it – have a manicure, a spray tan, a massage… anything that gives you a self=esteem boost. By timing activities that make you feel better about yourself to coincide with your new health regime, you’re reinforcing the message to your brain that exercise and healthy eating make you feel good. You’ll also be more likely to maintain your new lifestyle if you associate it with looking and feeling more confident.
Of course, these aren’t the only methods for losing weight and toning up, and many of you may choose to turn things up a notch to suit your fitness levels and goals. If you want major results in a relatively short space of time, then a more intense regime is more likely to be what you need. For this, considering a gym or (if you lack motivation) using a female personal trainer like me can help you kick start your weight loss. As ever, though, if you’re thinking of undertaking a major diet or fitness regime, always check with your doctor before starting to ensure it does benefit you rather than causing further problems.
Good luck with getting yourself ready for the summer, and fingers crossed we get the sunshine to let you show off your hard work.