How to Deal With Summer Weight Gain
Many people are surprised to find that summer ends up being a time when they actually gain far more weight than they lose! It’s not uncommon to see a significant increase in weight between Memorial and Labor Day, and it makes complete sense when you think about why.
It’s no secret that a series of summer parties, barbecues and vacations can make summer a time when many people’s health goals come to a screeching halt. While I’m a firm believer in enjoying life and allowing some room for flexibility, spending an entire season in complete dietary indulgence is pretty much a guarantee to slow progress towards your health and weight loss goals.
Step #1: Set Summer Goals
During the rest of the year, routines and patterns of grocery shopping, cooking and go-to spots for eating out that you know carry healthier options is often a whole lot easier. Whether you are brand new to a healthy diet and lifestyle or have been eating healthy and exercising for years, the onslaught of summer parties and events can take its toll on everyone.
So, what are your goals this summer? To maintain your weight, to lose, or to simply stay active? What might this look for you? Planning out your personal strategies makes a huge difference, so for example you might set your alarm an hour earlier than everyone to get a quick workout in if you’re a houseguest. Or if you know that you do better with a water bottle rather than always filling up a cup, plan to bring a water bottle on trips and to summer parties. Whatever it is you need for summer success, think about your goals and strategies ahead of time.
Step #2: Have a Travel Plan
Many people have an attitude of indulgence when on vacation. I completely agree that picking and choosing one or two appropriate times and ways to let go and enjoy is perfectly fine, but having a dietary free for all during each and every vacation, weekend away or summer party is a very slippery slope. Especially on longer vacations but also on a weekend trip, take some time beforehand to revisit and really think about your goals.
I’ve found that while on vacation, I like to plan my treats, as this sets guidelines and I feel free to enjoy my chosen indulgence with zero guilt and complete pleasure. Your vacation planning strategy could take shape in a few different ways, but I think that whatever you choose beforehand, commit to it 100%. One popular way to approach vacations is to plan for one or two “cheat” days.
Especially if you know you’ll feel deprived missing family favorites or are in a foreign country and dying to try some local cuisine, pick one or two free days and allow yourself to do this. Or, you might decide on a couple of particular foods that aren’t necessarily included in your usual diet and that will be allowed just during this vacation, for example a pasta every now and then if you’re in Italy or the occasional ice cream at a beach destination. Try to keep portions moderate, eat slowly and be mindful and grateful for the flavors, textures and overall experience.
Another key strategy for travel is setting the stage by eating clean for the first 24 hours, no exceptions! When you start by loading up on unhealthy travel treats and hitting the bar for a margarita the second you arrive, it’s hard to stick to any sort of plan for the duration of your trip, whether it be a vacation or simply a long weekend.
Step #3: Keep Barbecues Healthy
Barbecues and potlucks are a wonderful way to share with friends and family in the summer, but it’s very common to take in significant calories before the main meal has even begun. Potlucks and barbecues are notorious for guacamole, chips and dips, and these can seriously blow your calorie intake for the entire day. You might consider not “breaking the seal” until the meal actually starts, and then adding a little guac or your favorite dip alongside the main dish. Also, play it safe and bring along a healthy dish to share that you know you’ll want to eat, just in case no other options are available.
It’s equally as important to learn healthy BBQ techniques to ensure you aren’t increasing the toxicity of your foods, especially meat. Grilling meat is well known for creating two cancer-causing agents, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs). PAHs are caused by the smoke created by fat drippings, and HCAs form when meats cook on high temperatures for a long period of time.
Do your best to avoid meats that are cooked for a long time and absolutely steer clear of any meats that are burnt, so cook your beef rare or medium-rare. To support your body’s ability to metabolize and detoxify some of the chemicals that come from grilling, pair your meat with an abundance of cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, kale and bok choy, for example.
Step #4: Stay Moderate With Alcohol
An occasional night imbibing is par for the summer course, but be sure to drink a glass of water in between each drink and have your alcohol with food. To make things much simpler, here is a list of best to worst alcoholic beverages so you can plan accordingly.
However (strange as it may sound) my all-time favorite method of keeping alcohol consumption low is to choose the drink you least enjoy. For example, even though red wine might be nutritionally superior to most other choices, if you love the taste and it goes down quickly, you’re setting yourself up for trouble. Same definitely goes for sugary cocktails. If you choose something that’s a little harder to get down, you’ll naturally consume less.
Best: Red wine for its resveratrol content and protection against inflammation, diabetes and even cancer. Go for a sulfite free, organic red wine whenever possible. White wine is also acceptable, although the grape skin is removed, and this is where a lot of the antioxidants live.
Next Best: Certain spirits are less likely to spike blood sugar than others, and are naturally gluten free. The best hard alcohols to enjoy are tequila, mezcal, vodka or gin mixed with a plain sparkling water and fresh lemon juice.
If-You-Must: Hard ciders are also naturally gluten free, but most are quite high in sugar. If you find a low sugar, organic option this can be a nice beer alternative while at a BBQ.
Not-So-Great: Beer sure is crisp and delicious on a hot day, but it’s also packed full of carbohydrates. Keep beer consumption moderate, or skip it altogether if weight loss is your goal.
Worst: Sugary cocktails are hands down the worst offenders of all, so avoid these at all costs. Remember that 4 grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon, and some summer favorites like a Pina Colada comes in at around 32 grams of sugar, a 32-ounce margarita at a whopping 156 grams and a long island iced tea at 33 grams.
There you have it! Follow these simple tips to avoid summer weight gain, or to backtrack if the number on the scale has already started creeping up. Enjoy this wonderful time of year, and learn how to do it with grace and a healthy dose of self control.