Each year, when summer is on the horizon, I have patients who want to know the best way to lose weight in time for swimsuit season. I tell them this: Healthy weight loss takes time. Rapid weight loss is fairly easy to achieve, but it’s neither healthy nor sustainable. If you eat fewer calories than your body needs, you’ll burn your short-term energy reserves (glycogen) and you’ll quickly lose the weight of the water released in the process. (Each unit of glucose stored as glycogen is bound together with three units of water). Therefore, when you go back to eating normally, your body will replenish glycogen stores, and your weight will return. Avoid this yo-yo effect. Don’t starve yourself, and plan far enough ahead so that you can achieve your goals by losing no more than a pound and a half each week.
Instead of focusing solely on weight loss, I recommend that you assess your overall lifestyle and try to incorporate as many of the following healthy tips as you can.
Eat, Drink, and Be Moderate
- Choose whole (un-processed) foods – such as vegetables and fruits – instead of processed foods. Whole foods are higher in key nutrients and minerals, tend to contain more fiber, and are lower in sodium and added sugars.
- Include a lean, clean healthy protein such as organic chicken, turkey, fish, and fiber-rich complex carbohydrates such as leafy greens, brightly colored vegetables, brown rice, in every meal.
- Minimize sugar consumption. Simple sugar should account for no more than 10% of your daily calories. Remember that the more sugar you consume, the more you’ll want!
- Avoid artificial sweeteners, which don’t provide much caloric savings and have been linked to weight gain. When your body tastes something several hundred times sweeter than real sugar but doesn’t get the expected caloric boost, you’re left craving more calories and are driven to eat more. Moreover, artificial sweeteners impair your ability to taste the sweetness in natural foods.
- Take a multivitamin and essential fatty acid supplement. Deficiencies in B vitamins, vitamin C and carotenoid antioxidants can slow your body’s ability to burn fat, and deficiencies in essential fatty acids can decrease insulin sensitivity.
- Drink plenty of water. Divide your weight in pounds by two, and consume that many ounces of water each day. This will help ensure you’re not mistaking thirst for hunger, help minimize fatigue, and allow for optimum function of your kidneys, GI tract, and just about every other organ.
- Drink responsibly! Alcohol can cause more than dangerous or loutish behavior. With the exception of some antioxidants in red wine, alcohol is a leading source of “empty calories” that have no nutritional value and that your body tends to store as fat. Do you really need that second drink?
Create a Fat-Burning Environment for Your Body
- Eat balanced meals at regular intervals throughout the day. Skipping meals can slow your metabolism and cause you to retain fat. If this isn’t feasible, equip yourself with snacks to bridge the gap between meals. Snacks should include a healthy protein, fat and complex carbohydrate, such as apple & almond butter, hummus & vegetable crudités.
- Exercise regularly. Cardio is great, but High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is best for fat loss. HIIT can be easily incorporated into your regular workout and will help you achieve your ideal body composition more quickly while spending significantly less time actually exercising. Ideally, your schedule would include cardio with HIIT three to four times a week, strength training 1-2 times a week, and some kind of movement (like a long walk) on your days off. Remember, exercise builds muscle mass, increasing your metabolic rate and helping you burn more fat.
- De-stress! When you’re stressed, your body produces the “stress hormone” cortisol, which interferes with your ability to regulate blood sugar levels and results in accumulated fat. Whether you do it through meditation or mountain biking, yoga or yodeling, make sure you take the time to let off that steam.
- Get enough sleep. People who sleep less than seven hours a night tend to produce more cortisol and are more likely to gain weight and become obese as a result. Practice good sleep hygiene by turning off electronics, including TV, one hour before bed.
- Don’t neglect other health problems. Do you tend to feel cold despite the warm weather, or fatigued despite a good night’s sleep, or thirsty despite drinking plenty of water? Are you suffering from constipation or other gastrointestinal maladies, or menstrual irregularities? These could be symptoms of health conditions that could dramatically interfere with the effectiveness of your diet.
Remember, our goal is always to help you achieve your optimum health, rather than a particular weight or appearance. When you lose weight as part of a good diet and exercise program, that’s just an added bonus.