For many, summertime means guacamole and chips, visits to Mister Softee, and seasonal treats like lobster rolls and s’mores. It's a delicious time of year, but unfortunately, it can all add up to an expanded waistline come September. But it is possible to indulge and enjoy the rest of summer without putting on pounds.
“While weight gain in the winter and over the holidays are expected, many people feel surprised when they find their weight creeping up over the summertime as well,” says Tara Allen, women’s health RN and certified nutritionist, health coach, and personal trainer. There are a few reasons for this.
“Much of the motivation and determination that comes with the New Year begins to fade when we realize our — sometimes unrealistic — expectations won't come to fruition before summer starts,” says Allen. “Willpower fades. The other reasons may be more obvious: vacations bring a break in the workout routine and margaritas and ice cream become bigger staples in our diets.”
The good news? If you adopt a few simple strategies you won't regret anything.
Prioritize Your Exercise
Year-round, it’s easy to put off that spin class or morning walk until the afternoon or evening. However, come summertime, it’s more important than ever to get it out of the way early in the day. This will allow to accept your neighbor’s last-minute backyard cocktails invite or head to the park for a potluck picnic on a warm evening.
“Take advantage of the earlier sunrises that come in the summer to sneak in your workout first thing in the morning,” says Allen. “This way, when you have an impromptu BBQ invite after work, you can say yes without putting your goals on the back burner.”
If you’re on vacation, Allen suggests choosing a few activities to participate in to keep your body moving, like water sports, hiking, or even just a few walks out in nature or the new city.
Be Smart At the BBQ
Who doesn’t love a checkered tablecloth table piled high with burgers and ribs, pasta and potato salad, and sweets like cobbler and key lime pie? Though when you’re socializing with friends and enjoying the outdoors, you could quickly lose track of how much you’re eating — multiply that by a few times a week and the pounds add up.
Instead of filling your plate indiscriminately, fill up on salad, grilled veggies and protein before you dive into the processed carbs like buns or chips,” says Allen. “This will help you with portion control without trying too hard. Once your hunger has subsided from the 'good stuff', you are now able to make better choices about how much and which of the 'fun foods' you'd like to go for.”
Or try to have bite at home first. “Consider eating a small meal before you head to the party so you are not as inclined to indulge in food or drink that will make you feel bloated or uncomfortable later,” says Keira L. Barr, MD, Founder and Chief Wellness Officer, Resilient Health Institute. If you’re asked to bring a dish to a friend’s BBQ, make it a healthy one and opt for a colorful fruit salad, or grilled veggies.
Rely On Clever Swaps
Watching your weight doesn’t have to mean deprivation — especially when it comes to alcohol. The first step, says Dr. Barr, is to “budget your alcohol intake mentally beforehand when attending fun summer events. We encourage mindful drinking and being present before, during, and after drinking, and not just treating alcohol like a glass of water.”
Another way to cut down on liquid calories is to change up the way you drink. Janine Souffront, RD, CDE, and Registered Dietitian Supervisor at L.A. Care Health Plan, says to “skip the 800-calorie pina colada,” and opt instead for “a mojito with light limeade and a sprig of mint.” She also suggests stretching your drinks by adding club soda. If you’re a wine lover, this means mixing equal parts white wine and club soda with a splash of lemon to make a low-alcohol spritzer.
Swaps apply to food, too. Instead of eating chips with your dips, “marinated raw veggies work well as a substitute, says Souffrant. “Slice cucumbers and jicama, squeeze some lemon, the tiniest amount of salt and some chili powder, marinate for a few minutes and enjoy.”
While lightly dressed green salads are a no-brainer way to keep your calories in check, sometimes you can’t say not to creamy sides like potato or pasta salad. In this case, she says, “find lighter recipes that use ingredients like yogurt instead of loads of mayonnaise. If you still want the original one, keep the portion to one scoop.”