summer shape up

Summer Shape-Up

Good eating habits, plus exercise and sleep, are the keys to feeling your best.

By Dr. Debra Rouse

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Does this sound familiar? Summer is here, and you’re still fighting to lose those 10 pounds that you swore would be gone when you set goals in January. With rates of obesity and being overweight in America continuing to climb, it’s time to pay attention and take action.

Excess body weight is more than just a number on the scale or how you look in a bathing suit; it’s also about increased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. It can be a precursor to arthritis, sleep apnea and pregnancy-related problems, too.

When it comes to your diet, keep several elements in mind: portion control, swapping in healthier choices and choosing foods that fuel your metabolism.

Portion Control

Effective portion control comes down to consciousness. Consider buying a kitchen scale, which can help you visualize appropriate portions. Read labels, and be aware that several portions may be disguised in one small package (think cookies and muffins).

Food Swapping

Here are a few ways to make healthy substitutions:

  1. Swap eating out for homemade meals and brown bag lunches. This way you have 100 percent control of what you’re eating.
  2. Swap soda for plain sparkling water, green tea or plain water. Avoid “sports drinks,” which are often loaded with sugar and artificial colors. Also avoid artificial sweeteners, which have been linked to rising obesity rates.
  3. Swap flavored (sweetened) yogurt for plain Greek-style yogurt; for added flavor, top with fresh berries and a few walnuts.

Fuel Your Metabolism

Choose foods that increase energy levels—and burn fat and calories—naturally. Some of my favorites include blueberries, cherries, walnuts, wild salmon, whey protein, hemp seeds, almonds, green tea, avocado, spinach and romaine lettuce.

Summer is perfect for salads. Begin your meal with a salad, or make it a main course. Top your leafy greens with a quarter to half of an avocado and 4 ounces of protein (wild salmon, free-range chicken or tempeh). Make your own dressing with olive oil and lemon juice, plus your favorite herbs. Add nuts or seeds (I love walnuts, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds), and be mindful of your portions (1 ounce—about a small handful—is a standard portion for nuts and seeds).

Exercise and Sleep

Aside from diet, two activities are imperative for successful weight management: exercise and sleep. If you’ve fallen off the wagon with daily exercise, now is the time to hop back on. If walking is enough of a challenge for you (that is, you can break a sweat walking quickly), start there. If you can amp it up a notch, run or bike several times a week. Mix in some resistance training, along with stretching, and aim to do something to move your body every single day.

Sleep is often overlooked as an essential component of healthy metabolism. Lack of sleep is associated with poor appetite control and junk-food cravings. It can also hamper weight loss. If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, talk to your doctor about possible causes and solutions.

Dr. Debra Rouse is a licensed naturopathic doctor and member of the Institute for Functional Medicine. She is also cofounder of Optimum Wellness.

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