As warm weather approaches, it's not uncommon to think about dropping a few pounds. We wear less clothing, become more active, and if we're going near a body of water, that may involve wearing a swimsuit.
As days grow longer, it's natural to start to feel more pep in your step. There's nothing like a perfect spring day. Feeling the promise of renewal the earth offers us, we’re inspired by the verdant green, the pops of color on spring flowers, the long lasting sunshine. Plus, that gosh-darned flu season is in the rear view mirror!
Let’s use that momentum to create some healthy change for the warmer months.
Now we all know that losing extra weight off our bodies has proven benefits. Blood sugar is more stable, inflammation goes down, joints and connective tissues are relieved of the extra pressure. And, let’s admit it, we humans are vain creatures, and it just feels good to drop a size or two if we’ve gained more weight than our body naturally needs.
With this in mind, here are three easy tips for slimming down for summer.
#1 Eat Carbs Intentionally
Think of carbohydrates as quick energy, but also the quick storage macro-nutrient of the human diet. Carbs are essential to life, but if you don't consume carbohydrate, your body will actually make carbs from proteins, via a process called gluconeogenesis.
Carbohydrate includes sugar, flour, grains, fruits, anything that digests into our body as a simple sugar. A diet that's dependent on processed foods, or simple carbs, can put way too many easily digested carbohydrates into your diet. Empty carbs from foods like white bread, potato chips and french fries, sugary cereals, crackers, pasta, and the like, spike blood sugar, which drives insulin, which is the fat storage hormone of your body.
Not everyone responds to a low carb diet well. I personally don't feel my best if I stick to a very low carb regimen, but I also tend to put weight on if I eat a lot of carbohydrate at every meal.
So my solution? I'm intentional about my carb intake. I'm very selective about my intake of any foods with added sugar in them (dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 80% or higher makes the cut). I typically choose to eat from whole sources, like whole grain rice, quinoa, root vegetables, and fruit. If I eat bread, I keep it to a serving or less, and wheat bread is not a normal food for me to consume. I also combine carbs with fat and protein, like a banana with almonds, to buffer the absorption of carbs in my gut. And carbs are never my entree. They are a compliment to protein and veggies.
A low carb lifestyle can really be an effective weight loss tool for a lot of people. This is one of those areas where you just have to be patient and experiment, and find your own personal balance with carbohydrate intake. Or, you can work with a health coach to figure out your sweet spot!
#2 Stop Eating After Dinner
Giving your body a longer fasting window overnight can help to jump start weight loss. Fasting, you say? You do it every night when you're asleep. So if you can stop eating after dinner, and not eat breakfast until you've had at lease a 12 hour fast, you'll be doing your body good.
An example of creating a 12 hour fasting window would be to stop eating at 8pm, and to not eat again until 8am the following morning. Or, if you’re willing, create an even larger fasting window, like 13 or 14 hours (I'll let you do the math). When you don’t feed your body food from the outside, it eats food from the inside, namely all that energy you’ve been storing in the form of fat.
#3 Easier Movement Often
Exercise can certainly assist in weight loss, but exercising too hard, for too long, can actually work against this goal.
When you exercise really hard, your cells have to utilize anaerobic metabolism, fermenting sugar to produce energy. Your body will respond to hard exercise by creating an appetite to replenish the sugar it had to access and burn while you were exercising. Your body has a baseline requirement for sugar, or glycogen, for daily functions. When you exercise hard, and get above a certain threshold, your body can’t take in enough oxygen to continue aerobic respiration in your cells, so it has to utilize sugar to keep producing energy. When these stored sugars run low, your body is going to induce hunger to replenish the supplies, and it will make you crave carbohydrates, since that’s the quickest way to replenish sugar.
When you exercise at a pace where you can breathe easily (you should be able to breathe through your nose), your cells stay in an aerobic state, and their mitochondria can use oxygen in the magical process of the electron transport chain to create energy. In this process both sugar and fatty acids can be used to create energy. If you want to loose weight, you want to burn fatty acids. Exercising at a lower level, but more often throughout the day, will allow your cells to stay in aerobic metabolism, so fatty acids can be burned for fuel, rather than sugar.
Please don't take this as advice to NEVER do hard exercise. Challenging exercise has unique benefits of it's own, and can actually improve your sensitivity to insulin by prompting your cells to create more insulin receptors. But if your main goal is weight loss, keep the hard stuff to once or twice a week, and all other days, move easy and often. Walking is the perfect exercise for weight loss!
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