So what if you don't want to GAIN weight this summer but still want to have fun? This is NOT a post about what to eliminate during this glorious season. It's not about deprivation or missing out or letting the YOLO monster come out and play. Enjoying the summer treat bounty every once in a while will not derail your health status! You can easily end up feeling wrecked by the time fall comes around, though, when "every once in a while" becomes a daily to multiple-times-a-day practice and self-awareness is nowhere to be found.
In the spirit of a fun-filled summer that won't leave you angry, here are my top four summer nutrition skills to practice, whether you want to maintain or you still want to lose weight this season.
- Track snacks and drinks. Why? Because tracking snacks and drinks gives you the opportunity to pause and make sure you really want the them. Like I said, this isn't about deprivation. And it's not about shame, either; there shouldn’t be ANY judgement associated with this tracking practice. It’s just a way to stay aware. Because, come on. It’s easy to forget you’re on glass number four of that rosé by the pool.
- HOW TO: You can do this any number of ways but the one that fits YOUR needs will be the best one. Do you use your phone's Notes app a lot? Or are you more of a pen and paper person? Do you only want to track snacks in the evening? Or all of the snacks and drinks all day and night? It's really up to you and how you'll best set yourself up for success.
- Pre-determine meal portions. Why? Because we tend to eat what’s in front of us. Think about the BBQs you might attend in the summer. If they're anything like the ones I've gone to, tables are lined with all of those BBQ items I mentioned above, along with tasty dips and chips, and cheese and crackers, cookies and brownies and... You get the idea. If they're right in front of you, you'll likely go to town, right? It's often an invitation to graze and overfill the plate. But what if you had a game plan ahead of time? Choosing how much of what ends up in front of us will be consumed helps us eat to contentment rather than eating to the point of feeling really full and gross.
- HOW TO: You can do a few things here. You can decide ahead of time that you will share a full portion of something with a friend. You can decide that you'll go up to the spread a certain number of times the whole time you're there (for example, make an appetizer plate, a main course plate and a dessert plate and stay away from the grazing). If you're headed to a restaurant, you can choose to eat half of your plate and then pack up the rest. There's no wrong way to do this as long as you're making active choices.
- Drink more water. Why? Because it’s hot out! The more you sweat the more you should drink water. Drinking more water can also keep us from feeling hungry (when we're actually just thirsty) and can stave off the craving for calorie-containing beverages or snacks!
- HOW TO: Increasing water intake can take trial and error but above all, increase your intake by a reasonable amount day by day. In other words, don't go from drinking one 8-oz cup of water to all eight immediately or you'll be spending a LOT more time in the loo. Beyond that, make sure you carry a water bottle with you wherever you go (these are great for travel since they get smaller and smaller as you drink) or keep a tall glass at your desk. I personally know I drink way more with a straw so I fill up a mason jar and sip sip sip until it's gone! (Then I refill.) Again (and I hope you're seeing a trend by now), there's no wrong way to do this as long as it works for YOU.
- Choose the best option in front of you. Why? Because summer brings with it vacations and BBQs, places we often think we have no “best” option at all. The practice of making active choices, though, means we take responsibility for our actions. In fact, clients have reported enjoying their choice of the "best" food more than if they'd consumed it thinking they had no good options to begin with. So whether you're left with the decision to eat either a brat or a burger, choose which one you feel is best for you at that particular time and savor it!
- HOW TO: I pretty much summed it up above. Remember: We're not running out of food here. You WILL have a chance to eat another brat one day if you chose the burger this time. The choice doesn't always have to be what we think is the "healthiest". Sometimes "best" doesn't mean "healthiest" and that is OK! YOU'RE in charge, you're the one making the decision. That's got to feel pretty powerful, right?
At the end of the day, you want to be able to look back at a summer when memories were made, the company of friends and family was enjoyed and let the food and drinks take a back seat. I hope these nutrition skills and habits can make it easier to enjoy this season as wholeheartedly as you can.
If you have any questions or comments or are looking for nutrition coaching, please leave them in the comments section below or reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org!