Ah, autumn. Don’t dare mention the word to a fellow New Englander or you’ll get a gruff remark or stare about now. It’s still summer! We have nearly a month to go, but as well we all know, time passes quickly and tomorrow we’ll see those first autumn leaves. Wait. A few trees are already starting to change.
As we look forward to pumpkin spice lattes and woolen scarves, our Wellies and our cider and our sniffles (OK, maybe not looking forward to that), let’s not also look forward to expanding waist lines. One should parlay the habits of summer — healthier eating, more exercise, walking in the out of doors — into autumn. But how?
For starters, follow these 21 tips:
- JOIN A GYM: If you don’t yet have a gym membership, join. LA Fitness, for example, which offers some great deals but so do Fitness Edge and others. In a couple of months it may be too cold to go on your bird walk, but a swim in the gym pool will be marvy. Plus, with cooler temps we not only stay inside more but become more depressed. A gym is a chance to increase the endorphins while also communing with others.
- FORGO SUGAR FOR FOUR DAYS: Much like a cigarette craving, a sugar addiction is tough to kick, sometimes tougher (it has been for this examiner). So what to do? Try four days of detoxing, eating natural but not refined sugars. Eat all the watermelon your body can handle. Eat it for dinner! Go to a farmers’ market and stock up on apples and peaches and dig in! Once you get through the first few days, it becomes much easier. Eventually, a cookie now and then is fine; just don’t let the cookie monster rule you.
- SWIM: Whether it’s a pool, lake, the ocean or your little cousin’s wading pool, do it. Swimming is gentle on the body while also helping tone muscles. It’s great for those of us who are recovering from injuries of many sorts. It’s a wonderful way to unplug from all things wireless. (Ever notice that at the gym, everyone’s still listening to their iPods? Not in the pool!)
- KEEP A JOURNAL: In the journal write down everything you eat; write down your weight and health goals. Write down your insecurites. Paste a picture of that gorgeous pair of flare bottom jeans you want to wear – you know the ones, the ones that you hope will reawaken your inner teen. Make sure the journal is actual paper rather than online! The act of writing on actual paper commits us in a way electronic writing never will. Ten years from now, you can reflect and smile.
- THROW OUT THE TRANS FATS: Read labels. You want to buy products with, ideally, no label (e.g. fruit/veggies) or very few ingredients. Make sure you know what those ingredients are. The last thing you want to consume is trans fat. It comes in different names: shortening, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or hydrogenated vegetable oil are nothing but trans fats. The American Heart Association recommends we consume no more than 1 percent trans fats in our daily caloric intake. This is found naturally in foods like lamb and beef; it’s in our butter and popcorn and snacks. It’s even in some Indian foods like Bhatura. Some of the biggest culprits are cakes and cookies. Remain vigilent, and remember to also watch your saturated fat consumption, found copiously in butter and margarine, for example.
- MAKE MUSHROOMS YOUR MEAT: Mushrooms can give a surprisingly meaty taste to a pasta dish. Add them to your spaghetti sauce, letting the shrooms stay rather stiff. Heat and serve. Yummmm.
- VISIT A FARMERS’ MARKET: There are over 100 in the great state of Connecticut. Not only will you become/stay healthier, you’ll make friends and help support the state’s economy.
- SKIP THE FAST FOOD: This examiner once overheard a young man tell a woman in line at Dunkin’ Donuts (no offense to them!), “You’d be better off eating nothing than eating a donut.” Well, he and his friends were buying them anyway, as was this examiner, but you get the point. Anything in moderation is OK to a point, but you don’t need a donut a day, or a hamburger a week. Eat fresh, eat organic, stay healthy!
- USE A SMALLER PLATE: Eating your meals from a smaller plate will help keep you trim. Psychologically, we want to “clean our plates,” and if the plate is huge…well, you get the idea. Small plates; small waists!
- WATCH THE DAIQUIRIS: If an alcoholic drink tastes like a milkshake, there’s a reason. It’s loaded with calories. Choose a single glass of wine, then follow up with club soda with a spritz of lime or lemon. If you must have a strawberry margarita, try to split it with a friend or just drink half.
- STAY AWAY FROM PROCESSED FOOD: If you are serious about losing weight or maintaining your weight loss, throw out anything in a bag – chips, cookies, licorice. You can hang on to the coffee, of course.
- POST A PICTURE OF YOUR SKINNIEST SELF: Perhaps it was the summer you first fell in love, when you weighed 101 and had the world on a string. Maybe you were a size 14, but now you’re an 18. Whatever your “best” is, set that as your goal. And then exceed it. Don’t go overboard; it’s not “all about looks,” but remember to visualize a brighter future. No one wants to pop their zippers when they sit down for supper.
- DON’T LET JEALOUS “FRIENDS” GET YOU OFF TRACK: This is more a concern for women than for men, but the idea’s the same: if someone is not supporting you in your weight loss effort, he or she is not a friend. Your real friends/family will want you to be your best, healthiest and happiest self.
- MAKE MORE MEALS AT HOME: We can put on as much as 10 pounds by eating nothing but a steady diet of fast foods/restaurant fare. Make nice healthful salads at home and keep a bowl of fresh fruit at the ready.
- DON’T SNACK AFTER WORKING OUT: Nuts and seeds and some water and sugar-free juice are dandy; but don’t use your tiredness and workout as an excuse to “reward” yourself with a box of brownies. Remember to take in fewer calories than you are burning up at the gym.
- STAY AWAY FROM THE HYPE: Whether it’s a TV doctor or a local dietician, a news magazine article or something you hear on the radio, remember to temper every bit of advice with common sense. Consider the source. Look into Centers for Disease Control guidelines. Read those old nutrition texts from college. Consult with your own GP. Dr. Oz has gotten a lot of flack for questionable advice, but he’s also espoused a lot of sound advice such as eating almonds (“the best snack of all”), broccoli for removing toxins out of your liver, eggs (forgo the yolks if your cholesterol is high), and coffee and green tea for their antioxidant effects.
Enjoy the dog days of summer, and stay healthy!