26 Simple Ways to Shape Up This Summer
Your summer shape-up guide
What’s not to love about summer? We get outdoor workouts, BBQs, frozen cocktails, and well-deserved time away from the grind. But while the living is easy, so are the opportunities to scrap your usual clean-eating ways. "Summer can turn into a season of letting loose," points out Hollywood-based nutritionist Lisa De Fazio, RD. "That’s all great, just not if you’re trying to enter the fall feeling your absolute best." The smartest approach is to focus on what you can do more often (take extra steps outside, eat vegetables in the morning) rather than subtract things you love (Frappuccinos, food groups—no way). Just pick and choose from these 26 simple moves and you should have no problem staying your strongest, slimmest self.
Order the extra guac. "Avocados pack healthy fats that help you feel fuller longer," says Abbie Gellman, RD, a chef and nutritionist in New York City. And they may help stave off metabolic syndrome, according to a new review of more than 100 studies, published in Phytotherapy Research. "I always sneak avocado into my summer smoothies to make them extra creamy and filling," says Gellman. Feel free to enjoy half an avocado per day.
Buddy up at the gym
Lauren Duhamel, a personal trainer and the founder of Legs by Lauren, has one motto when it comes to exercise: Better together. “My friends and clients and I like to plan workout happy hours in the summer, where we’ll do a session on someone’s rooftop or in the park and then grab smoothies or coffee,” says Duhamel, who trains supermodel Taylor Hill. “It keeps it fun, and we hold each other accountable."
Can’t fit in a meetup? "Text each other what you’re doing for your workouts during the week and cheer each other on, or engage in a little friendly competition with trackers or an app," she suggests. Duhamel is on to something: When researchers at the MIT Sloan School of Management looked at data from runners connecting socially using their trackers, they found that people ran faster, farther, and longer after seeing a friend’s running stats.
Imagine that your core = corset
Your core is more than your six-pack muscles—it’s all the muscles that encompass your trunk and help support your spine, explains certified strength and conditioning specialist Hannah Davis, author of Operation Bikini Body. “If you envision your midsection zipped up and engaged as you exercise, it will help strengthen your core. Just make sure you don’t tighten your core so much that it obstructs your breathing,” says Davis. "When sitting or standing, think of maintaining an S curve in the spine for proper alignment."
Detox the healthy way
Binged on your weekend out of town? No worries. "The word ‘detox’ has a negative connotation, but it’s really OK to do some calorie control for a day or a couple of days after a period of heavy eating," advises De Fazio. "Stick with soups, smoothies, and salads, which make it easy to pack in extra vegetables while being gentle on your digestive system."
Every step counts
Make your new daily walking goal 15,000 steps instead of the widely recommended 10,000. In a recent study of postal workers in Glasgow, those who took at least 15,000 steps (roughly seven miles) per day had a healthier metabolic profile, BMI, and waistline than those who were sedentary most of the day.
Getting enough fiber every day is a so-simple diet adjustment that can have real weight-loss power. In one 2015 study in Annals of Internal Medicine, when dieters aimed for 30 or more grams of fiber daily, it helped them lose weight and improve their body’s ability to respond to insulin nearly as well as the people who followed a more complicated eating plan that involved cutting back on sugar, sodium, fat, and alcohol and aiming for specific quotas of carbs, protein, and fat. "Get plenty of fiber by eating a variety of vegetables, whole fruit that has the fiber intact, legumes, and whole grains," says De Fazio.
The tech giant is making staying fit easier with its new platform Reserve with Google, which allows you to search for and book nearby classes without having to go to individual studios’ websites. "I am all about mapping out your whole week and scheduling any in-studio workouts in advance," says Duhamel. "You’re also less likely to bail when you’ve signed up and paid a fee."
Following the age-old advice to drink plenty of water does help you feel lighter, especially in warm weather. "In the hot summer, your body tends to get dehydrated, so it holds on to fluids, which can make you feel bloated," says De Fazio. Though it sounds counterintuitive, this means you need to sip throughout the day to maintain the right balance.
Instagram your (healthy!) brunch
Go ahead—snap a pic of your acai bowl for social media (and check out others’ grams, too) before you dig in. Folks who do this tend to believe their healthy food tastes better, according to research published last year in Journal of Consumer Marketing. "In a way, looking for the perfect lighting or angle and all of that could potentially make you more engaged with the food and more mindful when you go to eat it," says De Fazio.
This old-school piece of equipment is portable and versatile, says Davis. "Jumping rope can burn about 10 calories a minute, and it works your legs, butt, arms, and shoulders," she says. "Do it for even 10 minutes a day while you’re traveling and you can reap the benefits."
Keep it small
Stopping for an iced latte? A fruit smoothie? An ice cream cone with the kids? Go for it, but mind the size. "If you want to be small, order small," says Stephanie Middleberg, RD, owner of Middleberg Nutrition in New York City. "This way you ultimately still get to eat your favorite foods, just less of them."
Lay off super-salty snacks
Consuming excess salt may make you feel hungrier (which in turn could make you eat more), suggests new research published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation. The researchers also determined that when people had an elevated salt intake over time, they actually drank less, which goes against the popular belief that sodium triggers thirst and would in theory make you sip more H2O.
A growing body of research has shown that being aware while you’re eating can help you slow down and recognize fullness (which means you’re less likely to overeat). Mindful eating involves paying attention to the textures, aromas, and flavors of your food and slowing the actual eating process to tune in to these cues. But did you realize you can also channel mindfulness during your workouts? "Consciously tune in to your body position while you exercise, especially during strength training. Ask yourself, ‘Where am I feeling this? Am I really present doing this exercise right now?’” says Davis. "The clients I have who are better at fostering this mind-body connection during our sessions always see better results."
In fact, in a 2015 study in Journal of Health Psychology, the people who reported being mindful during exercise also generally reported satisfaction with working out, and those who were the most satisfied tended to exercise the most. "Being fully absorbed in your movements takes the focus away from other unhelpful thoughts like, ‘Is this over yet? Am I done? This hurts!’” adds Davis.
Have some "nice" cream
With summer come ice cream, frozen yogurt, and slushies. Try this good-for-you refresher from Tava Sternberg, RD, owner of the Boston-based nutrition counseling practice Hub Healthy: “I blend fresh or frozen fruit with a little water to make homemade Popsicles," she says. "For added protein, replace the water with yogurt or nut milk." Or pour into ice cube trays to create individual frozen pieces for when you need just a small bite to satisfy.
Order the gazpacho
The chilled soup is a star menu pick if you’re dining out— nutrient-rich, high in fiber, and refreshing, says Sternberg. Pair a bowl with a watermelon-and-feta salad, along with three ounces of lean protein (salmon or chicken breast, for instance), for a more well-rounded restaurant meal. "It often pops up on menus in the summer—and watermelon contains vitamins A, B6, and C and lots of lycopene and antioxidants,” adds Sternberg. "The feta has calcium, protein, and fat, which will help keep you full. The sweet-and-salty combination is delicious."
Certain strains of Lactobacillus have been shown to help reduce weight and body fat. In a small study of overweight folks in Journal of Functional Foods, eating yogurt with Lactobacillus fermentum or Lactobacillus amylovorus without making other dietary changes reduced body fat by 3 to 4 percent over six weeks.
RELATED: 9 Probiotic Foods That Aren't Yogurt
In a separate study, a supplement of Lactobacillus rhamnosus helped obese female dieters lose weight and keep it off for 24 weeks. "I first and foremost recommend people get their probiotics from fermented foods, like yogurt and kefir," says Gellman. "But it can be difficult, in which case you can try a supplement."
Question your excuses
On the (rare) days when trainer Duhamel is feeling sluggish or less motivated, she asks herself, Am I sick? Am I in pain? Is this just an excuse? "It’s a quick trick to put your goals back into perspective, shake away a copout reason to not get active, and light up your drive,” she says.
Have rosé and prosecco
Craving a cold one but don’t want to wreck your diet? These crisp, light wines are the answer, says Sternberg. "Rosé and prosecco, which are pretty similar in calorie content, are better options than mixed drinks that contain juices and added sugar," she explains. (Both rosé and prosecco have about 80 calories per four-ounce glass.) Try Sternberg’s grapefruit rosé spritzer: Run a piece of fresh grapefruit peel along the rim of a wineglass. Pour four ounces of rosé and three ounces of grapefruit-flavored seltzer water over ice (add two tablespoons of fresh grapefruit juice for more flavor). Garnish with raspberries and a fresh grapefruit slice.
Sweat more in less time
Move through three or four rounds of this full-body circuit from Davis to get the most burn for your buck.
Push-Up Tuck Jump (top left): Perform a normal push-up (A). From plank position, "jump" knees toward elbows without touching feet to the floor (B), then jut feet back out. Do 10 reps.
Glute Bridge Crunch (top right): Lie on your back, arms at sides, feet planted. Raise hips so they align with knees (A). Lower hips and lift shoulders to do a crunch (B). Return to starting position and repeat for 20 reps.
Side-Plank Booty Tap (lower left): Start in a side plank on left forearm (A). Lower bottom hip to the floor (B), lift hip back up, and rotate torso while weaving right arm under torso (C). Do 10 reps, then switch sides.
Hip Thrust to Y Squat (lower right): Start in a plank (A). Jump feet forward so they land on either side of hands. Stay in a low squat; lift arms into a V next to ears (B). Drop hands to the floor and jump feet back to plank. Repeat for 10 reps.
Take cardio outside
Prepare to celebrate: “You really don’t have to do any cardio in the gym during the summer if you don’t want to," Davis assures us. "If you just vow to walk, run, Rollerblade, bike-ride everywhere, I promise you will probably rack up more miles than if you tortured yourself on the elliptical for 30 minutes." Look online for local street festivals or farmers’ markets to walk around in.
The savory flavor (often referred to as the fifth taste) might help you feel full, according to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. "Natural umami flavors that are great in the summer are mushrooms and soy,” says Gellman. "At your next barbecue, do grilled portobello mushroom burgers and make an edamame side salad with a soy-based dressing."
"Assume the vertical every day on vacation—it just means get up and stand. Go for a bike ride, walk on the beach, run around a bit," advises Gellman. "You don’t have to go out and become a pro at surfing. Just get vertical."
Work in veggies at breakfast
Cereal, yogurt, toast—many quick a.m. meals lack produce, says Gellman. "Incorporating vegetables into your breakfast really sets the tone for the rest of the day and makes you extra conscious of getting greens each time you eat," she notes. Add a handful of diced cucumber and spinach to your smoothie, or pair your normal to-go breakfast with a side of sliced raw radishes, she recommends.
XO your body
Having compassion toward yourself may help you make better health-related decisions, research has shown. One analysis of more than 3,000 people in Health Psychology found that folks who build themselves up instead of self-criticizing were likely to practice healthy habits, such as getting better sleep, eating well, and exercising more. "Tell yourself how proud you are that you stood up while waterskiing. Be your own biggest fan," says Duhamel. "When you love yourself, you’re much more motivated to take care of yourself."
Yoga for the win
Craving a dialed-down sweat session? Gentle yoga may help you manage your waistline, according to research out of the University of California, San Diego. When obese men and women followed a routine of either basic stretching or restorative yoga—which involves holding relaxing poses for several minutes—for 48 weeks, the yoga group lost more subcutaneous fat than the stretchers (and were more successful at keeping it off over time). The thinking, in part, is that restorative yoga may better reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which, at elevated levels, has been linked to fat gain.
Get your zzz's
Getting a good amount of sleep helps with weight control, says W. Chris Winter, MD, author of The Sleep Solution. Research has shown that sleep deprivation can create an imbalance of hunger hormones and increase appetite. "When we are shortchanging ourselves in terms of our sleep—school, travel, working multiple jobs, staying up watching Netflix— our brain enters into a sleep deficit," says Dr. Winter. "The brain has limited options for promoting wakefulness when it is truly sleep-deprived, and eating is one." To make sure you’re getting enough rest even when your summer schedule becomes erratic, set an alarm for as close to the same time as possible every day, detach from screens at least an hour before bedtime, and expose yourself to natural light right when you rise.