If you are like myself and countless Americans come the Spring season, you are secretly sweating already. Not only due to the increasing temperatures and climate, but also due to the fact that “Skin Season” is just around the corner. It’s the slinky LBD, tanks tops, short shorts, muscle tee, washboard abs arena. I’m not just talking to the ladies either. Men, believe or not, are just as affected by the pressures of the war on their mid-section as women are. And gender plays no part in the cringe-inducing fear that the term “Spring Diet” invokes.
Let’s just say it. What a nasty term! It even SOUNDS nasty. Am I the only one that can see the DIE in Diet? Eeew. Ominous. At the mere mention of the term my mind instantly whirls with images of a flaxseed gluten-free bread-less pasta-less chicken-without-the-deep-fried lettuce-without-dressing noo-sugar-in-my-coffee goodbye soggy-delicious-McDonalds-fries oh someone shoot me in the face if I have to give up my pale ale on Wednesdays existence. What’s the point of fitting in a bikini if all I wanna do is hide in a corner with a burger and a beer like a hobbit bingeing for a ring? Precious! And as image after image of super-fit herculean models bombard my television with sweat-busting burn-seeking workout programs, the more I am tempted to devour that vat of Rocky Road sitting tauntingly in the freezer.
How are these people doing this? Do I really have to give up EVERYTHING that tastes and feels good to LOOK good? I wonder if this is what mom meant when she said “when you grow up, you’re gonna realize that life really sucks?” FYI: I have two full time jobs, school, a column, a boyfriend and a fifty-pound puppy. I do not have 90 minutes a day, 6 days a week, to work on how well my LBD fits. Alright. Soooo, where does one start? The internet gives you every bit of information on nutrition and exercise in anything but plain English. And even if we had the Lehman translation, how do we know what works?
Thankfully, according to celebrity trainer Eugene Yip, the key to REAL long-term success is Moderation. Yes. Good old fashioned Moderation. Not superhuman discipline or strength. What this means is that for a healthy physique that you can actually obtain AND keep, it has to be a lifestyle. “Crash diets are harmful,” according to Yip. Most people make a drastic change to their diet and exercise for the length of time needed and then as soon as they reach their goal weight, they tell themselves “mission accomplished” and go right back to bad habits. This form of on-and-off-again dieting puts a tremendous amount of stress on your body. And when you go back to bad habits and the weight comes back on, it is unhealthy and discouraging for your mental and emotional state.
“Being fit is a lifestyle, not a diet plan.” says Yip. The most important phase is the “start” phase. This is also the hardest phase. Getting up enough courage and commitment to admit that you need to do something about the ever-expanding waistline is the crucial first step. Next, ease into it. Easing into it does not mean giving up ONE order of fries during your McDonald’s run. It means taking a few steps towards a plan that you will keep. Firstly, be informed. It’s a bilateral process. Nutrition is only one side of the equation. Exercise is also recommended for overall general health and with some strategy, those washboard abs. Check with your doctor if you have any food allergies and/or conditions that may prevent certain types of physical activity. Here are a few things that you can do to immediately kick-start your slim down regimen.
1. Check your FATS. There is a difference between good fats and bad fats. Read the nutrition information on the foods listed and pay attention to the Trans and Saturated fat contents in the back. The lower the Trans and Saturated fat, the better. Experts recommend 2 grams of Trans or Saturated fat per day. Grill your foods instead of frying. If you must cook with oil, switch to olive oil or avocado oil. Both these oils are high in good fats. Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated fats are essential to maintaining a healthy diet. Replace whole milk with 2%. This simple step takes down half the fat content in your dairy intake without destroying your morning cup of Joe.
2. Its about the Protein. Lean Meats, Fish, lean Poultry, are great sources of Protein. A third of your meal should consist of Protein. So have your steak. Have your chicken. Just make sure the chicken skin isn’t the main attraction.
3. Be discriminating with your Carbohydrates. When we hear “carbs”, we immediately think bread, pasta, cookies. Let me clarify that carbs is SO mush more than these. Carbohydrates turn into sugar once it hits the blood stream. Breads, Pastas, Rice, certain Fruits have very high sugar content. Eating nothing but oranges 4 times a day, every day, is guaranteed to be disastrous! Oranges, apples, bananas, are all fruits that are high in sugar content. Although they contain anti-oxidants that are important to a healthy body, too much can lead to weight gain. Instead of bread or rice, opt for a baked potato or sweet potato. Yum! Instead of OJ or apple juice for breakfast or snack, try a handful of berries and almonds as a sweet tasty treat. Load up on your veggies. These are the good carbs. Melt some warm cheddar over a bowl of fresh or cooked broccoli. Mmmm! And scoop some PB or Nutella on fresh stalks of celery for a delicious gooey snack or side!
4. Here it is. MODERATION. The truth, ladies and gentlemen, is that you can virtually eat ANYTHING. Wait, let me say that again. You can virtually eat ANYTHING. Just know that what you eat counts. If you’ve had cereal and bread during the day, balance out the rest of the day with some grilled chicken and a warm vegetable salad. If you’ve stuck to lean meats and low carb veggies most of the week, reward yourself with that slice of cheesecake. We won’t tell. Really like your brews? Who doesn’t? Just know it counts and make adjustments. If you must cheat (I’m not saying that you will), cheat on a MEAL. Do not take cheat days or “off” weeks.
1. Have some fun burning the bad stuff. Getting on the right foot doesn’t have to mean making the gym your second home. Start in stride. Set a pace and accomplish it. Bring a friend and have a kick-ass playlist. A 25 minute brisk walk or light jog twice a week will get your metabolism working in the right direction. Adding in light weights for 30 minutes, twice a week, in between your cardio days will kick your body into high fat-burning, muscle-toning gear. Keeping a moderate exercise routine 3-4 days a week will have you seeing those jeans fitting more like they did in high school rather than seeing them collect dust in the attic.
2. BE HONEST. At the end of the day, it’s YOUR body. It’s your responsibility. If you are sensible with your nutritional needs and have a physical exercise program, the only reason it wouldn’t work is if you aren’t sticking to it. Your body is a commitment. It’s the only one you have and you are stuck with it. Take care of it. Most importantly, if you fall off the wagon, it’s not the end of the world. Suck it up, and get back on.
Taking care of your body can be an art, but even Van Gogh had to learn how to hold a brush. These simple steps should have you off to a good start. Yip advises not to get frantic over the scale. As your body tones and tightens with your new regimen, you will build muscle while you burn fat. Muscle weighs more than fat. This can be confusing and discouraging for some people starting a new regimen when they don’t see the numbers dive when getting on the scale. Let the mirror and your clothes do the talking. You should begin to see results in weeks as your clothes start to give room and your body begins to tone. Spring Break beware. Break out the muscle tees.