Summer is a great time of year to make that choice to slim down, not to fit into a bikini or for that high school reunion, but for you and your health. Why? Here are just four reasons:
1. An abundance of fruits and vegetables are in season, which makes it easier to eat well and keep the calorie intake low. Berries, melons, nectarines, peaches and plums are cheaper now, and their quality is at its best this time of year.
Keeping variety in the diet is easier during the summer. Eat a colorful plate — the more colorful, the richer your diet will be in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (nutrient components within plants that keep them safe from fungus and disease and provide health benefits to humans — e.g. lycopene, lutein and flavonols).
2. Most days are sunny, which helps keep people in a better mood. Although North Texas summers can sometimes make you feel like you are a vegetable roasting, you can walk in the air conditioning of the nearest mall or big-box home improvement store (the outer perimeter of such stores can be around a quarter of a mile). Another alternative is to walk early in the morning before it gets hot. What gets done early in the day usually gets done.
There are more opportunities to be active outdoors in the summer. Yard work counts. Did you know that mowing with a push mower burns 350 to 450 calories for a 150- to 200-pound person? Working the flowerbeds, pulling weeds and trimming rosebushes all burn 250 to 350 calories, too.
No offense to gyms, but all one really needs is a good pair of tennis shoes for your workout program. You can pick up things lying around (buckets full of dirt or water, broomsticks, etc.) to move in purposeful motions, safely, and get a similar effect. Resistance bands are inexpensive and the Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com) has great videos of exercises you can do, or check out the local library. Just be mindful with your activity and listen to your body to avoid injuries — an injury can lead to scaling up, not down.
3. Kids are out of school and around the house to help with shopping, washing and preparing foods. Kids who are engaged in preparing vegetables tend to eat more of them. This also helps the whole family get on board with being more active and eating better. Your support system is very important in this endeavor.
4. Summer is a great time to plan. There is an old Benjamin Franklin quote I used to teach my program planning students: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This happens with our eating habits more often than not.
It does not take much planning to steer yourself in the right direction, but the better you plan your meals and snacks, the easier it is to stay on track. Don’t forget about emergency foods, so you won’t be at the mercy of fast-food restaurants or vending machines because you don’t have anything else to eat.
Need some extra motivation that losing that extra weight? Consider this: For every pound of weight you lose, that is an extra 3 to 4 pounds of stress off your knees and closer to 6 pounds of stress off your hips. If you have 50 pounds of weight to lose, you are carrying an extra 200 pounds of stress on your knees alone. Losing just 15 to 25 pounds and making impactful changes in your eating and activity can bring some of your blood lab results back under control.
If we as a nation focused on eating better, moving more and stressing less, we could stop over half of the preventable causes of death and disability in the U.S. Having three of the five indicators for metabolic syndrome increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes by 200 percent and 500 percent, respectively. To learn more about metabolic syndrome and see whether you are at risk, go to www.lovetolivewell.com.
To help Denton get on the path to wellness this summer, Love to Live Well and Texas A&M Agrilife Extension have partnered to offer the program Scale Down to a Healthier You. This 12-week group weight-loss program is led by a registered dietitian, using curriculum designed to help you continue to make health behavior changes after the program ends.
Starting June 27, classes will meet every other Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Carroll Administration Building, 401 W. Hickory St. This community partnership keeps the cost at a low $90 for the 12-week program. To learn more and register, go to http://scaledowndenton.eventbrite.com.
ANNA LOVE is a dietitian, health coach, and founder of Love to Live Well. She is also a master wellness volunteer with the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service.