The first thing to tackle when you are trying to get in shape for swimsuit season is not how many calories you eat or how often you go to the gym: it's your brain. "People say they want to lose weight, but they still want to eat anything they crave," Ian K. Smith, MD, the bestselling author of Shred: The Revolutionary Diet tells Yahoo! Shine. "You have to realize your habits haven't been working for you and truly be open to change."
With temperatures warming up, are you ready to commit? If so, Smith, who was appointed to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition in 2010 and was the medical/diet expert for six seasons of Celebrity Fit Club, says it is possible to get a beach body in four weeks, or, depending on how much weight you have to lose, at least "make a good dent in a beach body. The body can contour quite nicely in four weeks, especially when trying to fit into a swimsuit or drop a clothing size." Angela Lemond, RD, and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics adds that now is the perfect time of year to start a weight loss plan, "Most people get a bump of energy in the spring," she tells Yahoo! Shine, "I advise my clients to take advantage of that."
Here are our experts' tips for losing weight and shaping up by summer:
- Eat six small meals a day. Smith recommends spreading your meals over the day to keep up your blood sugar up and avoid feeling hungry. He also says don't eat your last meal within 90 minutes of going to bed for the night.
- Exercise four times a week. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise burns calories and builds muscle. "You'll get the tone you want for your swimsuit and improve your health over the long run," advises Smith.
- Go for the crunch. Research shows that crunchy foods are more satisfying. While the scientific mechanism is not fully understood, Smith says, "if your fingers and mouth are busy with crunchy foods such as carrot sticks, you are much less likely to indulge in unhealthy options."
- Avoid crash diets. Lemond warns that cutting back calories too drastically leads to muscle loss because the body will metabolize tissue for energy. Not only does it look great and make you feel strong, the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns.
- Snack on filling but low calorie foods. Smith recommends foods that are high in water content such as cucumbers, tomatoes, grapes, and citrus fruits or high in fiber such as apples or whole grains.
- Eat before you eat. Before a party or dinner at a restaurant, eat a green salad or bowl of fruit or vegetables. "You'll have less of an appetite," says Smith, "and counterbalance the less nutritional snacks you might sample." Likewise, never skip a meal.
- Track your daily food intake and exercise. Lemond says food diaries keep you accountable, and loves tracking apps such as Lose It.
- Make a meal plan. "A salmon salad looks a lot more appealing when your hunger is at level two than when you are completely empty," says Lemond. When you are really hungry you are more likely to grab high-fat and high-sugar foods.
- Don't over-rely on the scale. While you should weigh yourself once a week, other indicators, such as the fit of a favorite item of clothing, may be better-and more encouraging-indicators of progress.
- Pick a perfect plate. Smith recommends eating meals on a salad plate. Research shows that people consume less when they eat from smaller dishes.
Smith and Lemond agree that losing weight and keeping it off over the long run to improve your overall well-being should be the most important goal. "You have to think about the 'Why's'" says Lemond. She points to research that shows that the people who maintain their weight for three years or more initiated their diet to improve their health and quality of life not simply their appearance. Source