Unlike winter months, which often have added pressure from New Year’s resolutions and limited daylight hours, summer lends itself well to weight loss. It presents plenty of fun opportunities to burn calories when it’s nice out, eat seasonal whole foods and more.
Here, seven reasons why the warm-weather months can help fuel your weight-loss success, according to fitness and nutrition experts.
“Outdoor activities are way more accessible during the summer [than winter], and they’re fun,” says Ben Tzeel, certified strength and conditioning specialist and registered dietitian. “While people tend to think of exercise in traditional forms like going to the gym or lacing up for a run, being outdoors allows for a wider variety of activities like hiking, swimming, kayaking, canoeing and more.” This season, get moving with calorie-torching summer activities, including bucket list-worthy wildflower hikes, vacay-friendly workouts and watersports.
In the summertime, not only are the days longer, but there are also numerous opportunities to be active, even if you aren’t working out. Exercise pros refer to this day-to-day activity as NEAT (aka non-exercise activity thermogenesis), and boosting yours by moving more can help you burn more calories and tip the scale in your favor.
Activities like tending your garden, cleaning your yard, playing with your kids, taking trips to the beach, and even doing chores can all add up, says Wyosnick.
“As the temperatures increase in the summer, your thirst instinct is also likely to increase,” says Wyosnick. This is helpful for weight loss because drinking water fills you up and curbs hunger (which is easy to confuse with thirst).
Instead of reaching for high-calorie, high-sugar beverages such as juice, get creative, and quench your thirst with summer sippers like slightly-sweet “spa water” infused with fresh fruit and herbs. Wyosnick’s current favorite: Water with chunks of watermelon and a few sprigs of mint.
“The abundance of fresh produce in the summer from backyard gardens and farmers markets makes it the perfect time to increase the amount of healthy, whole foods in your diet,” says Pflugradt. Summer fruits like berries have a high water and fiber content, both of which make you feel full with fewer calories.
Head for your local pick-your-own farm to stock up on fresh strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and more. You’ll boost your step count and eat healthier. For example, try making your own jam with the fruit you pick, suggests Pflugradt. “That way, you can control the amount of sugar.” Knowing highly processed foods are linked to weight gain, the more you can stick to whole foods and homemade versions of your favorite jellies and spreads, the better.
In the summertime, it’s easy to embrace the Mediterranean diet, which calls for fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins (like fish, chicken and lamb) and healthy fats like olive oil, says Pflugradt. If you’re overweight or obese, the Mediterranean diet can help you lose weight and improve your blood pressure, among numerous health benefits, per a review in the American Journal of Medicine.
One of the greatest perks of slimming down during the summer is many of your favorite pastimes — like grilling — can easily support a healthy lifestyle. “While veggies may not be your go-to, grilling vegetables gives them a whole different taste profile and can make them extra appealing,” says Tzeel. The fiber in veggies helps fill you up and keeps you satisfied with smaller portions, while lean grilled proteins like chicken, turkey and salmon can support improved body composition and reduce muscle loss, he explains. So, go ahead — load up the kebabs.
Poor sleep is a weight-loss nightmare: “It not only halts weight loss, but also induces weight gain,” says Tzeel. “Sleep deprivation alters hunger and satiety hormones ghrelin and leptin, which makes you feel hungrier and may explain why you tend to overeat on days you’ve slept less,” he explains.
If you’re low on zzz’s, a summer camping trip could help by resetting your body’s biological clock to be more in tune with the natural light-dark cycle. As one (albeit, small) study in Current Biology shows, one week of camping with exposure only to natural light (yep, that means no glowing cell phones) can help reboot your circadian rhythms, potentially giving you a leg-up on your weight-loss efforts.
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