Hurrah! It’s that time of year again when we all start looking forward to warmer weather, sunshine and longer, lighter days.
But it can also be a time when – after a winter spent keeping cosy beneath chunky jumpers and baggy coats – we start to feel a little anxiety creeping in around our weight and how we feel about our bodies. Especially if the clothes in our summer wardrobe feel a little snugger than they used to, or if we have beach holidays, weddings and other summer events looming large on the calendar.
First things first: I want to make it clear that this isn’t a ‘get the perfect beach body’ article. Mainly because there’s no such thing! The ‘perfect’ body isn’t some unrealistic ideal held up by social media, to which we should all aspire. I believe ‘perfection’ is getting to a place where we feel happy, confident and healthy in our own skin, and exactly what that looks like will be different for each individual.
That said, if you have weight-loss goals you want to achieve to help you feel good and enjoy your summer plans, I do have some tips to help you reach them. And the good news is, my advice isn’t just for summer; you can take it on board at any time of the year, because it’s all about making lifestyle changes that lead to long-term, sustainable weight loss.
Tip #1: Get the right mindset
Your mindset is a set of beliefs that influence how you think, feel and behave.
One of the most famous pieces of research on mindset was done by Dr Carol Dweck, who explained the connection between what we believe and our likelihood to succeed or fail in any given situation.
Carol talks about this in terms of two opposing types of mindset: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Put simply, having a fixed mindset means you’re harbouring a belief that you CAN’T do something. The impact of this is you’re far less likely to try and overcome obstacles between you and your desired goal. In fact, you’ll possibly avoid going after your goal altogether, because you already believe you’ll fail.
In contrast, when you believe you CAN do something, you adopt a growth mindset. This means you’re more likely to tackle challenging obstacles and be open to learning from any mistakes you make along the way. You actually become more motivated to achieve your end goal – and as a result, you’re more likely to succeed.
Mindset has an important role to play in any weight-loss journey, because our beliefs impact our behaviour towards food just as they impact any other behaviour. To change our eating and exercise habits in a meaningful way, we’ve got to believe we can do it.
I know that belief can be especially hard to commit to if you’ve tried to lose weight in the past and not achieved your goal. That experience – especially if it’s happened time and time again – has reinforced any negative beliefs you’re holding onto about it being impossible for you to lose weight. Maybe you tell yourself you have no willpower. Maybe your inner voice says you’ll always be overweight. Maybe you believe you’re not capable of sticking to a healthier lifestyle. Believe me when I say none of those things are true! Change that inner narrative and you CAN and WILL make positive changes that will support you to achieve your weight-loss goals. And if you’d like to read more about Dr Dweck’s work and tips to change your mindset, do check out this blog.
Tip #2: Avoid fad diets
Many people who want to lose weight for the summer, a holiday or special occasion get seduced by promises of ‘quick fix’ diets that centre around drastically reducing calories or cutting out specific foods.
So many of these methods of eating are extremely detrimental to our health and well-being, because to be able to thrive, our bodies need a variety of nutrients from across all five food groups: fruits and vegetables, starchy carbohydrates, proteins, dairy, and oils and spreads.
Then there’s the fact that sticking to this kind of deprivation simply isn’t possible for the majority of people! Fad diets rarely work for anyone for more than a short while, because guess what happens in our brain when we deprive ourselves? It’s biologically programmed to rebel against whatever ‘rules’ we’re trying to follow! The brain recognises that the body isn’t adequately fuelled or properly nourished, so it works hard to get us to consume more calories and/or eat the foods we’re omitting by creating powerful cravings. Life becomes a constant cycle of feeling hungry and miserable, falling off the wagon and then beating ourselves up about it.
What’s more, research shows that after coming off a fad diet, a whopping 95% of people return to their pre-diet weight, or even end up weighing more. So, while a ‘quick fix’ diet might help you shed a few pounds and feel better on the beach for two weeks this summer, you have to ask yourself, what’s the cost? And is it worth it?
Tip #3: Don’t let food become an obsession
When we obsess over food to the point that we become fearful of eating ‘too much’ or eating ‘the wrong things’, it leads to us categorising certain foods or food groups as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. This mindset attaches emotion and morality to our food choices, rather than allowing us to eat intuitively and see food as nourishment and essential fuel for our bodies.
Not only does this take all the pleasure out of food, it can actually be extremely damaging psychologically.
Tip #4: reduce stress
One of the lesser-known facts about weight loss is that our stress levels have a huge part to play. And it’s actually a bit of a double whammy, because not only can stress cause us to gain weight, it can also prevent us from losing it when we try to.
It’s all down to ‘the stress hormones’ cortisol and adrenaline, which are triggered when we feel stressed. This is what’s known as the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response, and it causes glucose to be released into our bloodstream, boosting our energy levels so we can see off a threat or flee from danger. But when the body’s energy stores are being used in this way, the brain sends signals that we need to replenish them, and so we typically crave high-energy snacks and reach for the sugar.
The release of cortisol also slows down our metabolism, making it harder to lose weight, even if we aren’t eating high-energy foods.
When we feel stressed, we’re also far more likely to fall into unhealthy habits (like emotional eating and exercising less) and have trouble sleeping (more on the importance of sleep below!). So if you’ve set yourself a goal to lose weight for summer, one of the best things you can do to ensure success is to invest time and effort in self-care and the things that help keep your stress levels down.
Tip #5: prioritise sleep
Did you know that if you’re trying to lose weight, sleep is potentially just as important as diet and exercise?
A lack of good-quality sleep has a big impact on the brain, as well as on the hormones that regulate our appetite, essentially causing us to feel hungrier and crave more high-energy foods. Having too little sleep also makes us less inclined to exercise, and more likely to feel stressed – both of which have a knock-on effect on our ability to lose weight.
Be sure to factor sleep into your weight-loss plan if you’re aiming to lose weight this summer, and if you need any tips on getting a better night’s rest, take a look at this blog.
Bonus Tip: try the Slimpod way!
If you’re looking for a proven, supportive tool to help you lose weight for the summer by eating intuitively, Slimpod could be the programme for you.
Forget about calorie counting or making certain foods off limits, Slimpod retunes your brain and your mindset, transforming your eating habits so you lose weight steadily, healthily and sustainably – and all in just nine minutes a day. It’s already empowered thousands of people to drop a size for summer, and it can do the same for you, too. Find out more about how Slimpod works right here.