By: Richard Ing, MD
Spring is only a couple of weeks away, which means that warm weather isn’t far behind. For those of us who have spent the winter enjoying seasonal snacks and holiday happy hours, the idea of squeezing into a bathing suit for another season on the beach can be daunting.
Men and women gain weight differently. Although men are usually able to lose weight more quickly, we also tend to gain weight all in one spot: our abdomen. Unfortunately, there’s no option for a one-piece bathing suit that will offer us any forgiveness this summer, which is why it’s important to be proactive in shedding the winter weight that gathers around our middles, and anywhere else extra pounds might be hiding. By making a few healthy decisions now, we can prevent additional weight gain and hopefully reverse the eating decisions made during the cooler months.
There’s no getting around it—exercise is the single most effective way to lose weight. If you’ve avoided exercise all winter, start small, like taking the stairs or going for a walk every day during lunch or after work. Aim to do this on most days of the week. After two weeks, graduate to more intense activities, like hiking, biking, or jogging for 30-45 minutes on each day you exercise. Try incorporating intervals, like walking for three minutes and then jogging for two, to increase calorie burn and challenge your body.
For some, it helps to set a fitness goal. Sign up for a 5K or a bike race in late spring or early summer to keep yourself focused on a more concrete goal than a slimmer figure. Knowing you’ll be performing in front of a crowd could be the extra motivation you need when your workouts get tiring.
Of course, exercise won’t be effective if you’re getting home from the gym and sitting down to a heavy dinner. It’s easy to turn to quick and unhealthy meal solutions after a busy or stressful day, but try to plan your meals ahead of time so you can anticipate your hunger. Keep healthy snacks like trail mix, nuts, or raisins on hand for when you’re tempted to turn to the vending machine.
A couple of healthy swaps every day can also make a big difference in calorie intake. Swap a salty or sugary snack for fresh produce. Go meatless once a week and try salmon instead of chicken or beef. Rather than heating up a frozen dinner that’s high in sodium, grill chicken and vegetables and season them with fresh herbs and spices.
Remember: your body will reflect the work that you put into it. Making healthier choices now will pay off when it’s time for this summer’s trip to the beach.
Richard Ing, MD, is a bariatric surgeon at Bryn Mawr Hospital. For more information on Bryn Mawr’s Bariatric Program or to register for a free bariatric information session, visit our website.
This information originally appeared in Main Line Suburban Life.