Bikini season is in full swing. Tank tops and shorts have been wardrobe staples for a couple of months now and summer is halfway over. In anticipation of this skin-bearing season, you've likely already tried a new diet and exercise regime or two. Maybe some have even worked, to a point. But those last 10 pounds refuse to come off.
Luckily, there's still time. To lose 10 pounds, you should ideally give yourself five weeks. That means you can shed the final 10 safely by Labour Day.
Most people can lose two pounds a week safely, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian with the American Dietetic Association. But getting rid of two pounds a week means cutting out 1,000 calories from your diet. "One thousand calories less than what you're used to is a lot of calories," says Blatner. But those calories don't just need to come from just food or just exercise. They should come from a combination of the two: an estimated 400 calories from exercise and about 600 from food.
The key is to kick-start your weight-loss plan with a few new tricks you haven't tried before.
Some think that weighing less means simply eating less. But losing weight is more about eating the right foods at the right time, says Blatner. Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day especially for dieters.
Eating more earlier means you'll burn those calories throughout the day instead of eating a huge dinner and going to sleep when much fewer calories are burned. But because most people are less hungry in the mornings, they will try to be good and eat light in the morning and afternoon, only to gorge at dinnertime. The ideal meal portioning for someone looking to lose weight is to eat a big breakfast and taper down by dinner.
But how do we get our bodies which are accustomed to meals that get increasingly larger throughout the day to be hungriest at breakfast? "Skip dinner one night," advises Blatner. While she doesn't condone doing this regularly, Blatner says that doing this once will help you "wake up ravished" and you can systematically start tapering your meal sizes throughout the day.
Besides eating right, the other main component to losing weight is exercise. Unfortunately, this is where many will lose motivation because a lot of people have an all-or-nothing mentality about exercise. "Either I have 30 minutes or an hour to devote to the gym, or I don't work out at all," says Jessica Matthews, an exercise scientist at the American Council on Exercise (ACE), on the way many of us approach workouts.
But one of the most effective workouts takes less than half an hour. ACE recently commissioned a study on kettlebells, the trendy cast-iron weight-centered fitness program that helped actor Gerard Butler get fit to play a shirtless king of Sparta in the film 300. The study found that participants burned an astonishing 272 calories during a 20-minute workout. And that doesn't include the calories burned anaerobically. All told, kettlebells helped participants burn about 20 calories a minute, which is equivalent to running a six-minute mile.
"You do get a big bang for your buck in a very short amount of time," says Chad Schnettler, M.S., a research experts at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, Exercise and Health Program who conducted the study for ACE.
When you don't even have 20 minutes for kettlebells, that still doesn't mean you can't be maximizing your caloric burn. It's as simple as standing up. Matthews says that an average 150-lb. woman can burn 129 calories an hour by simply standing up while talking on the phone. That's equivalent to cutting the calories in a grilled chicken breast during an average conference call. At home, standing and washing dishes for 20 minutes will cut 55 calories.
While eating right and exercising are at the top of dieters' to-do lists, many will forget one crucial component to weight-loss: what they're drinking.
Most know that drinking more water helps stave off hunger. Dehydration makes people think they are hungry when they are in fact thirsty. Yet many still don't get enough to drink. A trick to getting people to hydrate, says Blatner, is to add lemons. People will drink more when the water is flavoured. Drinking more is especially important in the afternoons when dehydration combined with eating a light lunch can cause you to overeat at dinner.
Decaffeinated tea is another drink that can both curb dehydration and, in itself, make us feel less hungry. Peppermint or ginger tea varieties with a lot of flavor can act like a tooth-brushing. It leaves its own strong flavour that helps you lose your taste for food. When taken right after meals, the liquid will both fill you up and act as that little something sweet that many look for after a meal.
Most women who do have the weight to lose and who stick to these tips will see the pounds come off for at least the five weeks until Labor Day and beyond, says Blatner. Most people don't plateau until three months. "The key is to keep consistent," she says. "The real challenge is keeping it off so you don't have to do this next summer."