“Oh come on, just have one bite…you don’t need to lose weight…you already look great!” You hear these sabotaging comments from your closest inner circle. While these comments are delivered with good intentions, they could be the comments that derail your weight loss efforts.  Even with strong motivation to eat healthy, the summer months can be a challenge and throw a few curve balls your way.

It is no surprise that a recent study by the University of Texas revealed that kids gain weight 2-3 times faster over summer than they do the rest of the school year, thanks to a steady diet of junk food and video games.  While there is no comparable stat for adults and summer weight gain, the many food festivals, family reunions, sporting events and lake side picnics offer plenty of temptation.  When is the last time you went to a ball game and saw rows of people eating broccoli and hummus?  Probably never!  You don’t have to give up all your favorite summer time foods but it is important for adults and children alike to keep active and make healthy food choices during the summer months.

Whether you are at your goal weight or new to the weight loss journey, the summer months can be enjoyable AND healthy.  The most important thing you need to remember whether you are at a backyard BBQ, traveling to visit relatives or just out for a night with friends on a gorgeous summer night, is this: What is your WHY?  Ask yourself, “Why am I wanting to eat healthier?”  Many may state the obvious, “I want to lose weight!” I challenge you to dig deeper.  Is it to be healthier so you can lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease?  Is it because you would like to be more active with your children or grandchildren who are running circles around you?  Or, is it because you would like to look at a Facebook photo of yourself and think, “I look good!!!”  Whatever your reason, if you keep your WHY? At the forefront of your mind those curve balls will be a much more manageable.

The curve balls in life often lead to you consuming excess fats and sugars that your liver cannot process and therefore your body ends up storing them in unwanted places!  Don’t starve yourself prior to the gathering thinking you are saving calories that you will only end up consuming later. If you are hungry when you arrive at an event you are more likely to eat fast and impulsively, instead of selecting food based on nutritional value.  Set yourself up for success by avoiding excess fats and sugars. Try eating a low-fat, protein rich snack such as Greek yogurt before heading out to your party.  Sprinkle a little flax or chia seeds in your Greek yogurt for extra fiber.  Foods rich in soluble fiber naturally suppress the appetite and keep us from over-indulging in the foods and drinks that are high calorie and have little nutritional value.

Research shows the more food you have in front of you, the more you will eat.  Whenever possible bring a healthy dish to your summer get together.  A large bowl of fresh fruits, a spinach salad with olive oil and vinegar, shrimp cocktail, or cut up veggies with hummus dip are simple to prepare and easy to take along. This will ensure that under the worst case scenario at least you can rely on your healthy option.  When at a potluck, always opt to fill a plate as opposed to hanging out by the food buffet and casually shoveling in bites.  Aim for 50% vegetables if available (or bring some to share).  They take much longer to chew, are filling, and deliver fewer calories.  Studies show that when we snack our way through a party we are more often likely to eat more calories and make less nutritious selections. When filling your plate, focus on vegetables, fruits, lean meats, along with a small portion of your favorite treat.  There is no reason to deprive yourself on every occasion, but by making smart choices, you will be satisfied with a smaller portion of your favorite treat.  Savor and enjoy!    Eat until you are 3/4 of the way full, sit down and enjoy your food, chewing slowing and enjoying your company. These healthy ways of eating will allow you to enjoy yourself without expanding your waistline.

Tempting high fat, high sugar foods are not the only culprit than can add extra calories.  Soda, fruit drinks, alcohol and sugar-laden beverages are full of empty calories.  Avoid or limit alcohol consumption.  Instead try sparkling water with a twist of lime.  If you drink alcoholic beverages, be sure to practice smart moderation. You will always be better off reaching for refreshing water.  We have all heard it before, but you cannot hear it too many times.  Drink your water!  The body needs water for virtually all of its functions.  Drinking plenty of water will flush your body of toxins, keep your skin fresh, and help you eat less.

Making better food and drink choices will have a positive impact on your leisure time.  Healthy food and plenty of water sustain your energy levels, fuel your muscles and help your body burn fat.  Enjoy your summer by keeping your focus on friends and family and remembering your WHY?

Cori Colombe, BS, CHC

As seen in KC Health and Wellness magazine