Shape Up, Safely, for Summer

SATURDAY, May 12 (HealthDay News) -- Being healthy and losing weight are not only about crash diets, clothing sizes and numbers on the scale, experts say.

Incorporating fitness into your life can boost your confidence and make you feel better inside and out, said the experts, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

"Start by throwing away all clothing catalogs with skinny models in skimpy bikinis on the front," Beth Kitchin, assistant professor of nutrition sciences, said in a university news release. "Then buy a bathing suit that flatters your shape. Going to extremes for weight loss leads to yo-yo dieting and makes you feel bad about yourself."

"The goal is to be a healthy size for you, so focus your attitude and energy on becoming the best version of yourself and enjoy the journey to health," added Lauren Whitt, wellness coordinator at the university.

The UAB experts said it's important to shape up for summer safely, and offered the following tips on how to reach your weight-loss goals:

  • Be realistic. Consult your doctor about how much weight you need to lose to be healthy, and then set up a timeline to meet that goal. You can safely lose up to 2 pounds per week, they said.

  • Don't overdo it. Make just one lifestyle change each day, such as cutting out a soda or eating breakfast. "Taking small steps toward your goal will make it more attainable," Whitt said. "An early-morning meal with protein should keep you satisfied until lunchtime and help you resist high-fat, sugary mid-morning snacks."

  • Move more. It's important to increase your activity level, the experts noted. Start slow and be consistent. List exercise as an event on your work calendar so you have a reminder.

  • Personalize your workout. Although most people should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week, the workout you choose should suit your personality, the experts advised. "If you are a social person, try going to a group class like Zumba or step aerobics," Whitt said. "Conversely, if you are more into a solo workout, go with walking, running or even swimming. If you burn at least 250 calories through exercise and cut out at least 250 calories from food -- one 20-ounce bottle of soda -- you easily can lose at least 1 pound a week."

  • Don't skip meals. A better way to reduce calories is to keep a record of your food intake for a few days. "You'll find out where extra calories are coming from," Kitchin said.

  • Make wise food choices. Half of your meals should be fruits and vegetables, a quarter should be grains and the last quarter should be lean proteins such as poultry and fish. It's also important to choose low-fat and high-fiber recipes; limit your portions; skip sugary drinks; and opt for foods that are baked, braised, broiled, grilled, poached, roasted or steamed over those that are fried, buttered, creamed or breaded.

The experts said women should have no more than one alcoholic drink and men should have no more than two drinks per day.

"Alcohol tends to increase your appetite and provides calories without nutrients," Whitt said. "If you skip it altogether, you can reach your goals more easily."

An occasional treat doesn't mean you can't meet your weight-loss goals, the experts added. Getting in shape does not require perfection; just get back on track the next morning.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on how to become more physically active.

SOURCE: University of Alabama at Birmingham, news release, May 11, 2012

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