Bikini and Speedo season is on our doorstep — and for many, that means the tail-end of spring is spent fretting about exposing a midriff that’s enjoyed unavoidable comfort eating in lockdown.
But science makes it clear that strict diets don’t work, and make us more likely to binge on badness later on. So what can we do to shake off a bit of flab and feel better in our skin come beach day?
We asked the experts for their top tips for sensible shredding for summer.
READ MORE: Can I eat cheese and lose weight?
“Diet Doctor” Moodi Dennaoui reckons that obsessing about food intake and exercise in a bid to lose weight needn’t always be your first step.
“Water and sleep account for two thirds of the way you look and feel,” he told 9Honey Coach.
In fact, sleep scientist Dr Carmel Harrington says that if we don’t get enough sleep – which is seven to nine hours a night for most people – we end up eating an average of 500 calories more each day.
“Our metabolic rate decreases by as much as 15 per cent meaning that we burn calories much slower,” she adds.
“We are [also] not motivated to exercise and even our incidental exercise decreases, further decreasing our metabolic rate. When we are sleep-deprived our body doesn’t burn fat as efficiently – it prefers to burn lean muscle.”
Meanwhile, if you mistake thirst for hunger and eat food when all you really needed was a glass of water or cup of herbal tea, then obviously you’re going to ingest more calories than your body was calling for.
Use the one-third rule
Accredited practicing dietitian Kate Di Prima advocates a simple rule of thumb to drop some KGs – reduce your servings by a third.
“If you have put some weight on, your body is telling you that you are eating more than you should. So the first thing you should do is take a third off,” she told 9Honey.
“You might find that over winter you have been pouring a cup of cereal when it really should be two thirds of a cup. Or you might have gone from two to three sushi rolls and need to take it back down to two.”
Be comfortable with hunger
As you cut your serving sizes by a third you might find you’re a little peckish, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“An appetite is a great way to indicate that your metabolism is in check and your body is using food for fuel not storing it as fat,” Dr Dennaoui says.
Di Prima agrees that provided you’re not starving yourself, hunger is nothing to be fearful of.
“Hunger will only last temporarily for 10-15 minutes – often people think ‘I’m hungry’ then wander the shopping mall or ride the bus home and realise their hunger is gone,” she points out.
“We’ve got to teach our bodies that [if you’ve been having small serves of healthy food] it’s okay to feel a bit hungry.”
Up your calorie intake
This may seem counterintuitive, but leading dietitian and founder of online diet plan Shape Me Susie Burrell says while losing weight is a numbers game, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. That means the daily ‘1200 calorie’ rule deemed ideal for weight loss may not be the magic number for everyone.
“The number of calories each person requires will then be largely affected by how much activity you do,” she said.
This can best be determined by assessing how many you are routinely consuming either via an online monitoring app such as ‘My Fitness Pal’ or by seeing a dietitian.
Sometimes, not consuming enough calories can actually inhibit weight loss, as your body needs a certain number of calories to be able to metabolise fat efficiently.
“If you take a closer look at your calorie intake and realise that you are only consuming 1200 calories or less, and are not losing weight, chances are you need a few more to adequately fuel your body for the amount of activity you are doing.”
Watch your liquids
Calories in drink can quickly add up and have a profound impact on your body composition.
“Liquids are the dangers – the alcohol, the take-out coffees, smoothies, juices and soft drinks,” Di Prima points out.
“If you count up the calories coming from them, you will often find they make up more than a quarter of your calories and if that’s the case, you’re going way too high.”
The simplest solution is to drink primarily water and swap your milky coffees for black or instant with just a dash of milk.
“If you simply can’t do without them, try and halve the sizes,” Di Prima suggests.
“Really look at the size of the wine you’re pouring or consider how many large coffees you need.”
Sustainability equals success
Ideally you won’t have the same pre-summer freak out next year because you’ll put in place practices that are simple to maintain all year.
“Holistic approaches that are sustainable will result in you looking and feeling great year round,” Dr Dennaoui says.
“There is no off-season in life. We get one shot at it so why not reach and sustain your true potential 365 days a year?”
Mind your shredding motivation
If you’re worried about your body shape as summer approaches, sports dietitian Katherine Shone suggests you analyse the source of that apprehension.
“Often people want to change their body shape because they want to fit in or feel connected. For some, it’s about boosting confidence and for others, it’s about a sense of purpose” she says.
“What’s behind this shredding mission? Often we see images on Instagram and Facebook that have been manufactured. We need to have our wits about us and understand that what we see online is not reality – it’s usually a highlights reel and is not actually how most of us live our lives.”
Ultimately Shone says few people can maintain a really low percentage of body fat.
“For 95 to 97 per cent of people, they will regain weight they lost dieting and then gain some more,” she points out.
“If you want a sure-fire way to gain weight, go on a diet. It’s a short-term fix and it doesn’t usually uncover the underlying root of the reason why that person found themselves uncomfortable in their body in the first place.”
Shone prefers people put some time into reconnecting with the cues their body is giving them about food and eating.
“We’re all born with this ability to recognise hunger and fullness but through the course of life we may have become disconnected from those internal cues,” she says.
“Let’s bring it back to the fact that our bodies are wonderful things and if we didn’t have these bodies we wouldn’t be able to exercise or go to work or play with puppies or babies!
“Happiness isn’t related to how skinny or shredded we are. ‘Fitting in’ requires you to look a certain way, but belonging means you are accepted for who you are. Most of us gather a lot of happiness through the connections we have with people.”
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