Summer Slim-Down: 8 weeks to a healthier you
Want to improve your eating habits, work exercise into your life and feel better than ever? Our eight-week program is the kick-start you needBy Kat Tancock
If you’re like most of us, you’ve probably lost track of the number of times you’ve vowed to “eat better” and “get more exercise,” only to lose motivation—and momentum—before any lasting changes are made. Well, forget those past attempts—this summer, join Best Health for an easy-to-follow (and realistic) plan to help you improve your eating habits and build exercise into your lifestyle for good.
Why eight weeks?
While eight weeks might seem like an eternity in our fast-paced lives, but it’s actually an appropriate amount of time for you to develop healthier habits and start noticing the results of the changes you’re making. “You should start to recognize a shift in your mindset,” says Amanda Vogel, a certified fitness expert and writer in Vancouver, B.C., who developed the fitness portion of our eight-week plan. “You'll begin to notice positive signs that you can accomplish your health and fitness goals if you put in the time, attention and effort.”
With that said, it’s important to recognize that this program isn’t a quick-fix diet—it’s a guide to shifting to a healthier lifestyle for good. So don’t expect the immediate changes you might get on a more-drastic, less-sustainable plan. Instead, pay attention to how you feel overall, rather than the number on the scale. “The first benefits you might notice are more internal, such as sleeping better, feeling more confident in your exercise abilities and more energy,” Vogel says. “Losing significant weight and seeing muscle definition takes longer.”
Take advantage of the warm weather
Summer is an excellent time to make healthy changes. “You have longer days and you have more energy,” says Mary Bamford, a Toronto-based registered dietitian who consulted with Best Health on our eight-week eating plan. “There’s lots of fresh produce, and eating tends to be more leisurely and relaxed.”
Plan for success
Bamford stresses that now is the time to put in the extra effort—she suggests 30 minutes a day for planning—that will help you make changes you can stick with. “You’re looking for things you’re going to do forever versus just following a diet plan then going right back to your old habits,” she says. And most important, choose healthy foods you enjoy eating for your meal plan. “Create new meals and habits that are going to be permanent,” she says. “Find new recipes and experiment.”
Vogel offers these suggestions to help you stick to your goals throughout the eight-week journey:
• Be clear on your goals: What do you hope to accomplish in the eight weeks and beyond, and why?
• Identify your challenges. What has held you back in the past, and how can you make it different this time?
• Create a community of supporters—do the program with a family member or friend.
• Keep a record of how each day's activities feel and what you accomplished.
• Evaluate your goals each week, take note of accomplishments and make adjustments if needed.
• Consider how to boost results with everyday lifestyle activity, such as walking more and taking the stairs.
Vogel recommends taking measurements of any body parts you want to change—your waist circumference, for instance—and a photo of how you look at the beginning of the eight-week program. Then take the same measurements eight weeks later and compare, she says. “Use the progress as motivation to take the next steps toward continued health, fitness and eating well.”
What about week nine?
Best Health’s program was designed to help you make long-term changes toward a healthier lifestyle. Maintain your results by taking note of tips that worked for you, recipes you loved and workouts that made you feel fabulous. Notes Vogel: “By the end of each workout, you should feel pleasantly fatigued, not exhausted.”
Keep track of what you didn’t like, too, and phase it out of your routine in favour of something that brings you joy. “Success comes from permanently changing your way of thinking,” says Bamford. “Think: What makes my body look and feel good?”
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Web exclusive, June 2011