For those looking to embark on a new season of health and wellness, summer tends to be the ultimate goal, like having a "perfect body” that’s ready for a beach vacation. But lifestyle modification attempts, such as weight loss trends, manage to reach a peak in the spring months and begin to decline as summer begins with weight gain beginning again in the fall and winter months (Griffiths et al., 2022).
Making summer a season of better health can still be achieved, however, with better nutrition. Whether it’s wanting to shed a few pounds, clean out your system to feel lighter, or just want to cut out certain parts of your diet, there are ways you can pursue a more nutritional diet during summer.
Here are some practical tips that can keep you on track this summer and beyond when it comes to better nutritional health.
Tip #1: Maintain Routines
Have you ever found that you perhaps spent January through May working really hard on your fitness and health, but the motivation begins to fade as vacation season approaches? Perhaps you are missing some fitness classes, training sessions, not paying as close attention to portion sizes, or indulging in more treats than you had in the past few months. This is quite common, but maintaining your nutrition and fitness routines through the summer months are critical to build lasting healthy habits (Arlinghaus & Johnston, 2018).
Hold yourself accountable to maintaining healthy routines by making a list of current nutritional habits supporting your fitness goals. For instance, if you cook dinner most nights or pack your lunch, ensure you continue those same habits going into the summer months. Keep a spreadsheet or journal if needed to ensure you are staying consistent.
If you use a food tracking app (i.e., Lose It, Myfitnesspal, etc.) continue to track your macros daily. It is also important to keep up with physical activity such as getting enough daily steps and attending your fitness classes and/or training sessions.
Tip #2: Plan for Parties and Vacations
Most of my nutrition coaching clients complain that vacations and summer parties pose a huge challenge to staying consistent with nutrition goals as in a sense, control over food selection is lost. There are a few ways to navigate these situations:
• When going on a trip, consider limiting your meals out at restaurants to only one meal per day and purchasing easy meals for breakfasts and lunches (i.e., sandwiches, salads, healthy snacks, etc.) at a local grocery store. Most hotels will have a refrigerator and/or microwave in the room. If you book a private rental, such as an Airbnb, you will often have access to a full kitchen. This allows you to stay on track with meal planning even when out of town. It also has the added benefit of saving you money!
• When visiting a restaurant, try to familiarize yourself with the menu ahead of time so you can make smarter choices when ordering. If you have your heart set on a less healthy menu item, fill half of your plate with vegetables and have a smaller portion of your main entree- perhaps bring the leftovers home for another meal.
• If you find yourself at a party with few healthy options, I always recommend you bring “purse snacks” such as a piece of fruit, protein bar, or other healthy snack option to limit consumption of calorie dense foods typically served at parties.
Tip #3: Limit Alcohol Consumption
While frozen drinks or a few extra cold beers at a gathering may sound very appealing, engaging in this habit routinely can impair any nutrition plan and lead to unwanted weight gain. Knudsen & Skogen (2015) found that when excluding the holiday season, alcohol consumption was highest during the summer months with women reporting a higher incidence of binge drinking during this time. It is helpful to be mindful of how many drinks you are consuming each week and set a weekly limit to avoid overdoing it.
Tip #4: Pay Attention to Hydration
Summer heat can lead to more sweat and loss of body fluids, especially during exercise. Though there is insufficient evidence to suggest that forcing yourself to drink extra water leads to more weight loss, thirst related to fluid loss from heat can leave you reaching for sugary drinks. It is well established that replacing calorie-filled drinks with water does contribute to maintenance of a healthy weight and/or weight loss (Jiménez Cruz et al., 2019). Ensuring that you remain adequately hydrated will reduce the temptation to consume these extra calories and contribute to increased exercise performance in hot/humid conditions.
Focus on thirst signals and consume fluid at regular intervals throughout the day. Consider adding sugar-free flavors or fresh fruit to your water to make it more palatable. If engaging in outdoor exercise, be sure to consume 400 to 600 ml of fluid two hours prior to the exercise bout and continue drinking 150 to 200 ml every 20 minutes during the exercise bout to replenish lost fluids (Judge et al., 2021).
In closing, though summer tends to be a more relaxed time of year, it is important to continue to pay attention to your fitness and nutrition goals as in any other season. Employing these tips can help you maintain those healthy habits you have built during the first half of the year.
Arlinghaus, K. R., & Johnston, C. A. (2018). The importance of creating habits and routine. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 13(2), 142–144.
Chang, T., Ravi, N., Plegue, M. A., Sonneville, K. R., & Davis, M. M. (2016). Inadequate Hydration, BMI, and Obesity Among US Adults: NHANES 2009-2012. Annals of Family Medicine, 14(4), 320–324. https://doi.org/10.1370/afm.1951
Griffiths, S., Cowley-Court, T., Austen, E., Russo-Batterham, D., & Blake, K. (2022). “Spring is the best time to lose weight”: Evidence that dieting is seasonal and reaches peak intensity during Spring. Body Image, 41, 406–416. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2022.04.011
Jiménez Cruz, A., Bracamontes-Castelo, G., & Bacardí-Gascón, M. (2019). Effect of water consumption on weight loss: a systematic review. Nutrición Hospitalaria. https://doi.org/10.20960/nh.02746
Judge, L. W., Bellar, D. M., Popp, J. K., Craig, B. W., Schoeff, M. A., Hoover, D. L., Fox, B., Kistler, B. M., & Al-Nawaiseh, A. M. (2021). Hydration to Maximize Performance And Recovery: Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors Among Collegiate Track and Field Throwers. Journal of Human Kinetics, 79(1), 111–122. https://doi.org/10.2478/hukin-2021-0065
Knudsen, A. K., & Skogen, J. C. (2015). Monthly variations in self-report of time-specified and typical alcohol use: The Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT3). BMC Public Health, 15(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-015-1533-8