If you’re not 100 per cent confident about your body weight or shape, and the sight of someone coming towards you in a T-shirt or shorts makes you feel anxious about the thought of revealing your body, then it’s time to start working on your summer diet. And although many people just want to look good for that short period of time when the sunshine arrives, there is no better time than to make the healthy living choices that will lead to long-term well being.
It’s more than vanity
Sometimes we dismiss our ideas of slimming for a beach-fit body as vanity, but it is more than that. The reason why a well-sculpted body in a swimsuit looks so appealing is because it is a picture of health, and evolution has resulted in us being attracted to signs of health. Looking good in public also allows us to cast off our inhibitions and become more of the people we want to be. This makes us happier and improves everything from our intimate relationships, our role model as a parent and our working and social lives.
Three steps to fitness
There is, and probably never will be, no one diet that suits everyone. Instead there are two main principles and one extra helping hand that together will inevitably lead to improved health and fitness.
Depending on your circumstances, weight loss might be high on your agenda, so you’ll be pleased to learn that safe weight loss is purely a matter of sensible calorie control and moderate exercise. A healthy diet that is conducive to weight loss will do two things: reduce the conversion of calories to fat and ensure we have enough nutrients to keep us in good health. Reducing the overall number of calories we consume is, of course, the key behind calorie control, but there are also ways we can make our bodies less prone to storing calories as fat, while promoting the use of fat as a fuel source.
Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids (including avocados, walnuts and kidney beans) help to inhibit the storage of glucose in fat cells, while calcium binds with bile cells to help us excrete more fat; calcium is found in milk, broccoli and cheese. Foods containing the carotenoid astaxanthin (prawns, langoustines, lobster, etc.) have a thermogenic effect, raising the body’s temperature and ensuring more fat is burnt. Catechin in green tea is also thought to have this effect on the body, as are diet supplements containing spices, chilli or caffeine.
The second element of a healthy lifestyle is moderate exercise, including running, swimming and cycling. Either of these activities, combined with a light weight-bearing element, will help you to convert fat into muscle. A pound of muscle burns up to an extra 50 calories a day compared with the same weight of fat – and looks a whole lot nicer too.
The third element to achieving a healthy lifestyle is the careful use of diet supplements. As the word ‘supplement’ suggests, these should be used as part of a healthy diet to boost results; after all, summer is getting very close.