They're ba-ack: pool parties, beach trips, cookouts. All sorts of occasions that beg you to bare more skin. But fear not — we've got practical advice to shore up your confidence and get your body ready for summer.
Reboot your diet. Most of us are conscientious about what we should be (and not be) eating. Now's the time to put that knowledge into action. "If you want to feel better about putting on a swimsuit or pair of shorts, it's go time in terms of your eating habits," says J.J. Smith, a Washington D.C.–based certified nutritionist, weight-loss expert and author of "Lose Weight Without Dieting or Working Out!"
"This won't be a popular suggestion," she says with a laugh, "but the way to kick off summer is with a 10-day detox." To retrain your taste buds, curb cravings and recharge your metabolism, Smith maintains, adults should steer clear of six things: dairy; white, refined sugar; white carbs; caffeine (yikes, but yep); red meat; and alcohol. What to eat instead? Leafy greens and fruit; lean protein like fish, beans and chicken; and whole grains.
"Remember, this isn't forever," she adds. "Even if you can lock in mentally on just three of those, you'll notice a difference in your energy levels and how you feel about your body and yourself."
Oh, and when the 10 days are up, view those six as things to enjoy in limited quantities.
Break a sweat. Just moving more in general will help you feel better about shimmying into a bathing suit. (Consider raising your computer monitor periodically and working on your feet, or simply make a pact with yourself to stay off your butt for five minutes every hour.) But if you're really serious about looking your best all season long, "you've got to get sweaty four times a week, at least, and for at least 30 minutes," says Tosca Reno, a wellness expert, fitness model and author of "Your Best Body Now" and the "Eat-Clean Diet" series.
"It's summer, so you can be out there riding your bike, swimming, playing tennis, taking more walks — whatever you find fun that makes you sweat," Reno says.
Refill your glass. With so many summer beverage options tempting us, it's important to remember that many come with a nutritional price tag — high sugar content and more calories than you care to think about. Still, staying hydrated is critical. "Most adults are drinking too many diuretic beverages: alcohol, caffeine, soda, sports drinks — we're dehydrating ourselves," Reno says. She suggests making your own electrolyte-rich beverage by adding a splash of lemon or lime juice and a pinch of sea salt to your water glass. "It will help you remain hydrated longer," she explains.
Green tea, shown to boost metabolism and help burn fat, is another good option. To make it more refreshing, Smith brews a few cups in the morning and stashes it in her fridge so she can enjoy it on ice throughout the day. It's OK to add your own flavorings, she says, "just don't buy it that way or you risk too much sugar."
Put on your poker face. So what if you're still striving to drop a few pounds or have some jiggly parts — we all have our issues. And they shouldn't force us to hit the beach in jeans or turn down an Evite to a buzzed-about soirée. Instead, says Reno, celebrate the fact that you do care about your body and have taken steps to improve your overall health. And know that there are some tricks that can bump up your body confidence in the hours leading up to the fun.
Smith owns up to struggling with cellulite. "I tolerate it most of the year," she says, "but come swimsuit season, I do body brushing to move those toxins along, and it makes me feel good."
Reno, for her part, says getting a spray tan helps her mentally prepare for skimpy summer wear. "Putting a little glow on visually takes off about 5 pounds and gives me a mental quick fix."
And on the day of a pool, beach or backyard party, both wellness experts try to time their daily workout to end about an hour before the event. "Exercise causes the blood circulation to rise," says Smith. "Even if I just get in a 10-minute HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout, I'll notice that my skin glows and I just feel more vibrant."
Think ahead. The whole point of summer is to let loose and have fun. One way to ensure you'll enjoy all the season's outings is to "plan, plan and plan some more," says Tonia Reinhard, a lecturer and clinical nutrition course director at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. Yes, planning and letting loose seem at odds with each other, but Reinhard maintains that guilt-free fun naturally follows when you follow a pre-party blueprint.
"The idea is not to be surprised when you show up at the picnic or pool party," she says. Consider her strategy: Before she arrives at the shindig, Reinhard has a small meal that combines a fiber and a lean protein, both of which have staying power to keep your stomach satisfied, and fluid, since many times thirst is mistaken for a hunger pang. "A fat-free Greek yogurt with a fruit or vegetable and some whole-grain crackers and a glass of water is enough to tide most people over," she says. "The worst thing you can do is hit a party when you're starving. You're guaranteed to make bad food choices."
The second part of her game plan is to guess at the party menu. "Either the invitation or the setting gives me a good idea of what kinds of food I'll find. If I know going in what I want to eat, I can prepare mentally to take reasonable portions and save room for an unexpected surprise indulgence," she says.
Final step: "Don't just start eating. Browse around and see your options so you can (you guessed it) make your food plan on the spot. I always feel better about eating a fantastic dessert or plate of delicious barbecued food if I haven't already filled up on the chips and dip that I happened upon first."