Get swimsuit ready, in small bites

Special To Washington PostApril 28, 2014 


The more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn, so add strength training into your exercise routine to gain muscle tone.


  • Eight-week programs

    Beginner: Lose 10 pounds, tone for summer

    This is your program if you feel ready and excited to take on an eight-week challenge, and just want quick results by starting a new workout and diet.

    Weeks 1-3 goals:

    • Practice the plate method with lunch and dinner. Half of the plate should be vegetables, one quarter lean protein, one quarter starchy vegetables or whole grains (brown rice, whole-wheat bread, etc.)

    • Exercise at least 30 minutes three times a week. Try two cardio days at medium intensity (walk, walk/jog, spin, bike, hike, elliptical, etc.) and one “strength” day of free weights, group fitness class, Pilates, yoga or at-home exercises.

    • Reduce added sugars by at least one serving per day. Think about where there are “extra” sugars in your day (both substitutes and the real stuff). Flavored yogurt? Soda? Sweetened coffee? Alcohol? Eliminate at least one of these.

    Weeks 4-7 goals:

    • Eat at least five servings of fruits or vegetables each day. Continue the plate method and use this to help you keep your fruit and vegetable intake high.

    • Increase exercise by one day per week. Add a cardio-strength mixed workout – something like a group fitness class, Pilates or doing 15-20 minutes of cardio and then adding 10-15 minutes of strength exercises (about 30-45 minutes of total exercise). Be consistent.

    • Increase water intake. Drink at least 10 cups of water each day, and substitute water for sweetened drinks, alcohol and/or coffee.

    Week 8 goal:

    Keep everything consistent! These new behaviors should feel more habitual by this point.

    Moderate: Lose five pounds, get a toned look

    If you already exercise somewhat regularly (90-120 minutes per week) and have some awareness of healthful eating, this program is for you.

    Weeks 1-3 goals:

    • Reduce added sugars/alcohol by two servings per day. If your alcohol intake isn’t regular, then aim for only two to three drinks per week total.

    • Add one extra day of physical activity per week to focus on strength training and toning muscles. If you’re already working out five or six days per week, then add 10-15 minutes of strength training to your current routine at least once a week.

    • Reduce carbohydrate intake at night; aim for high vegetable/protein meals at dinner. If there is a carb in the meal, aim for starchy vegetables rather than processed carbs such as bread or pasta.

    Weeks 4-7 goals:

    • Add healthful fats to one meal/snack per day. Aim for unsaturated fats such as fish, oils, nuts, seeds or avocado. If you already eat these, try a different source, something new.

    • Devote at least one day per week to high-intensity cardio exercise (Effort 8 on a scale of 10) for at least 25-30 minutes.

    Week 8 goal:

    Keep everything consistent!

    Gabriella Boston, Special to Washington Post

We just bid a long, cold winter a welcome farewell. But while you’re peeling off the layers, remember that swimsuit season is just around the corner.

Are you ready? If not, we have a few ideas on how to lose weight and tone muscle by summer.

Not enough time to make a difference?

“It’s actually a lot of time,” says Danielle Omar, a registered dietitian in Fairfax, Va. “You could lose up to 15 to 16 pounds in that time, depending on the changes you make.” She suggests starting by looking at everyday eating and exercise habits.

“Just bring your lunch to work and stop those daily Starbucks runs and you could lose more than a pound a week with just that,” she says.

Heather Calcote, a Washington dietitian and endurance athlete, agrees and says “it’s really important to set realistic goals” and not to have an all-or-nothing approach to fitness.

That means incremental changes.

Small changes

Maybe you start by making one daily exercise change and two daily nutrition changes, Calcote suggests.

For example: Add up to 30 minutes of walking at least three times a week for your exercise change and start bringing your lunch to work and eliminate the high-caloric coffee drinks for your two nutrition changes.

Every few weeks you might add a few other changes. Those can include using the plate method (see info box), replacing soda with water, cutting (or cutting down on) wine and saying no to free office food.

“The free office food is usually poor-quality, high-carb, high-fat food,” Omar says. “Just say no.”

Exercise to tone

Although you might achieve your weight goal with just nutrition changes, exercise is also encouraged.

Ingrid Nelson, a personal trainer in Washington, suggests adding strength training to the mix.

“You are going to see big changes in the body if you incorporate some strength training,” she says. “And if you are looking for weight loss, weight training supports that really well.” The more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn.

Plus, “once the fat melts off, then what are you going to see?” Toned muscle is the goal.

Change the routine

If you are already active, Nelson says, consider switching up your routine. If you are running long distance three to four times a week, add some track work or interval training and strength training to the mix and see where it takes you in the next few weeks.

Although the summer beacon is a short-term goal, she suggests it can be a catalyst for self-discovery and long-term change.

“This is the only body you will ever have,” Nelson says. “Maybe take some time to get to know it better.”

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