What did you do this summer? Let us guess: Afternoons spent lounging by the pool. Backyard BBQs. Two weeks in Nantucket or the Hamptons. Rosé all day. Sounds great—but how are your jeans fitting these days? We all expect to put on a few pounds during the holiday season (which we know we’ll have to diet and exercise off in January), but experts say women are now gaining more weight during the summer. “Summer is three months—as opposed to the holiday season which is only about one month—so you can do a lot more damage,” says New York City nutritionist Keri Gans, author of The Small Change Diet. “On average, people are putting on about five pounds between Memorial Day and Labor Day.” It’s not surprising, considering we all tend to fall off schedule during the summer. The gym gets blown off for an extra hour at the beach. Your diet gets blown treating yourself to ice cream, burgers and booze.
The good news is that it won’t take long to get back into shape. “If you start cutting out those ice cream cones and extra glasses of wine and the other things you have been indulging in during the summer, and return to your normal exercise routine, you can drop those summer pounds in as little as two weeks,” says Rhodie Lorenz, co-owner and lead instructor of JoyRide Cycling Studio in Westport, Darien, Wilton and Ridgefield, CT, and co-owner of JoyX, a new boxing/bootcamp studio in Westport, CT. Get back on track (and back into your jeans) with these weight loss tips.
Adopt a back-to-school attitude. September is the time of year we all feel motivated to start fresh, get organized and establish new rules, so harness that momentum and make healthy eating and fitness a priority. “September is huge month for us. It’s the rosé reset!” says celebrity trainer Anna Kaiser, founder of AKT in New York City, East Hampton, NY, and New Canaan, CT. “In fact, our transformation program starts the second week of September—it’s like going back to school for yourself.”
Ease in. Throwing yourself into a hardcore diet and exercise regime after three months of lifting nothing heavier than a wine glass will lead to burn out. In other words, you’ll feel overwhelmed, give up and gain even more weight. So take it slow and make one change at a time, suggests Kaiser. For example, start hitting the gym this week. Next week start limiting sugar. The week after that, start eating a vegetable at every meal, and so on. This gradual approach will be easier to sustain and feel less daunting than making all of these changes at once.
Keep a food diary. That lollipop you grabbed in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. The ends of your kids’ leftover grilled cheese sandwiches. The stray French fries swiped off your friend’s plate. Those forgotten calories can add up to the tune of extra pounds. “Writing down every single thing you put in your mouth helps you hold yourself accountable,” says nutritionist Ilyse Schapiro, who has offices in Greenwich, CT, and Harrison, NY, and is the author of Should I Scoop Out My Bagel? Once you begin to see exactly how much you are eating, you’ll think twice before grabbing junky snacks or eating off your kids’ plates. Schapiro suggests keeping a diary for a week to get a sense of your eating habits.
Strap on a heart rate monitor. A lot of people think they’re working out hard—but they actually aren’t challenging themselves enough to burn fat and lose weight. Kaiser has her clients wear a Polar Heart Monitor Strap to help them determine exactly how hard they are working. “Kelly Ripa came back this fall and was like, ‘I feel off track.’ We encouraged her to wear a heart rate monitor, which pushed her to work harder—and six weeks later she was a different person!” says Kaiser.
Don’t go completely dry. After the holidays, a lot of people do a dry January to get their drinking back under control. And so you might be tempted to ban booze for the month of September, too. It’s not a bad idea—but it’s a tough goal to stick to, and most of us just go back to our regular drinking habits once the 30 days of sobriety is up. Instead, simply focus on cutting back and holding yourself to a certain number of drinks a week (Schapiro says four is a reasonable number). Or Gans suggests limiting your drinking to just the weekends. That way you can still occasionally enjoy a cocktail without derailing your get-fit goals.
Never miss a Monday. This is a mantra Lorenz tells her clients. Starting off the week strong will help instill a positive attitude and set you up for success. “If you work out on Monday, you’ll be more likely to commit to exercise for the rest of the week,” says Lorenz.
Get back into eating breakfast. A morning meal may be the first thing to go when we get busy or off schedule—but it’s helpful for weight loss. “People who eat breakfast are less likely to overeat throughout the rest of the day,” says Schapiro. Healthy, satiating choices include a piece of whole grain toast smeared with nut butter, oatmeal, hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, or egg muffin cups, which you can make ahead of time and keep in the fridge for a grab-and-go breakfast. To make them: Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray, sprinkle whatever chopped veggies you have on hand in the bottom of each muffin cup. Whisk eggs (use six for a six-cup pan) in a bowl and then pour eggs over the veggies. Bake at 350˚ for 20 minutes—or until eggs are set.
Do interval training. A strong, slim body requires a combination of strength training, cardio and flexibility, but many women focus too much on cardio, which can actually slow down your metabolism, says Kaiser. (Strength training, on the other hand, boosts your metabolism.) At least twice a week, do an interval program that provides a good balance of the three—intense, fast-paced interval programs have been shown to blast more fat than steady state routines.
Prepare your own meals. Summer heat makes us less inclined to cook, and there are so many parties and BBQs that we don’t have to! The problem is, eating out makes us prone to overeating. “Only during the summer would you put both a hamburger and a hot dog on your plate!” says Gans. So come September, it’s important to go back to planning and prepping your meals for the week—and eating at home—which gives you more control over your caloric intake.
Consider your goals. One reason people have a hard time getting into a new fitness program—and sticking with it—is because they picked the wrong program. So think about what you want to achieve. Do you want to lose weight? Feel stronger? Change the shape of your body? Get an endorphin rush? Squash stress? Then choose a workout that gets you to that goal, says Kaiser. Many workouts will cover more than one base. For example, strength training will make you feel stronger and change the shape of your body, while running crushes calories and floods your body with feel-good endorphins.
Pay to play. How many fitness classes do you plan to go to each week? How many fitness classes do you actually make it to? If those numbers don’t match up, you’re not alone—most of us bail on workouts when we get busy. One way to stay on track is to sign up for classes in advance. “You are more likely to show up if you pay for a class in advance,” says Lorenz.
Keep it fun! Summer is the most social time of the year. Tap into that when establishing your fall fitness routine. “Plan to take a class with a friend or a group and grab dinner or a smoothie after to keep the up the good vibes of the summer,” says Kaiser. Or spend your happy hour with friends at the barre instead of the bar. Plus, you’ll be less likely to blow off your workout if you’ve committed to meeting a friend.