Summer Fun Summer Fun Summer Fun

Slim down for summer

It can be sobering to realize that beach and pool season is right around the corner. Maybe that diet you hoped to go on got stuck in neutral. What can you do now?

The prospect of days spent in the sun without the security of a bulky sweater or baggy pants to cover up bellies and bulges often inspires people to reassess their fitness goals in an effort to lose weight. There are some right and wrong ways to shed a few pounds, and here are some guidelines to get you started.

* Crash diets: Nutritionists have long noted that crash diets can be unhealthy and ineffective with regards to long-term weight loss. But new research disputes those claims. A recent study from Tufts University found that a slow-and-steady diet is only successful for the very few who are not sidetracked by rich foods or other common food challenges in daily life. In fact, they confirm that, if done correctly with a healthy, calorie-cutting, food-based diet, fad diets can produce quick and lasting success. Clinical experience shows that somebody with a serious commitment to weight loss can lose up to 20 pounds -- and two to three dress sizes -- in two months.

This is not to say you should sustain yourself on grapefruits or cabbage soup. Weight loss that results from such diets is more water weight than fat. Reducing portion sizes and caloric intake could provide a metabolism boost.

* Exercise: Being active is usually conducive to losing weight. But the right exercises are also key. Heavy manual labor may not be the best route to take, as building muscle could also increase overall weight and add bulk to the body. Cardiovascular and light toning exercises can help many people achieve their weight-loss goals more quickly than dieting alone.

Many people find the warm weather naturally inspires them to be more active. Make the most of the beautiful weather by getting off the couch and going outside for a walk or a jog.

* Indulge in good foods. Filling up on foods that help your body realize it is full can help with weight loss. These include foods that are high in fiber and protein. Choose nonstarch vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, which are high in fiber. Chickpeas and other legumes will also fill you up fast. Snack on berries and apples, which are filling and also a good source of fiber. Look for whole-grain breads, which are more substantial than overly processed breads.

* Set reasonable goals. Research from Tufts indicates that it is a physiological fact that the human body can only lose a maximum of three pounds of actual fat a week. Other weight loss is often an emptying of the intestinal system and water loss. Starvation is not a healthy way to lose weight, as it actually depletes muscles while taxing the cardiovascular system. Therefore, plan how much you want to lose and then divide that number by three. Then you'll have an accurate measurement on how many weeks it will take to lose the weight with aggressive dieting. If you want to lose 30 pounds, it could take 10 weeks to achieve that goal.

Even a small amount of weight loss can result in marked improvement in how you look and feel, especially when sporting a swimsuit. Personal health should always take precedence over losing weight to improve your appearance.