Welcome to the other party season. Here's your new strategy for keeping that trim waist without missing out on the fun.
With all the fresh food and outdoorsy activities, you'd assume that summer must be very ab friendly. "But while people typically associate the holiday season with weight gain, I'm now seeing women putting on more pounds during the warm weather," says Keri Gans, R.D.N., the author of The Small Change Diet. The holidays are a month of special-occasion eating and drinking, while summer is three months of parties, barbecues, weddings, vacations, and weekends spent lounging instead of lunging. On top of that, there's the burnout factor. After months of being disciplined with diet and exercise, most want to let loose in summer. "Basically, September is the new January—the month people try to take off the weight they put on," Gans says. Not necessary, though—you can hold on to the results you've worked so hard for with these tips.
Do a few sets of reps.
When you loosen up your eating and exercise routines, your abs are one of the first things to go. But you can keep your tummy tight and strong by incorporating just a few ab moves in every workout. Personal trainer Ryan Taylor, the founder of Training by Taylor in Chicago, suggests doing two or three sets of 15 to 20 reps of moves like V-ups, Swiss ball pikes (with palms on floor and feet or knees atop a Swiss ball, draw feet in toward chest, lifting hips), and mountain climbers. (Here's a morning workout for flat abs all day.)
Thanks to longer daylight in the summer, it's easier to eat meals later than usual. But that schedule isn't doing you favors, according to a study in the International Journal of Obesity that tracked 420 obese people during a 20-week weight-loss program. The study subjects followed a Mediterranean diet, so lunch was their main meal. Those who ate their main meal early (before 3 p.m.) lost almost five more pounds than those who had their main meal late (after 3 p.m.)—even though both groups consumed the same number of calories and exercised the same amount. The researchers aren't sure why this happened, but one theory is that eating later can influence circadian rhythms that affect metabolism. Janis Jibrin, R.D.N., the author of The Pescetarian Plan, recommends eating lunch between noon and 1 p.m., having a midafternoon snack, and eating dinner no later than 7 p.m.
Have a weekly ice cream cone.
Consider ice cream a placeholder for whatever you want to indulge in during the summer. Since many people spend these months in perma-vacation mode, the attitude toward temptation tends to be, "Hey, it's summer, why not?" Should I skip the gym? "It's summer, why not?" Should I eat this ice cream cone? "Summer! Why not?" Splurge and go whole hog for sure, to prevent feeling deprived, but keep it to just once a week, Gans suggests. It'll keep you honest and make having the treat seem that much more special. (Here's how to indulge the smart way.)
Keep tabs on your tab.
It's easier to lose track of how many cocktails you down at parties, weddings, and other social gatherings (because you repeatedly refill the same cup—or someone else keeps topping you off) than it is at restaurants (where you have to order and pay for each drink) and even at home. One trick is to pocket the little stirrers or cocktail napkins served so you have evidence of how many beverages you've blown through. Drinking something you like but doesn't go down so smoothly will often slow you too, Gans says. If you tend to guzzle rosé, switch to beer. (Here are 20 low-cal beers we love.) Another option: Ask for half pours. "I'm a die-hard martini person, so sometimes if I've already had one and want another, I order half a martini instead. I know I'll drink whatever is in my glass, so if I'm getting only half, I'm consuming fewer calories," Gans says.
Harvard University researchers reviewed several studies that suggest school-age kids gain weight faster over the summer. One reason may be that their lives are less structured when school is out. While most adults don't get the summer off, things like travel, summer Fridays, and an influx of social events can throw you off schedule, disrupting your normally healthy eating and exercise habits. (Stay healthy with these celeb travel hacks.) The key is to establish some consistency. Taylor says the easiest and most effective way to do this is to exercise first thing in the morning. "My early-morning clients are definitely the most consistent, and they continually reap better results," he says.
Devote your weekdays to a short workout
We know it's easy-living season, but carve out just 40 minutes Monday through Friday for sweat. A review of studies in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases shows that you need a minimum of 200 to 250 minutes of moderate physical activity per week to maintain weight loss. "The research suggests that when it comes to weight maintenance, the more physical activity the better," says review author Damon Swift, Ph.D. So if you plan to spend your weekends parked on a deck chair by the pool, designate Saturday and Sunday as your rest days during the summer. That way, you'll have five days of exercise under your belt by the time you hit the weekend. The same principle applies to your diet: "During the week, try to stay in and cook your meals, and try to be the healthiest version of yourself," Gans says.