Photo Credit: Jamie Grill Photography/Getty Images
Even if you aren't trying to lose weight this summer, you probably aren't trying to gain it, either. So don’t let these common summertime habits ruin a healthy diet:
Pumping the air conditioning
Can’t live without your AC? Consider this: If you turn it down you may turn up your metabolism.
Air conditioning may slow your metabolism and amp up your hunger, according to researchers from Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University. Studies show that when the body is exposed to heat and humidity, appetite decreases -- you tend to eat less often and choose lower-calorie foods when your body is hot. At the same time, when you’re hot to the point of sweating, your metabolism works extra hard to help cool your body to avoid overheating.
Summer slim down solution: A little sweat won’t hurt you. Turn down the AC a little and let your body warm up until you feel a light sweat. Remember: Sweat is fat crying. Just be sure to stay well hydrated with water or calorie-free beverages.
Eating patterns from June to August are often very different than how you eat from September through May. Summer is synonymous with meals skipped and snacks taking a bigger bite of your daily calorie budget.
Reams of research show that skipping meals -- especially breakfast -- equals more calories eaten during the entire day. Why? Meal skippers snack more, plus they tend to overeat at mealtime. What’s more, traditional snack foods are often salty, carby choices that lack protein, fiber and nutrients that your body needs to feel satisfied.
Summer slim down solution: To lose weight, most people do best with a “normalized” eating pattern that consists of breakfast, lunch and dinner that are about 400 to 500 calories each, with a mid-morning and afternoon snack that are kept to no more than 200 calories. They key, however, is to assess your hunger and eat accordingly. If you wait too long before eating, you’ll overeat, and if you snack too much, you’ll never feel real hunger and therefore satisfaction.
Snacking after dinner
Most of the continental U.S. gets 14 to 16 hours of sunlight in the summertime -- more awake time means more opportunities to eat.
A study published in the medical journal Obesity revealed that eating past 8:00 p.m. is a prescription for weight gain. Here’s why: Noshing at night is usually done while you’re doing other things, like watching TV or say, online shopping. It’s natural to overeat when you’re distracted. Secondly, eating at night causes a disruption in the hormones that regulate appetite and hunger and makes the body more likely to store calories as fat.
Summer slim down solution: Eat a protein-rich breakfast in the a.m., since research shows it helps reduce cravings for high-fat, high-sugar foods later in the day. When dinner is over, try not to eat until breakfast. If you’re extremely hungry, plan a light evening snack (less than 200 calories) that gives you some nutrients. Try half of a sandwich, piece of fruit or whole grain crackers and low-fat cheese.
So if you want to keep you weight where it is -- or even shed a few pounds -- remember to eat breakfast every day, weigh yourself at least once a week, limit TV to 10 hours or less a week and strive exercise every day.