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The winter is over, spring has sprung and depending on what part of the country you live in, it may be bathing suit season already. The fall and winter months are unkind to most of us because colder temperatures lead to less physical activity. Those same months are full of eating celebrations (Tailgating, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day). These are only the big ones and are surrounded by company outings, travel and a host of other reasons we pack on the pounds during those months.

So, you have 4-6 weeks to get ready for the “season” and aren’t sure where to begin. This blog post will give you the tools you need to get you “bikini ready” sooner than later. Before we begin though, keep in mind that the 10-15 pounds you put on this winter didn’t happen overnight. You put it on gradually and that is how it will come off. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to weight loss and looking/feeling the way you want.

This is one of my favorite 4-letter words (joking). Diet is how you eat and should be more like a routine than a task. Keeping in mind that this is a blog post and not a book, my suggestions are going to be short and simple. Keeping it even simpler, I am not going to list all the foods by name but by category. Don’t rationalize the categories and/or overthink it. This isn’t difficult…just involves some behavior/lifestyle modification.

What to eat: Nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies, legumes and lean cuts of beef, pork, chicken and fish. My suggestion of nuts always brings a backlash of arguments because they are high in fat. This may be true, but it is a good fat and actually can help with fat metabolism and weight loss. Almonds are my favorite nut for weight loss since there are studies showing that just a handful of almonds each day caused a 18% decrease in body fat in just 6 months. That is huge (pun intended). They are high in fiber, which gives you a full feeling all day (try to eat them in the morning or around noon), excellent sources of protein and good fats and taste good. Focus on raw not roasted for the best bang for your waistline.

I suggest eating smaller portions and perhaps eating 5-6 times per day to prevent cravings and assist with weight loss. Salad plates vs. Dinner plates can have a huge impact too. When eating meats and chicken, focus on lean cuts and small portions (3-4 ounces). With regards to veggies, eat all you want (without butter). You can’t eat enough fresh veggies to gain weight (my opinion). Same with fruits as long as you are eating the whole fruit and not the juice. Veggies are KING when it comes to helping with weight loss and diet control. Go for it.

This is another one of those words that people hate to hear/read. This one is simple though because I am not going to tell you what specifically you need to do (biking, swimming, running, walking, weight training, etc.). It all boils down to this; the more activity (exercise) you do, the more calories you will burn and therefore lose weight. For every 3500 calories you burn above your calorie intake, you will lose 1 pound. This means that if you burn 500 calories more each day than you consume, you will lose 1 pound in a week. Want to go faster? You either need to increase your exercise (calories burned) or decrease food intake (calories consumed). Starvation is not a good idea though so make sure you make wise food choices and just get moving. Brisk walking is usually my favorite to suggest, but if you are like me and like to bike…walking sounds boring. Get moving everywhere you go too. Park at the far end of the parking lot, take the stairs, cut your own grass, shovel your own snow, etc. The more you move, the more you burn, the more weight you lose….AND the more muscle you put on and burn the fat (doughy look) away.

This area can be very complex and for some of us dangerous. Too often people are drawn to “quick fix” products and promotions. Falling for the “Eat more, exercise less and still lose weight” always shocks and disappoints me. If you really think you can take a pill and just have the fat melt away, you shouldn’t be reading this article. Weight loss should be slow and steady and supplements can be part of that process. They can either get the ball rolling or help you get around problem areas/foods until you can learn your new lifestyle (eating and exercise). I have several supplements that are at the top of my list and consider them to be safe for most people. Here is the quick list:

Starch Blocking– We are addicted to starchy foods. Starches are broken down by the enzyme amylase into sugar and then absorbed into your bloodstream. Sugar is then used for energy or stored as fat. Considering that starchy foods (Breads, pasta, potatoes, rice, etc.) taste great, are inexpensive and easy/fast to prepare, most people consume more of this type of food than they should. Since they convert to sugar so easily I find them to be on the verge of addictive. If you are “addicted” to carbs there is a great, science-backed supplement for you: Phase 2®. Phase 2® is the only “Starch-Blocker/Carb-Controller” I am aware of that has the science to show it works not only in weight loss, but also helps with weight maintenance and curb cravings for sweets. I even use Phase 2® periodically (I don’t consume that many starchy foods) when I have potato or corn chips, popcorn or splurge out to dinner. To be most effective, take Phase 2® 15-30 minutes prior to a starch/carb food. If you are like me and tend to forget, take it as soon as you remember.

Increase metabolic rate– I love the herb green tea for this one. Green tea is one of those herbs that is good for so many different health benefits and weight loss is one of them. Green tea can be taken in different ways such as; drinking tea, liquid extracts and even in capsule (I like the brand Teavigo). I personally love green tea as a tea and drink it daily. Consuming 4-5 cups per day hot or over ice is a great substitute for water and will give you added health benefits. Not only does it increase your metabolism, but it also has shown to be a “fat-burner”. Drink up and shed some pounds.

Curb cravings– This is a huge area for most of us and there are some quick fix answers to help. If you crave chocolate, use the essential oil from jasmine. The scent of jasmine has shown to significantly curb cravings for chocolate. Chromium is another one of my favorites here for those who have cravings due to blood sugar fluctuations from eating refined/sugar/starchy foods throughout the day. Taking 200mcg 2 to 3 times a day will help balance out those valleys and hopefully curb your cravings mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

Taking care of your adrenals i.e. stress management is critical to help curb cravings too.  Look into using herbs such as rhodiola, holy basil and even reishi to bring your body back into balance.  Taking the “adrenal approach” is not a quick fix so keep this in mind when you are feeling like nothing is happening.  It takes time.  Lastly, I recently discovered an ingredient called Zembrin® that has an impact on stress and may be beneficial here too.  No hard-core science on this one but more of a hunch on my part.

Other supplement suggestions: Here are a few of my other ingredients that can be helpful too; Super Citrimax ®is a great supplement for any weight loss program. Just like the ingredients mentioned above it has science showing it effectiveness. It helps with decreasing sugar absorption and helps with blood sugar fluctuations. Tonalin is high on my list too. Tonalin® is a good fat that science has shown helps with fat metabolism. The theory (now proven) is that when we consume more good fats, our body tends to burn the bad fats from our body. It too has numerous clinical studies showing its effectiveness in weight loss.

Finally, if you are serious about becoming “bikini ready” you should consider using a blend of at least 2 or 3 of the ingredients mentioned above. Each of these provides different benefits to help approach your weight loss needs multiple angles. Keeping in mind though that you need to eat properly and get enough activity, i.e. lifestyle changes to achieve the benefits in as little as 4-6 weeks.