Dry July is upon us. And while giving up alcohol is a worthy and noble pursuit that’ll pay off in both bank and muscle gains, there are some other simple changes you can make too. Pair these with your chosen Dry July challenge or – for those of you who aren’t as keen to give up your Friday night beverage – do them alone and you’ll still see some incredible results on the scales and a big impact in your overall health.
1. Choose a realistic goal
Picking the right goal can motivate you no end. But choosing the wrong one can drain you, exhaust you and totally torpedo your motivation. So, do you choose a big, hairy, audacious goal or a less exciting, easily-achievable, smaller goal? The answer is: somewhere in the middle.
Firstly, research shows that weight loss motivated by a specific goal is more likely to be successful. Secondly, it also tells us that more specific plans and goals are associated with more weight loss, especially among those wanting to lose a lot of weight. Finally, studies have also found that setting unrealistic weight loss goals can actually hinder your results.
Therefore, the best place to start is to weigh yourself and calculate a loss that’s somewhere in the vicinity of 5-10% of your body weight. An achievable, sustainable goal is to aim to lose around 0.45kg per week.
2. Make your calories count
It is true that calories count, but they don’t always tell the whole story. Not all calories are created equal. And a healthy diet isn’t just about counting calories. It’s also about making your calories count – especially when you’re limiting or reducing your calorie intake. If you opt for fresh veggies, lean protein, healthy monounsaturated fats and wholegrains as the basis of your diet, you’ll feel more satisfied, you’ll provide your body with better nutrition and you’ll start to see the impact on the scales (and those skinny jeans) almost immediately.
Real, whole foods provide hydration, stretch the stomach and increase blood sugar – basically, these three things are responsible for what helps you to feel full or satisfied after a meal. Faux foods that contain refined carbohydrates and sugars provide calories and increase blood sugar, but often fail to hydrate the body and stretch the stomach, which can leave you feeling unsatisfied or snacky afterwards. Focusing on eating real, whole foods will ensure you get adequate nutrients and that you feel satisfied after each meal.
3. Exercise incidentally
Exercise doesn’t have to be deliberate. And it doesn’t have to be hard. It’s easy to up your incidental exercise and have fun while you’re doing it by making a few little changes. A more active lifestyle can be as simple as wandering around the shops or heading to an art gallery this weekend. The great thing about incidental exercise is you won’t even realise you’re doing it. Some of our favourite ways to exercise accidentally-on-purpose are:
– visiting the farmer’s market or the mall (the average slow walk burns about 250 calories per hour)
– blasting music while doing the housework (ironing burns about 128 calories per hour, and vacuuming about 180 calories per hour)
– playing frisbee or throwing a ball around (a vigorous game can burn up to 450 calories per hour)
– going for a bike ride (depending on how fast you cycle, you can burn between 200-500 calories per hour)
– doing some gardening (yard work like planting, raking and weeding burns between 200-350 calories per hour)
4. Ditch the extra sugar
As well as adding calories to your diet, sugar has a whole range of negative health effects on your body, including addiction, weight gain, increased hunger, acne, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer, withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit it, and a whole heck of a lot more besides those. The maximum recommended sugar intake is less than six teaspoons per day. But most westerners consume around 40. Gasp. That translates to 160 grams of sugar per day!
You can become more aware of what sugar is added to your diet by simply reading the labels on your favourite foods. If you’re not sure how many teaspoons, just divide the grams by four. You might be surprised by how many “healthy” foods (like bottled sauces, salad dressings and cereals) have sugar added.
Once you’re aware of what sugar you’re actually consuming, you can begin to reduce the extraneous calories easily. Most low-fat products add sugar to make up for the flavour missing from fat, so opt for full fat rather than low-fat to quickly drop the amount of sugar in your diet.
5. Drink more water
Did you know the recommended daily water intake is 2.2 litres per day for sedentary women and 2.7 litres for men? Even mild dehydration can cause a whole boatload of symptoms including dry skin, fatigue, decreased brain function, anxiety, headaches, reduced physical performance, migraines, sugar cravings and high blood pressure. Yes, really!
Your body is constantly losing water from sweating, skin evaporation, breathing and going to the, ahem, rest room. These losses must be replaced daily for good health. Drinking water will flush out the body of toxins and restore lost fluid. Around 75% of your recommended daily water intake should come from fluids. You can encourage yourself to drink more water by setting reminders in your phone, carrying a water bottle around, and trying free apps which will remind you like waterlogged. Herbal and fruit teas are another great way to ensure you stay hydrated, but not bored.
6. Try some simple swaps
Reducing your calorie intake doesn’t have to be hard. Just a few simple and savvy swaps can make a huge difference. Take a look at the calorie differences between some of these foods.
100g banana chips (520 calories) vs 100g fresh banana (89 calories)
1 cup spaghetti (221 calories) vs 1 cup zoodles (20 calories)
1 cup brown rice (218 calories) vs 1 cup cauliflower rice (25 calories)
1 glass orange juice (111 calories) vs 1 whole orange (45 calories)
2 protein balls (362 calories) vs 2 eggs (120 calories)
Ice cream (350 calories) vs frozen pineapple (40 calories)
100g potato (77 calories) vs 100g pumpkin (26 calories)
30g lolly snakes (897 calories) vs 30g raisins (90 calories)
The one thing that’s most helpful to remember is not to believe the marketing hype around a lot of so-called ‘healthy’ foods. When it comes to swaps for weight loss and health, most often, fresh, real, whole food is best. And ultimately, what’s good for your soul is good for you. So, if you feel like a chocolate bar or a glass of chardonnay – have one. It’s all about balance.
Original content courtesy of SuperFastDiet.com. As an Anytime Fitness member you can now get 14 days free on SuperFastDiet’s exclusive weight loss program. Click here to claim your two weeks free-of-charge.