Editors Note: Rachel Mac is a commercial litigator in Chicago, Illinois, who lives a healthy lifestyle despite often spending 12+ hours per day in the office. She has come up with a low-maintenance healthy lifestyle that allows her to eat well and hit the gym regularly, with a schedule that’s anything but. Rachel is a regular contributor. Find Rachel on Facebook and on Twitter.
With summer finally in full swing–we really had to wait for it in Chicago!–it’s time to put the finishing touches on your summer-ready plan, which may have started with a New Year’s resolution to get in shape, a mid-spring health kick, or maybe a last-minute “the beach? Today? Oh boy.” Here are a few of my favorite tips for feeling confident when the weather warms up and your wardrobe adjusts accordingly.
THE FLAT-TUMMY GUIDE: FOUR STEPS TO A SEXY STOMACH
Having a flat tummy involves more than just healthy eating and regular gym visits. Even after you’ve put in a lot of work toward being healthy, there are four things you can do to make sure you have flat abs for the beach or pool.
(1) Probiotics: these are good bacteria that thrive in a normal, healthy gut and help to digest food. Taking probiotics can help reduce bloat, stomach upset, and other gastric distress, all of which show up in a less-than-flat stomach. Take them every day and you could see a flatter stomach all the time.
(2) The right foods at the right times: avoid eating a big meal filled with carbs the day you’ll be showing off your hard work. Trade in a sandwich and chips for lean protein and non-cruciferous veggies (broccoli is fantastic, but it may not be your best friend on bikini day). Dairy helps many people achieve the flat-stomach look, but those with intolerance issues should avoid it.
(3) Watch your water intake: I love the way I feel when I drink a lot of water each day. But not everybody needs a gallon of water every single day! Whatever your water intake, keep it the same or decrease slightly on the big day. This will keep you from puffing up.
(4) Hold the salt: salt makes your cells retain fluid, so if you eat a greasy burger before the beach you’ll swell up–especially if you’re not used to eating that way. Refrain from overly salting your foods (or eating packaged foods, which can contain a lot of salt) when you’ll be showing off.
If you don’t take the right steps, bikini shopping can be a harrowing experience! Unveiling your winter body, in all its pale glory, in a fitting room surrounded by too-tight bottoms and skimpy tops can be traumatic. Here’s how I make the experience as easy as possible:
(1) Do the prep: If trying on bathing suits has been traumatic before, make sure you put in the work so that you look your best in the fitting room. This means following a clean diet, drinking lots of water, and avoiding sugar, of course, but you can also use a gradual self-tanning lotion for a week before you go shopping (or get a spray tan a few days before) and do other things to feel pretty on shopping day.
(2) Feel pretty: I make sure that I’ve done my hair and makeup before I go shopping, so I feel as good as possible, and I bring a pair of heels with me in my purse to wear when I try on the suits. Sure, you won’t be wearing heels at the beach, but if you elongate your legs you’ll feel better in all the suits you try on.
(3) Shop strategically: I start about two sizes bigger than I think I’ll need. There’s something really defeating about pulling on a swim-suit bottom that pinches in all the wrong places. And on the other side, there’s something great about walking out of the fitting room in a suit that is positively enormous, and asking for the next smaller size. I also start with the most conservative bikini I’m considering, and get skimpier as I go along. Once I’ve found something I like, I can tell my friend or the sales associate that I’ve got something, and I don’t feel pressure to step out of the fitting room in something I’m not comfortable in.
(4) Be creative! Everyone has a basic black bikini that they love. But I bet most of us feel better in a beautiful color or a pattern that really pops! Don’t be afraid to mix and match for a laid-back, surfer-girl look. I buy solid bottoms that really flatter, then pick up colorful, fun, patterned tops whenever I find them on sale. This allows me to spend more on the bottoms (which are a trickier fit for me) but save money on the tops, which all seem to fit similarly.
Most importantly, have fun! Try on suits you wouldn’t consider, and don’t take the process too seriously once you’re in the fitting room. Have a backup basic suit that fits you well always, so you’re not buying a suit under pressure.
SURVIVING A BBQ
BBQs are one of the greatest parts of summer. Hanging around outside with a bunch of friends, eating and drinking and enjoying the sunshine. But BBQs are notorious for presenting tough obstacles for healthy eaters out there.
(1) Go in with a plan: If I just show up at a BBQ and graze on all the food that’s sitting out, I can easily add a thousand (or more!) calories to my day’s intake. I’m a firm believer in visualizing success to make it happen. Decide that you’re not going to get off track, ask ahead about the menu and decide what you’re going to eat. Then, once you’re there, don’t drink too much–staying on track after too many drinks is so challenging it might as well be impossible.
(2) Set yourself up for success: My fail-safe pre-BBQ plan is to have a whey protein shake as close as possible to the event, even if it means I’m drinking it in the car on the way over. It’s easy to think you should go to a BBQ hungry (the thought is, you’re going to overeat anyway, so no use having a healthy breakfast on top of it) but that thought process is counterproductive. If you eat first, so you’re not famished, you’ll enjoy your food more (who among us hasn’t eaten without tasting when starving?) and you’ll stop when you’re full, a signal that’s easily missed if you’re famished.
(3) Bring something to eat: Aside from the fact that this is a huge help to the host or hostess, you’ll be certain there’s a healthy option for you at the party. I like to bring cut-up veggies and onion dip (which I make by combining a packet of onion soup mix with Greek yogurt). I know I can park myself by the veggies and eat as many as I want without feeling guilty the next day.
(4) Bring something to drink: I went to a BBQ recently planning to have a beer, but all the hosts had was 200+ calorie heavy wheat beer. If you’re planning on having a drink, bring something along! Whether it’s a slightly lighter beer, or a fun cocktail (I like to bring an inexpensive bottle of prosecco and a small bottle of berry liqueur; I add a splash of the liqueur to the prosecco for a refreshing summer cocktail). And again, the hosts will love you for it.
Summer is my absolute favorite time of the year. Get out there and show off those bodies you’ve worked so hard on without sabotaging all the work you’ve put in to look and feel fantastic. And with my summer-ready tips, you can do just that!
Photo credit: Kent Squires and Don Bersano