Shape Up For September: 10 Ways To Shed Those Summer Pounds

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • Many of tend to put on weight during the summer, when the living is easy. While added weight is sometimes a plus for women with very small frames, for most of us it’s a burden, encouraging a sedentary lifestyle that’s simply not good for bone health. From easy ways to fit exercise into your hectic schedule to tasty, healthy treats, we’ll help you get back in shape.

    1) Approach weight loss gradually. Quite a few years ago, I climbed Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, the Northeast’s highest peak. By Western standards, it’s not a towering mountain; rising just 6,288’ above sea level, it doesn’t approach, say, California’s Mt. Whitney, which is more than twice as high, checking in at 14,494’. But Mt. Whitney has 97 switchbacks; Mt. Washington goes straight up. Climbing Mt. Washington is daunting.

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    As we began our trek, one of my climbing companions offered me some advice: “Don’t look up at the top of the mountain; look at the next bend in the path.” And she was right. Had I continually kept my eye on the faraway summit of the mountain, I would have given up. But trying to reach a point 100 yards away – ah, that’s do-able.

    It’s the same with weight loss. You want to lose 20 pounds? Great! But don’t think of it in those terms. Say to yourself, “I want to lose 1 pound this week.” Do everything you can to shed that 1 pound. Then do it again the next week. Twenty weeks later – success! Weight shed slowly is much more likely to stay off.

    2) Keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat and drink. This is the guilt factor at work. If you’re going to have to get out your pen and note in your food diary that you just ate a handful of M & Ms, or drank not one but TWO margaritas (at about 250 calories apiece), you’re much more likely to pause and reconsider. It’s called mindful eating; practice it.

    3) Eat a frozen dinner for lunch. This is one of my favorite strategies. I often find myself too busy to stop for lunch; too busy to make lunch in the morning, and too cheap to go out or order takeout.


    Fast, easy, tasty, and the calories, carbs, fat, etc. are all printed on the side of the box.


    The solution? Frozen dinners. Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, and Weight Watchers Smart Ones are all relatively inexpensive, healthy, low-calorie choices. I check supermarket flyers on the weekend, and see which store has one of these brands on sale that week; my goal is to pay $2 or less per dinner/lunch, and I regularly achieve that goal.

    Each day, I bring a frozen dinner to work and stick it in the fridge in the break room. It’s fast and easy to heat it in the microwave come lunchtime. Plus – aside from one fork, and rinsing the plastic dish it comes in for recycling – no cleanup!

    4) Walk, walk, walk… If you can’t handle formal exercise – it doesn’t fit into your schedule, costs too much, or simply doesn’t float your boat – then walk. Put the dog on his leash and head out. Doing errands? Park in one spot, and walk from post office to bank to the dry cleaner’s, rather than driving. Take a walk around the block after supper. Walk to your car (which you’ve deliberately parked at the far end of the parking lot)… Bottom line, get up and move – however and wherever you can.



    5) Frozen grapes. You heard me: frozen fresh grapes. Take red or green seedless grapes; rinse; place on a rimmed cookie sheet, and put in the freezer. When they’re frozen, wrap in a zip-top bag. When the urge for something cold and sweet hits, grab a handful of frozen grapes. They’re crunchy, delicious, refreshing, and absolutely good for you and your diet.

    6) Take an exercise class. Yoga, Pilates, jazz dance, swim aerobics – what’s your pleasure? Many towns offer exercise classes through adult education or recreation department programs. Take advantage of these free or inexpensive classes.

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    Why? Because group exercise is a lot more fun than solitary sweating. And if you’ve signed up for a class and go a few times, you feel obliged to continue – after all, your friends will be wondering where you are if you don’t show up!

    7) Flourless, almost nonfat fudge cookies. Really. No flour, no gluten, no added fat; just pure, rich chocolate flavor in a delightfully chewy cookie. Make ’em now; stave off that chocolate jones later. Flourless Fudge Cookies.

    8) Curves. I’ve said it in this space before, but Curves fitness centers offer a great workout for your bones, at a very reasonable price – just over $30 a month. You’ll lift weights at a series of 14 stations, spending 30 seconds at each; and in between each you’ll jog in place, dance, or do what I do: jump up and down. GREAT for the bones! After repeating the circuit twice, which takes about 30 minutes, you finish with a series of stretches. The whole thing takes about 35 minutes.


    This is me jumping up and down at Curves. I've got lots of company, but no one else would get into the picture with me!


    What I appreciate most about women-only Curves, aside from the exercise itself, is the camaraderie. Most of the women are a bit older; this isn’t the Spandex, size-4 crowd. We’re all in the weigh-loss battle together. Many Curves facilities offer weight-loss classes, and all offer tons of positive reinforcement and emotional support.

    Is there a Curves near you? Probably; there are over 10,000 Curves fitness centers in 70 countries, with 4 million members. Check it out.

    9) Snack on low-fat dairy. Dairy products, if they agree with your digestion, are a key way to ensure you’re getting sufficient amounts of calcium and vitamin D – which, as we all know, are both critical to bone health. Not only that – they’re protein, which tends to satisfy hunger much more fully than empty carbs.

    Cabot makes several kinds of tasty low-fat cheese. And Laughing Cow light wedges check in at just 35 calories. Spread this soft cheese on a couple of reduced-fat Triscuits (another 35 calories), you’ve got a tasty snack of cheese and crackers totaling just 70 calories.



    Low-fat or nonfat, “light” (low-sugar or artificially sweetened) yogurt is delicious, filling, and packed with calcium and vitamin D.  Add a few spoonfuls of crunchy, calcium-fortified Total cereal, and you’ve got a yogurt parfait.

  • And if you happen to have an ice cream maker, enjoy homemade frozen yogurt. Here’s how: Spoon a quart of nonfat yogurt into a coffee filter set in a strainer over a bowl. Refrigerate for 24 hours, till yogurt is very thick. Add Splenda to taste, vanilla extract, and freeze in your ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Heaven!

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    Finally, that same drained yogurt is a great substitute for cream cheese or sour cream in dips. Add dry ranch-style dressing, or your favorite dry dip mix. Use a a dip for veggie sticks or low-fat, high-fiber crackers. Delish!

    10) Don’t make any diet so harsh you can’t stick with it. See #1 above. Any weight you added this summer is best shed gradually. If you say, “OK, no more sweets, fats, alcohol, or bread,” you’re setting yourself up to fail.

    Designate one day a week for indulgence – be it an ice cream cone, a burger and fries, or pancakes with butter and maple syrup for breakfast. Keep your eyes on the “prize” when your resolve wavers.

    Also, keep a supply of dried fruit on hand for those times when you HAVE to have something sweet. A slice of dried mango, a few chunks of dried pineapple, or a handful of dried cranberries will satisfy your sweet tooth as they up your daily fiber intake.

    September is just around the corner. Ready… set… start to build a new, healthier YOU!

Published On: August 22, 2010