Trimming Down in Time for Beach Season

For many people, summer is all about the beach. Whether you live near an ocean or do your weekend beach getaways at a nearby lake, you probably have one thing on your mind when you hit the sand: soaking up some sun, and looking good while you do it.

A big part of looking good at the beach is shedding those few extra and stubborn pounds you might have gained during the winter months. Nearly everyone has gone through the trials and tribulations of attempting to lose weight, but there is a way to successful weight loss that will not only leave you looking good on the beach, but looking, and feeling, good throughout the year as well.

* Exercise is important. Dieting and taking supplements can help the weight loss process, but those aren't enough to ensure long term weight loss. Exercise is essential to losing weight and keeping that weight off. Research has indicated that 30 minutes of exercise five days per week could be sufficient for successful weight loss. Of course, each individual is different, and 30 minutes is the minimum recommended daily exercise. Increased exercise can be more helpful, but those new to exercise should take things slowly at first, and then gradually add more to their routine as their body grows accustomed to daily exercise.

It's also important to note that any successful exercise regimen is one that individuals enjoy. Exercise doesn't have to mean running five miles each morning or vigorously lifting weights. Tailor your exercise routine to things you enjoy, be it jogging in the park, going for hikes with a local hiking club, or enrolling in fitness classes at a nearby gym. The more you enjoy your routine, the easier it will be to maintain.

* Consider weight training. Weight training doesn't mean you need to end up looking like the famed weightlifters in Venice Beach, California. But lifting weights can be very beneficial, particularly for those interested in burning fat. In her book "Strong Women Stay Slim" (Bantam), Tufts University researcher Miriam Nelson found that women who combined a diet and weight training regimen lost 44 percent more fat than women who solely followed the diet portion of the regimen. That's because muscle burns a significant number of calories each day, giving your metabolism a boost even when your body is at rest. While this doesn't mean men and women should hit the weights like professional football players, it does highlight the importance of a regimen that combines both diet and weight training.

* Shift your focus. Losing weight isn't easy. Where many people stumble is their quest to be thin, as opposed to their quest to be healthy. Shifting focus from being thin, which is arbitrary, to being healthy, which can be much more tangible if you involve your doctor, can be a boon to your weight loss goals. Being healthy involves making a lifestyle change, wherein you adjust your eating habits to align them more with lowering cholesterol and blood pressure than simply skipping meals to shed a pound here and there.

* Educate yourself. Goals are great and can be especially beneficial when attempting to lose weight. But long term goals are often better tailored to successful and lasting weight loss than short term goals. For example, telling yourself you want to drop 10 pounds in two weeks might be attainable, but it's not necessarily beneficial. That's because such rapid weight loss is most likely coming from the loss of water and muscle, and not fat. Losing muscle is not good, as you'll need muscle to maintain an elevated metabolism. Long term goals, such as losing 10 pounds in 4 to 6 weeks, could be a much healthier target than losing weight fast. To educate yourself about healthy weight loss, consult your physician.

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