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Shape Up for Summer

Toss the winter snacks and head outdoors

The sun is shining, and everyone is in shorts. Summer is here! I live in the beautiful state of Florida, where it is summer nearly all year. I am outdoorsy, so I try to enjoy summer to the fullest. That means communing with nature, doing lots of outdoor activity (which usually burns more calories), and enjoying the fresh fruits and vegetables of the season.

Even if you’ve spent the winter months as a couch potato, here are some ways to get a healthy summer body without trying too hard.

  1. Make over your kitchen. If your fridge and pantry are filled with cookies, chips and other diet disasters, hide them, or better yet, get rid of them. Then hit places like specialty stores, co-ops, gourmet delis, farmers’ markets, and community-supported agriculture programs. Stock up on organically grown and seasonal fruits, vegetables and grains.

  2. Pile more raw foods on your plate. A raw foods diet includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouted whole grains eaten in their raw state. No one can deny the wisdom of telling people to eat more fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods. Enjoying them raw, however, offers some additional health benefits. A few examples: raw foods fill you up so you lose weight more easily. They can reduce total cholesterol, as well as LDL cholesterol (the kind that gums up arteries) and help normalize blood pressure. They also improve your digestion.

  3. Juice up. It is easy to get dehydrated in the heat, so besides drinking plenty of water, consider enjoying fresh juices. I’ve been "juicing" since 1981, and I try to have at least two fresh juices daily, one in the morning and one in the evening. I have noticed that I am much more energetic in the morning if I start the day with a fresh juice. You may wish to begin with one glass of fresh juice daily and gradually work up to a second glass. One of my favorite juices is carrot-apple juice made from six large carrots and two apples. One tall glass of this juice gives my body immediate access to carbohydrates, vitamins, carotenes, minerals, and other performance-boosting nutrients. Juicing is also a refreshing way to introduce raw foods into your body. In the summer, I  juice like crazy, and my skin takes on a healthy glow. Some of the simplest juice combos I know are orange-grapefruit juice (2 oranges and 1 grapefruit), triple citrus juice (2 oranges, ½ grapefruit, and ½ lemon), carrot-beet juice (3 carrots and ½ beet), apple-pear juice (2 apples and 1 pear) and vegetable tonic (4 carrots, 2 celery stalks, a handful of parsley and a handful of spinach). Most of these require a juicer, but it is a worthy appliance to have around.

  4. Break out of your exercise rut. I never did like conventional exercises like repetitive calisthenics. In grade school, I’d go to any length to avoid them. I have a short attention span. Can you relate? But if exercise has a lot of mix-it-up variety then I am game. Here are some of the things I might do on any given summer day, though not all at once: basketball, mountain biking, swimming, hiking, soccer, softball or running on the beach.

  5. Mix it up with multiple summer activities. This might include playing sports you enjoy, working in the yard, or doing easy-on-the joint aqua activities such as swimming or water aerobics.

  6. Be sun savvy. I love the summer sun, but it is not always kind. Too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation can lead to sunburn, which leaves skin red and painful and may increase the risk of skin cancer. Make sure to slather on sunscreen and wear protective clothing. And do not exercise when the heat index reaches 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Exposure to high heat and humidity can result in heat cramps or exhaustion. The best time to exercise is early or late in the day when it is cooler. If you have a chronic health condition like diabetes or high blood pressure, be extra careful about overexerting yourself. People with chronic diseases are more susceptible to overheating.