Perryman Nutrition Column: Swimsuit Seasonâ??hereitComes!

Note to Editors: The following column was written by Shirley Perryman, an Extension specialist at Colorado State University in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. The department is part of the College of Applied Human Sciences. Perryman writes a monthly nutrition column.

We’ve had a lot of false starts with our spring weather here in the Rockies, but whether we’ve prepared for it or not, swimsuit season is nearly here.  

I’m going shopping to find just the right suit that hopefully will camouflage all of the figure flaws that my eyes zero in on.  Whether you’re a guy or a gal, once you put on a swimsuit, it can seem impossible to hide those unsightly lumps and bumps. It’s easy to skip making a resolution to eat better or fall off the wagon of good intentions, and then regret it later when heading to the pool.

If you’re like many people who are worrying over swimsuit season, you can try the swimsuit diet strategy. Since ‘diet’ is a 4-letter word to most people, think of these as tips for eating to trim the tummy, hips, thighs and love handles.

–  Water weight.  Research shows that we tend to eat the same amount of food regardless of the calorie content. Use this advantage and choose foods that are higher in fiber and water content in place of low-volume, calorie-dense foods. A great example is to choose two cups of juicy grapes rather than  cup of raisins for the same calories. Select fresh fruits and non-starchy vegetables, clear soups, lean protein foods and whole grains more often for fewer calories but just as much volume than heavier or processed foods. Cookies, crackers and other packaged snack foods also will pile on the calories-and pounds-quickly.

– Pay attention. Our lifestyles are fast-paced. Multi-tasking is the rule, often even while we’re eating. If our focus is on work projects while we eat lunch, we’re not likely to be in sync with our body’s cues for hunger and a feeling of being full. Turn off the TV, walk away from the computer, get out of your car, remove distractions, and sit at the table to eat.  

–  Xtreme eating. The Center for Science in the Public Interest coined the term: Xtreme Eating to help people who dine out realize that high-fat, high-calorie, mega-portions are common. Most people eat a third of their calories away from home, so when you’re dining out, look for more healthful choices before ordering. Many restaurants make their nutrition information available online – a great tool when you’re planning to eat out.  Be conscious of the plus of eating at home more often.  

–  Portion distortion. ‘Small’ portion sizes are often available, but temptation can lead us to mega portions. Today’s cup of coffee doesn’t resemble the 8 ounces that used to be standard fare. Not only has the cup size changed, the assortment of goodies one can add to their java practically requires a glossary of terms. Unfortunately, calories come along with those extras. We  may be getting more for our money with the larger size, but do you want the extra calories that come with it? It could be  budget-wise but pound-foolish.

– Out of sight. Studies show that when more food is available, people eat more.  Clear your cupboards at home and desk drawers at work of calorie-dense snacks.  Put fresh fruits and veggies in the fridge in clear containers at eye level to remind you they’re good-for-you and quick-to-grab.  If it’s too hard to go ‘cold turkey’ and give up salty and sweet pre-packaged snacks, consider 100-calorie snack packs. They do limit calories as long as the intent is to stop at one.

Instead of dreading swimsuit season, resolve to implement these strategies. Let your brain help control what goes in your mouth. Taking steps to make ourselves look better brings with it a bonus. Good eating and good health go hand-in-hand.

I’m glad there’s a little more time yet to practice these tips before its warm enough to wear a swimsuit. I’ll remind myself of that when I’m trying them on and noticing a little ‘extra’ here and there.