Hello beach weekends, goodbye belly bloat

Ready for the unofficial start of summer? I feel like we skipped spring here in Boston, but the streak of warmer days this week has me dreaming of swinging sundresses, fresh farmers' market finds, and cool, crisp glasses of wine (and it has me sweating profusely...because 9 months pregnant and 95 degree days simply do not mix well).  As warmer weather calls for fewer layers, you may start to worry about that "food baby" you've been working on all winter.  No need to delve into a deep detox or subsist only on fruit+ veggie-filled juices.  Follow these quick tips to feel slimmer + more energized without going off the deep end.

  1. Chug! Chug! Chug!  Water, of course.  Old news, I know, but it works.  Drinking water aids in digestion, reduces water retention (which can cause bloating), and does wonders for your skin (without the expensive price tag!).  How much should you drink?  Take your bodyweight in pounds, divide it by two, and then aim to drink that many ounces per day.  While I'm usually a huge fan of seltzer, skip the carbonated drinks (yes, even the calorie free ones) if you're already feeling bloated as they'll only intensify the swelling.     
  2. Fight the flatulence.  Yup, I went there.  You've likely heard the charming rhyme about beans and your digestive system ("beans, beans, they're good for your heart..."), but beans aren't the only food that induce flatulence.  Alongside the "magical fruit," you'll find brussels sprouts, onions, carrots, celery, bananas, apricots, and raisins among the high gas-producing foods.  The effect of these foods on your digestive system varies depending on your current diet + its nutrient composition, your gut bacteria, and a variety of other factors, so do a trial run to find which (if any) cause problems for you.  While I encourage a high fiber diet (25 grams for women, 38 grams for men) for weight management, blood sugar control, and cholesterol improvements, a sudden increase in fiber can cause increased gas or diarrhea.  Make the adjustments at a steady rate rather than all at one shot to ease digestive distress.  Thinking of skipping out on fiber completely?  Think again (unless medically necessary!).  You'll miss out on beneficial nutrients found in naturally high fiber foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains), and you'll risk dealing with constipation, which can lead to bloating. 
  3. Size it up.  As you likely know, portion control plays a key role in a successful weight loss plan.  A couple bites of pasta contains far fewer calories than a heaping plate full of noodles, and the same goes for a half cup of ice cream versus an entire pint.  Sticking to smaller portions of calorie dense foods helps to drop pounds, but what about foods that aren't so calorie dense?  Usually you can go wild with these options (think all the non-starchy vegetables), but if you're planning to beat the bloat, try to be strategic when consuming larger volumes of food.  Basically, if you're striving for flat abs before a day at the beach or a slim center before a big night out, stick to smaller portions throughout the day rather than consuming a large quantity of food in one sitting (even with healthy options like veggie-packed salads).  Also remember to slowdown when you eat to better assess feelings of fullness (aim for 20 minute meals sans tech distractions!).     
  4. Make like a cow and moooooo(ve).  (Move.)  Add in a daily bout of exercise to support your digestive system and to increase energy. If you're not up for structured workout sessions, try committing to increased movement throughout the day.  Take the stairs over the escalator, park further away from the entrance, go for a walk while talking on the phone...you get the picture.  Adding in small spurts of movement over the course of the day can help boost your metabolism (+ burn more calories!) even without a formal workout.  

These tricks can help you quickly look + feel your best without resorting to a crash diet that will zap your energy and leave you craving all the food.  While it's tempting to subscribe to an intense plan promising rapid results (think fasting, juice cleanses + miracle potions), the reality is that there isn't a quick solution to a healthy lifestyle.  Venturing in and out of diet mode is rough on your body and your mind, so try to make changes that you'll stick with in the long run.  Living your healthy life doesn't mean you need to start running marathons, cutting carbohydrates, or eliminating alcohol (woohoo!) - it means making realistic (+ evidence-based) adjustments based on your schedule, your priorities, your tastes, and your goals.  It's all about what works for you!  Cheers to that and cheers to the unofficial start of summer!