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Simple Tweaks for Summer Weight Loss

By , Birdie Varnedore, MD
Losing weight and keeping it off can be a challenge, especially in the summer months when travel, outdoor barbecues and other social events are in full swing. But it’s not impossible.
I know this because not long ago, I was nearly twice my current weight. As a neurologist, busy wife and mom of five kids, I realize how hard it can be to lead a balanced lifestyle. The key to my 140-pound weight loss was making smart choices.
Take exercise, for example. I was never very athletic and, frankly, didn’t like to work out at all. But I knew physical activity would be critical for weight-loss success. So my husband and I bought an elliptical trainer, and I started exercising in the early morning before my five children woke up. I knew if I didn’t do it then, I likely never would because, as a physician, my days are not my own. It’s important to remember exercise is personal, so choose activities that are right for you – and that you can enjoy.  The longer days of summer offer more opportunities to walk, swim, bike and run.
The other important element of my weight loss journey was changing my diet. I tried to be realistic because no one is perfect—and remembering that is key. I started tracking what I ate to hold myself accountable, and when sweet cravings hit, I reached for a diet soda. People are sometimes surprised to hear that, but research shows diet beverages are an effective option for those who want to shed pounds.
In fact, a recent study found 64 percent of diet beverage drinkers lost at least five percent of their body weight, compared with 43 percent of those who drank water. And that can be significant as far as overall health. In fact, studies have shown that losing just five percent of body weight can significantly improve health, including lowering your risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. The diet beverage group in this study also showed significantly greater improvements in blood levels of total cholesterol and what we call ''bad'' cholesterol (or LDL), as well as a significant reduction in triglycerides. So, remember all of this when you hear the latest ''news'' story that diet soda makes you fat; in fact, I can personally and scientifically attest, it’s quite the opposite.
If you have a sweet tooth like me, here’s some more good news: diet beverages can also help satisfy those cravings. In the Choose Healthy Options Consciously Everyday (CHOICE) study, researchers compared consumption of low- and no-calorie beverages with water and found that the people who drank diet beverages reported eating fewer desserts.
And if you’ve got concerns about the safety of low- and no-calorie sweeteners – don’t. Hundreds of studies reaffirm the safety of the low- and no-calorie sweeteners used in thousands of foods and beverages, not just in the United States, but worldwide. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are just two of the government agencies in more than 100 countries that have approved them and their use for general consumption.
Bottom line: you don’t have to miss out on summer fun because you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight. Figure out which diet and exercise strategies work best for you, and incorporate them into your daily routine. 

This blog is brought to you by the American Beverage Association.

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