Meeting the Challenge of Summer

by Cherry Pedrick, RN
Reprinted from,
July 2, 2002, Revised

Ah, summer . . . lay back and relax . . . but don’t forget, fall will come.

Summertime has always meant change for me. In some ways I’m busier, and in and other ways I’m less busy. My son is home from college for a few weeks. That means going out for more meals, more movies with the temptation of popcorn. When we are home, meals are different. While my husband and I enjoy a salad or a meal of vegetables, my son expects meat, and of course, I aim to please. The kitchen is stocked with more snacks and we need to be prepared for a house full of hungry young men at any moment.

Then there’s the weather. I live in a desert. It is very hot. Who feels like exercising? I’m the type that looks for excuses not to exercise. We go to the gym when my husband gets home from work three to four times a week. He’s tired and I’m tired. The heat makes us even more tired. Exercise has been a problem lately.

So how does summer keep me from losing track of my health and fitness goals? How does any lifestyle change keep any of us from losing track of our habit change goals? Once I get past the summertime hurdle, there’ll be fall. If I get out of the habit of exercising and eating right, I might just give up on my goals. We might not go back to the gym at all if we stay away for several weeks.

This is an example of all or nothing type thinking. I am either a success or a failure. I am either eating healthy and exercising or not. I am fat or thin. Even if I gain weight, I can still get back on track. Even if I stop exercising all together, I can still go back to the gym and restart an exercise routine. I need to remind myself that I am making lifestyle changes. The very word implies changes for life. Whenever I get off track, I can always get back on track.

Now that we’ve lowered the stakes a bit, let’s discuss some of the things we can do to stay on track. I realize I probably won’t keep a perfect diet over the summer, but I’m going to do my best. When we’re under stress of any type we need to give ourselves a break. Do our best, but expect a few blips in the journey toward change. So here’s a few summertime healthy eating and exercise tips:

• Stock up on low calorie cold beverages. My son introduced me to Italian sodas: milk (or soy milk), club soda or sparkling water, and sugar-free flavorings, top with nonfat whipped topping.

• Drink lots of water and other fluids, especially when it is hot.

• Keep fruits, carrots, celery, and other vegetables on hand for snacking. Stock the kitchen only with items you want the family to eat; they can get their junk food elsewhere.

• Plan quick dinners with leftovers that can be eaten on the run when absent family members return.

• Think of exercise alternatives that you know you will be more likely to do. Walk in the mall if it’s too hot to be outside. Plan sports activities if the weather is nice during the summer in your area.

• Be creative. Take a look at your diet and exercise plan and adjust it for summer.

• Adjust your goals. You have the rest of your life to meet them. Consider a goal of losing one pound a month instead of two pounds a month. Alternatively, perhaps even one pound for the summer or staying the same for the summer.

Most of all, enjoy your summer. Have fun, but don’t lose track of your goals.

Summer can be a challenge to your health and fitness goals. Expect the challenge and be ready to meet it head on.

Be sure to check out The Habit Change Workbook:
How to Break Bad Habits and Form Good Ones