By Libby Parker, MS, RD, CDN, CEDRD
Libby is a Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian, and author of Permission To Eat: a practical guide to working yourself out of an eating disorder during college, while celebrating the awesomeness that is you! She owns Not Your Average Nutritionist, an eating disorder and performance nutrition group practice of dietitians, based in California - serving clients in 22 US states.
One of the best parts of summer is spending more time outside–hiking, swimming, running, paddleboarding, and everything else (literally) under the sun. These activities make your soul smile, your skin tan, and your energy needs increase.
Everyone seems to think the focus of a "hot girl summer" (though this affects everyone - not just females) is to change your body through dieting and over-exercise. In reality, the hottest version of yourself is the version who is having fun and not focusing on changing your body. What if you could have a hot girl summer in the body you already have?
If you are like the majority of people I talk to, you fear being seen in a bathing suit, shorts or a tank top; these are the very clothes necessary for the fun activities that happen in the heat of summer. Because of this you may have tried dieting or increasing your exercise as a way to alter your body. But what you might not realize is how these behaviors are actually hurting not only your health, but also your bigger goals.
Here are this dietitian’s top 3 tips to help you nourish your real hot-girl summer.
1. Don’t be afraid of carbohydrates
As you go through your day, you need fuel to make your body function - and when you are seasonally active you probably need more than you think! During endurance activities our bodies run on glucose (carbohydrate) in the bloodstream from either recent eating, or stored glycogen. If you’ve ever “hit the wall” or “bonked” you have felt the effects of glycogen depletion. The only fix is to consume some carbohydrates.
“But I’ll burn fat if I don’t eat.” Honey, your body is always using a mix of fat and glucose to run, and you are not going to feel good if you are out of glucose. If you don’t eat regularly, your body learns that food is not coming at regular intervals, so it had better store up for the “famine.” In this way, you are going against any leaning-out goals by actually storing more fat, while not having energy to do fun activities. It’s better to appreciate your body now, and take care of it by eating.
Water and electrolytes escape through our skin and breath, and need to be replenished in greater amounts during the heat of summer. Becoming even a little dehydrated can cause fatigue, decreased concentration, muscle cramping, and greater complications like heat stroke, and kidney failure.
Hydrating is more than just water; it is replacing electrolytes (like sodium and potassium), and carbohydrates (see above) to function optimally. Carbs help your body hold onto the water keeping you hydrated. Sodium and potassium maintain fluid balance and ion channels in your cells to keep you functioning. MUIR Mango Lime for Sport hydration mix adds the electrolytes you need with a pop of flavor to your water so you can properly hydrate on the go.
3. Reflect on Gratitude
Nourishing your mind is just as important as nourishing your body, and a favorite practice of mine is gratitude. Naming 3-5 things every day that you are grateful for becomes a way of being kinder to yourself. It’s so easy to get stuck in negative thought patterns: “my thighs are jiggly, my stomach is not as toned as last year…” but what if you were grateful for what your body does for you instead? “My thighs push my body up the hills as I run.” “My stomach/core holds me up while paddle boarding on vacation.”
When practiced daily, gratitude can re-write neural pathways in the brain, giving you more peace and respect for your body and your life. Grab a journal and start logging little things you are thankful for. Even looking back on your lists can inspire you on tough days.
I promise, no one is judging you as harshly as you are judging yourself, so let go a little, and find joy living in the body you have. It’s perfect right now.