When we think summer, most of us think outdoor fun. So it seems like we should naturally lose weight over the summer — not gain it.

In reality, though, summer isn't all beach volleyball and water sports. Lots of summer activities can work against our efforts to stay at a healthy weight (campfire s'mores and backyard barbecues, anyone?). The good news is it's easy to avoid problems if we know what to look out for.

Here are 5 ways to beat summer weight gain:

  1. Get going with goals. When we don't have a plan, it's easy to spend summer moving from couch to computer, with regular stops at the fridge. Avoid this by aiming for a specific goal, like volunteering, mastering a new skill, or working at a job. Just be sure to plan for some downtime so you can relax a little!
  2. Stick to a schedule. With school out, we lose our daily routines. If you don't have a specific job or activity to get up for, it's easy to sleep late, watch too much TV, and snack more than usual. Make sure your summer days have some structure — like getting up at the same time each day and eating meals at set times. Plan activities for specific times, like exercising before breakfast, for example. If you have time on your hands, offer to make dinner a couple of nights a week so your family can enjoy a sit-down meal together.
  3. Stay busy. When we're bored, it's easy to fall into a trap of doing nothing and then feeling low on energy. In addition to helping you avoid the cookie jar, filling your days with stuff to do can give you a sense of accomplishment. That's especially true if a dream summer job or planned activity fell through. Limit your screen time — including TV, computer, and video games — to no more than 2 hours a day (write it in that schedule you put together!).
  4. Beat the heat. Don't let summer heat put your exercise plans on hold. Move your workout indoors. If a gym isn't your scene, try bowling or an indoor climbing wall. If you love being outdoors, try joining a local pool or move a regular run or soccer game to early morning or evening.
  5. Think about what (and how) you eat. Summer means picnics and barbecues — activities that revolve around an unlimited spread of food. Pace yourself. Don't overload your plate. Avoid going back for seconds and thirds. Choose seasonal, healthy foods like fresh fruit instead of high-sugar, high-fat desserts. Make catching up with family and friends your focus, not the food. Another good tip for summer eating is to limit frozen treats like ice cream to no more than once a week.
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