Start dieting for summer

Summer is almost upon us and that means breaking out the warm-weather wardrobe. If, however, the thought of baring your body in a bikini fills you with horror or you're keen to cover up with a kaftan, it's time to take your diet in hand.

diet for summer

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Rather than resorting to maple syrup concoctions or cabbage soup, follow our top tips for shifting weight at a sensible rate, and toning and tightening those saggy bits.

Make a plan
Quick fixes might sound tempting but they're tough on your body and mind, and all too often, you'll end up putting all those hard-lost pounds back quicker than you can say chocolate eclair.

To really take control of your diet, make a plan and list your goals. A diet diary can really help, particularly in those first couple of weeks, as you'll be able to see exactly where those unnecessary calories are coming from. As the days go by you'll get a certain satisfaction from seeing the change in your diet and, hopefully, your weight. Make a note too of your exercise habits to see how much you've progressed over the weeks.

The chances are you've got friends that are having similar bikini-body wobbles, so enlist them into your programme. A little healthy competition can work wonders when it comes to motivation.

Try not to set yourself unrealistic goals, however, as you will soon become disheartened. It might be a case of setting yourself a weekly exercise target or achieving a takeaway-free weekend, overcoming those small obstacles will give you a sense of achievement and inspire you to carry on.

With a healthy diet and regular exercise it's possible to lose one to two pounds a week. It doesn't sound like much but stick to it for a couple of months and you'll find a whole new set of summer wardrobe options opens up.

Eat fresh
Starting your diet at this time of year has one advantage - you're far less likely to feel the need for all that winter-warming comfort food. Plus, the shops will be awash with healthy, seasonal produce to keep those tastebuds happy.

Stock up on fresh fruit and veggies, choose chicken or oily fish instead of red meat and swap ice cream for yoghurt. If you've got a fridge full to bursting, you won't be tempted to pop to the shop for a ready meal on your way home from work.

Just as important, of course, are those daily snacks... and this is where the celery sticks come in. Keep fresh vegetables such as celery and carrots on hand or grab a handful of unsalted nuts or dried fruit to combat crisp and chocolate cravings. Don't forget those cans of pop either. They're packed full of sugar and the calories quickly mount up. Fruit juice too, contains a surprising calorie hit so opt instead for low-calorie squash or vegetable juices that are crammed full of goodness and can help control your appetite.

There's no getting away from it - you're going to have to get up and get out if you want to really make a difference on the scales.

To lose that one or two pounds a week, you'll need to be burning between 500 and 1,000 calories more than you're consuming. For fat burning you just can't beat a bit of cardio. If you're able to get 20 to 30 minutes of running, swimming or cycling in each day (and there's no excuses now the long evenings have set in), you'll be well on the way to achieving your goal.

Combine it with daily toning of all your major muscles groups. Tightening up those arms, legs, bum and tum will do wonder for your figure and can quickly give you the impression of having lost more weight than you actually have. If you can't face the full set, work a different muscle group each day. It's a good idea to get professional advice when it comes to an exercise regime, so if you've still got that unused gym membership gathering dust, now is the time to use it.

An introductory session with a personal trainer will ensure you're doing enough but not too much, and show you the best ways to tone up those problem areas.

With a little help from your friends, a fridgeful of healthy grub, a daily dose of exercise and a large helping of good old-fashioned willpower, you'll be donning those sexy summer dresses and shorts before you know it.