Dry July is upon us. And while giving up alcohol is a worthy and noble pursuit that’ll pay off in both bank and booty gains, there are some other simple changes you can make too. Pair them with your chosen Dry July challenge or – for those of you who aren’t as keen to give up your Friday night chardonnay – do them alone and you’ll still see some incredible results on the scales and a big impact in your health.
1. Choose a realistic goal
One of the best changes you can make this Dry July is choosing a realistic goal. Picking the right goal can motivate you no end. But choosing the wrong one can drain you, exhaust you and totally torpedo your motivation. So, do you choose a big, hairy, audacious goal or a less exciting, smaller goal? The answer is: somewhere in the middle.
Firstly, research shows that weight loss motivated by a specific goal is more likely to be successful. Secondly, it also tells us that more specific plans and goals are associated with more weight loss, especially among those wanting to lose a lot of weight. Finally, and importantly, studies have also found that setting unrealistic weight loss goals can actually hinder your results.
Therefore, the best place to start is to weigh yourself and calculate a loss that’s somewhere in the vicinity of 5-10% of your body weight. In other words, an achievable, sustainable goal is to aim to lose around 0.45kg per week.
2. Make your calories count
It is true that calories count, but they don’t always tell the whole story. One of the biggest game changers we can recommend this Dry July is to recognise that not all calories are created equal. A healthy diet isn’t just about counting calories. It’s also about making your calories count – especially when you’re limiting or reducing your calorie intake. If you opt for fresh veggies, lean protein, healthy monounsaturated fats and wholegrains as the basis of your diet, you’ll feel more satisfied, you’ll be providing your body with better nutrition and you’ll start to see the impact on the scales (and those skinny jeans) almost immediately as a result.
Real, whole foods provide hydration, stretch the stomach and increase blood sugar – basically, these three things are responsible for what helps you to feel full or satisfied after a meal. Faux foods that contain refined carbohydrates and sugars provide calories and increase blood sugar, but often fail to hydrate the body and stretch the stomach, which can leave you feeling unsatisfied or snacky afterwards. Focusing on eating real, whole foods will ensure you get adequate nutrients and that you feel satisfied after each meal.
3. Exercise incidentally this July
- paying a visit to the farmer’s market or to the mall (the average hour of slow walking burns about 250 calories!)
- doing some housework (ironing burns about 128 calories, and vacuuming about 180 calories every 60 minutes)
- playing frisbee or throwing around a ball (a vigorous game can burn around 450 calories in one hour)
- going for a bike ride (depending on how fast you cycle, you can burn off somewhere between 200-500 calories every 60 minutes)
- doing some gardening (yard work like planting, raking and weeding burns between 200-350 calories per hour)
4. Try intermittent fasting
One simple health change you can make during Dry July that’ll have a huge impact on your health goals is to skip breakfast and try intermittent fasting. The most common methods are the 2-Day Method (two days of 500 calories, then eating normally on the other days), the 3-Day Method (three days of 1000 calories, then eating normally on the other days), and the Part-Day Method (eating 20% less than your TDEE or around 1600 calories in an eight-hour window on most days.)
Some of the scientifically proven beneficial health effects of intermittent fasting include:
- weight loss and reductions in belly fat
- reduced ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels and increased ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels
- less inflammation
- better insulin resistance (which can help reduce your risk of diabetes)
- lower blood pressure, which is fantastic for your health and is a key factor in decreased risk of heart disease
- reduced rates of neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases,
- in addition, it may also extend your lifespan
So, as you can see, intermittent fasting is great not just for your waistline, but for your health too. If you’re not sure about where to start, you can find out which intermittent fasting method is best for you by taking this quiz.
5. Ditch the extra sugar
Oh sugar, sugar, we love you so. But you’re oh-so-bad for us. Firstly, as well as adding calories to your diet, sugar has a whole range of negative health effects on your body, including addiction, weight gain, increased hunger, acne, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer, withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit it, and a whole heck of a lot more besides those. Secondly, the maximum recommended sugar intake is less than six teaspoons per day. But most westerners consume around 40. Gasp. That translates to 160 grams of sugar per day!
So, another simple health change you can make is to become more aware of what sugar is added to your diet by simply reading the labels on your favourite foods. If you’re not sure how many teaspoons, just divide the grams by four. You might be surprised how many “healthy” foods (like bottled sauces, salad dressings and cereals) have sugar added.
Once you’re aware of what sugar you’re actually consuming, you can begin to reduce the extraneous calories easily. For instance, most low-fat products add sugar to make up for the flavour missing from fat, so our final tip is to opt for full fat rather than low-fat to quickly drop the amount of sugar in your diet.
6. Drink more water
Did you know the recommended daily water intake for a sedentary woman is 2.2 litres per day? And it’s 2.7 litres per day for the average sedentary man. Even mild dehydration can cause a whole boatload of symptoms including dry skin, fatigue, decreased brain function, anxiety, headaches, reduced physical performance, migraines, sugar cravings and high blood pressure. Yes, really!
Your body is constantly losing water from sweating, skin evaporation, breathing and going to the, ahem, rest room. Therefore, these losses must be replaced daily for good health. In addition, drinking water will flush out the body of toxins and restore lost fluid. Around 75% of your recommended daily water intake should come from fluids. You can encourage yourself to drink more water by setting reminders in your phone, carrying a water bottle around, and trying free apps which will remind you like waterlogged. Herbal and fruit teas are another great way to ensure you stay hydrated, but not bored.
7. Try some simple swaps
Reducing your calorie intake doesn’t have to be hard. Just a few simple and savvy swaps can make a huge difference. As an example, take a look at the calorie differences between some of these foods.
1 cup spaghetti (221 calories) vs 1 cup zoodles (20 calories)
100g banana chips (520 calories) vs 100g fresh banana (89 calories)
1 glass orange juice (111 calories) vs 1 whole orange (45 calories)
2 protein balls (362 calories) vs 2 eggs (120 calories)
1 cup brown rice (218 calories) vs 1 cup cauliflower rice (25 calories)
Ice cream (350 calories) vs frozen pineapple (40 calories)
100g potato (77 calories) vs 100g pumpkin (26 calories)
30g lolly snakes (897 calories) vs 30g raisins (90 calories)
The one thing that’s most helpful to remember is not to believe the marketing hype around a lot of so-called ‘healthy’ foods. When it comes to swaps for weight loss and health, most often, fresh, real, whole food is best. Ultimately, what’s good for your soul is good for you. So, if you feel like a chocolate bar or a glass of chardonnay – have one. It’s all about balance.
Keen to get more healthy, handy tips like these? Why not join the 7 Day Challenge for free this July? It’s the best place to start your intermittent fasting journey.