Managing Summer Nutrition

I recently received the following email.

You would think that summer would be the easiest time to lose body fat, but I always gain weight every summer.  How can I overcome all my nutrition vices during the summer months?  What am I doing wrong?

cookies-and-fresh-fruit--closeupManaging summer nutrition is a timely topic considering summer is the season of BBQs, parties, beach get-togethers, camping and vacations.  To help ease your guilt the good news is this – a summer out of your normal routine is okay so long as you’re eating well and within a healthy range of caloric intake most of the time.  I am definitely a huge supporter of “everything in moderation” and do not believe in depriving our clients from a fun time just because they are following a health and fitness regime.  Enjoying summer should be a well-deserved treat.

A successful nutrition plan will focus on what you need to be consuming every day rather than what you should not be eating.  So for example, throughout the summer, set a goal of eating 3 fruit and 5 vegetable servings for the day instead of deciding to not eat any ice cream or fried chicken.  This way you’ll focus on getting the nutrients that you need and then if you still have room left, you can indulge in a treat.  Besides during the summer months, its very easy to increase fruit and vegetable intake because the options are so numerous.

In addition, allow yourself one or two “free” days every week.  For example, if you love hamburgers, wine and chocolate, then one day a week allow yourself to indulge in these items.  This will eliminate the feeling of being deprived of your favorite foods and you will be less likely to experience the inevitable binge that goes hand-in-hand with total elimination of your favorites.  This type of plan is feasible for most people.  You are not telling yourself you are never going to drink beer again, but instead, you are just limiting how much.  Just make sure you do not start to make deals with yourself regarding your free days.  If Saturday is your free day, make sure you stick to Saturday.  Avoid indulging on say, Thursday and then promising that on Saturday, you will skip your free day.  These types of compromises can lead to more regular slips.  What ends up happening is you start justifying more and more free days and before you know it, your entire week has turned into an indulgence!

Establishing strict free days to just one to two days per week is important because of the way our physiology and psychology works.  Simple sugars, like those found in chocolate or other treats, cause blood insulin levels to increase.  High insulin levels stimulate fat cells to intake more fat and inhibit muscles from using for fat for energy.  We also know that eating fat and sugar stimulates our craving for more fat and more sugar.  That’s why most people just can’t seem to stop after one cookie.  Strict cheat days will help to avoid the innocent “I’ll just have one” which turns into the whole box or bag!  Sometimes it is better to just hold off and demonstrate your ability to delay gratification!

I encourage people to ……

follow the 80:20 rule for nutrition, which states that if you are eating well 80 percent of the time, you can allow yourself to indulge the other 20 percent. 

Eating well 80 percent of the time will definitely keep you healthy and fit and will be a much more enjoyable process.  This type of belief system is long-term focused.  It is important that your health, fitness and nutrition plan is one that you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life.  The only way to do this is to achieve your goals while still enjoying your life and living it to the fullest!

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for over 25 years and has received numerous industry awards including International Personal Trainer and Fitness Presenter of the Year. She is the author of five books including “Go For Fit – the Winning Way to Fat Loss” and “Fit over Forty” and is the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs.  She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver and can be seen running, hiking or cycling with her two children, Brianna and Jackson.  She can be reached at or

Note:  As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a 2 week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started.  Contact 360.574.7292 for more details.  

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan, holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 33 years. She has received numerous industry awards including 2010 CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year - Runner up. She is a fitness trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including "Go For Fit - the Winning Way to Fat Loss" and "Fit over Forty" and the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She has presented hundreds of workshops to thousands of fitness leaders throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, England, Spain, South America, Asia and the U.S. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver, the founder of WHY Racing Events & WHY Community, participates in various community fundraisers and can be found running, biking, or hiking around the community. Find more information at

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