No matter where you live, summer can be a bittersweet time of year. For most, summertime means a relaxed lifestyle filled with longer days, warmer weather, and time off from school and work to enjoy the outdoors and hopefully some vacation time.

Along with the warmer weather and outdoor activities comes the pressure (both internal and external) to get your body “beach ready.” This leads us to worry about sticking to our diets
despite the abundance of treats – ice cream, burgers on the grill, and s’mores. Here are some tips to eating a healthy diet, exercising, and enjoying a healthy summer.

Eat smaller, nutrient-­-dense meals every 3-­-4 hours and make sure to include the right mix of carbohydrates. Eating small meals more frequently and including protein with each meal helps to control blood sugars more easily. Clearly, keeping insulin down and controlling blood sugars are keys to a healthy diet and lifestyle.    But how do you figure out your ideal range of calories from carbs?  As I always say, there are no one-­-size fits all approach in Functional Medicine, which is why I always invite readers to experiment with the ideal combination of fat, protein, and carbs that works best for their individual biological needs.

Get to know YOU! Learn what is going on beneath the surface in your body and you will be better able to feed yourself properly and achieve your ideal weight, ward off cravings, and cool off the inflammation that is making you sick, tired, and fat. You need to think about your entire body as an ecosystem – each part dependent upon the whole to thrive. While conventional medicine typically breaks the body into separate parts (such as skin vs. gut vs. thyroid), Functional Medicine looks at how each of these systems impacts the other to determine our final health outcomes.

I suggest you take the self-­-assessment quiz (in The Daniel Plan book) to learn how your specific symptoms impact your total health and understand how to properly nourish yourself.  Remember, there are several triggers for a single condition, which means that the reason you may require a certain diet might be completely different from the reason why someone else needs that same exact diet!

Fast track your exercise routine with interval training. If exercise were a pill, it would be the biggest blockbuster drug of all time. Not only is exercise beneficial for your bones but also studies show it enhances mood, increases energy levels, helps combat chronic disease by raising HDL, manages weight, and leads to healthier sleep patterns. Knowing this is one thing; acting on it is another.

I always say make exercise fun by weaving it into your summer plans. Play Frisbee at the beach, ride bikes at the park, walk to the farmer’s market, hike to a beautiful destination before napping under a shady tree, or rent a kayak for date night instead of heading to your favorite restaurant. As important as it is to have fun, ensuring you exercise smarter, not harder, is critical to making the most of your exercise routine.

Use interval training to help maximize your time while relaxing with friends, not logging hours at the gym! Interval training relies on bursts of activity that elevate your heart rate to its max, followed by a brief cooling down activity before you begin the next interval cycle of high intensity aerobic activity. Whether you swim, walk, run, dance, hike, or bike, switch up the intensity and it will help to achieve better results.

Make this summer one where you smile a lot! Experiment with the following to invite more relaxation, well-­-being, and joy:

  • – Get more rest – take a 20 minute nap, read a book, watch a funny movie, get a massage, or sit quietly journaling
  • – Stay hydrated – drink lots of water; switch it up by adding fresh lemon or lime or blending in fresh watermelon with mint – not only does this make a delicious, refreshing thirst quencher, it also adds important electrolytes back into your diet
  • – Eat your sunscreen – antioxidants naturally project your body’s skin cells from the inside out; eat more brightly colored vegetables and fruits like blueberries, watermelon and cherries
  • – Shop locally and eat fresh – check out local harvest for your nearest farmer’s market
  • – Connect – hang out with your friends and family more and definitely stay connected to the Daniel Plan community.