[By Willow Jin]
Okay, so I have left it till the very last minute, but it seems that 2012 has whizzed past in the blink of an eye. As we approach the finale of an exciting year, no doubt, many of you, like myself will have your social calendars filled with important parties and other notable soirees.
If you have been gorging your bodies on carbs and other forbidden foods, it is time to face the music and pay the price for your sins. Here is my 21-day plan to a bikini body:
SLEEP + DETOX
Studies suggest that getting seven to eight hours of shut-eye a night is necessary to ward off weight gain. Separate research done by the University of Chicago and University of Pennsylvania, for example, revealed that sleep-restricted subjects gained more weight over time than those who were well rested. Culprits behind sleep-deprived weight gain are believed to be leptin and ghrelin, two hormones that affect how full you feel. When you’re short on sleep, levels of leptin (an appetite suppressant) fall and levels of ghrelin (an appetite stimulant) rise—so you feel hungrier than you would otherwise.
I am a firm believer in cleansing my body from the inside out. Doing a three-day juice fast through a program like Blueprint Cleanse or Organic Avenue is a safe and healthy way to detox. For maximum comfort and effects, always ease your body in and out of the practice. One to three days before and after, consume nutritious, easily digestible foods and avoid anything processed, caffeinated, alcoholic, sugary, or artificially flavored. Red meat, dairy products, and nonorganic peanut butter are also on my ‘do-not-eat’ list. During your fasting days, opt for nutritious vegetable juices and hydrate frequently with ice water. Ice-cold water not only tastes better post-workout—it spreads throughout your body quicker than lukewarm H2O, re-energizing you faster and cooling you off from the inside. It also sheds calories: As your body warms the liquid to its temperature, you burn between 17 and 25 calories per glass.
TONE + SHAPE
Nothing screams sexy more than a toned, well-defined body. To achieve a svelte figure, crunches are golden. But remember, when it comes to toning exercises, less can be more. Fifteen perfect crunches are better than 50 sloppy ones. Lie on a towel or mat with your knees at a 45-degree angle and feet flat. Place hands at the back of your head with fingers locked and lower back flat against the floor. Imagine there’s a magnet in your belly button pulling you down. Fixing eyes on the ceiling, lift from your shoulders—not your neck. Exhale at the top of the movement and inhale on the way back down to the floor. Other great toning exercises include squats, step-ups and push-ups.
Squats or lunges are a surefire way to firm your glutes—doing two sets of them with 12 to 15 repetitions will suffice (add light hand weights for more of a workout). To stay centered, focus on pressing down through the heels while pushing your hips back, which will place rightful emphasis on your glutes and hamstrings. Another way to squeeze in tush-firming exercise: Choose steps over the elevator and/or do a hard-core stair workout at home, running up and down as fast as you can for 30 seconds, then slow-climbing for two minutes (repeat this routine for a half hour).
Push-ups might be old school, but they get the job done and don’t require any weights or equipment. To do the perfect push-up, start out in front of a mirror so you can check your alignment—hands should be directly under shoulders and lined up with your chest. Also, make sure your stomach is taut and that your shoulders and neck are relaxed. Another arm-toning exercise that you can do on the fly: shoulder rotations (these will work your deltoids, the rounded muscles forming the contour of your shoulders). Standing with feet hip-width apart, raise arms out to sides slightly below shoulder level, palms facing up and fingers spread apart. Reaching outward with your fingers, rotate arms forward at shoulder joint until palms face backward. Rotate arms back to start position; repeat 30 times.
MOVE OUT + ABOUT
Getting a move on is key to shedding stubborn pounds. To ensure that you stick to a regular exercise routine, enroll in a weekly class or two. Whether you take up yoga, cardio kickboxing or dance find a class that fits your personality and pay up front—so you make breaking a sweat non-negotiable.
It’s also time to move into the great outdoors. Slot 20 minutes of power walking into your daily schedule. This is enough to get your endorphins up, improve your mood, and help you regulate your cravings better.
As we go into the final stretch of this 3-week regime, we are going to clampdown on our diet to put a serious dampener on empty calories. First to be removed off our diet list are carbohydrates— that means, no more rice, pasta, bread and sauces. Meals are replaced with lean protein such as salmon or chicken breast and lots of fiber such as broccoli and salads.
Besides being necessary to build lean muscle, protein is a potent calorie-burner because your body has to work hard to digest it. Since protein stays in your stomach longer, you also feel fuller longer, making you less likely to find refuge in sweets and greasy foods. Eat 8 to 10 ounces of protein, preferably from fish, three to four times a week. Beans, nuts, eggs, and vegetable sources like soy and tofu are also great proteins.
Eat your spinach! Spinach, broccoli, and asparagus are the cornerstone of every successful dieter because of their nutrient-dense quality (each contain loads of antioxidants, vitamins, calcium, iron, and folic acid). Bonus: They’re very filling and relatively low in calories. They’re also void of sugar, which can bloat you.
Watch out for hidden calories in drinks. Second to be removed from the diet list are all sugary or canned drinks from soda, coffees and beers. Beverages that receive the nod include iced water, green tea and small servings of red wine.