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Are you shaping up for a big event? Summer weddings, a cruise, a stage performance—these kinds of occasions make us want to look our best. Who doesn’t want to be photogenic? But rather than trying to drop a few pounds overnight, try focusing on your health in advance. Take some nutrition and fitness advice from area experts who can tell you how to eat clean and tone up the healthy way. When it comes time for photos, you won’t have to worry about the camera catching your “good side.”

Set Realistic Goals

The more time you give yourself to prepare for a big event, the better. So, if you’ve got a couple of months, you’ll see more results. If you’ve only got a few weeks or even a few days, make sure your goals are realistic. Take it from Phrosini Samis-Smith, fitness assessment and program outreach coordinator and certified personal trainer at Community Hospital Fitness Pointe. “When people have specific goals in mind, it helps them stay on track and [they] are less likely to abandon the effort in achieving what they want,” says Samis-Smith.

Make a Commitment

Once you’ve set a goal, commit with your head and your heart, says Samis-Smith. It helps to identify what’s really driving you so you can recall your “why” when motivation wanes and your new routine gets challenging. Have a support system in place, a workout buddy or some friends and family. They can listen and encourage you along the way.

Clean Up Your Diet

Cut the refined carbohydrates and sugar and focus on whole foods, advises Kelly Devine Rickert, registered dietitian with Franciscan Alliance and media spokesperson for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She recommends replacing the unhealthy foods with whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and unsalted nuts. “Eat every few hours throughout the day with fresh foods you prepped from home. Set aside your snacks and meals the night before so you are not in a rush in the morning. This helps to eliminate excess salt you consume from various fast food restaurants and vending machines.”

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Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

It can be challenging to stay hydrated, so drink up, Rickert says. “Water will help increase your energy levels and decrease hunger.” Some possible benefits of your newfound water habit may also include: clearer skin, healthier hair, improved digestion, and a boosted immune system.

Hit the Gym (or the Home Gym)

It doesn’t matter where or when you exercise, just incorporate daily movement. “Aim for 45 minutes, 5 days a week of moderate physical activity; aka, get those heart rates up! Add in some strength training twice a week as well,” Rickert says. Start where you are and work on practical, achievable goals. Seek help from a trainer who can assess your current fitness level and help you develop a plan.

Strike a Balance

Combine clean eating and proper exercise and you’ll see the results. “Everything is a balance, which means what you put in your mouth, you have to burn. It is similar to a teeter-totter that if you go out to eat every night and don’t make wise choices and then on the other side of the teeter-totter you don’t exercise, the likelihood is that you will gain weight,” says Samis-Smith. “If you make smart choices in your eating habits and in combination with exercise, the results should be favorable.”

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