It’s a hot, muggy August afternoon. The gym is DEAD.

All but the truly hardcore or eternally guilty have checked out in favor of crowded patios and rooftop bars, replacing sets and reps with sugary cocktails and overpriced appies.

These warm weather temptations pose a problem for someone trying to lose fat.

Sure, they can still participate… sorta. Just not often and certainly not “all the way.”

But what’s the big deal?

Even though summer is three months long (well, two months where I live), it’s not like every day is hotdogs and hamburgers and umbrella drinks. Just a meal or two here, a weekend there.

That’s way less “damaging” than say, a full 7-DAY binge vacation, right?

That all depends.

Developing and implementing new habits is like climbing a tall ladder.

You have to move slowly and methodically and be 100% sure you have your “footing” before carefully stepping up to the next “rung,” or next habit.

On the other hand, forgetting (or messing up) habits is more like a slide.

It starts off slow and subtle – a few handfuls of nachos & guac on Monday, a couple Mojitos after work on Wednesday – and then gradually builds momentum, usually at a pace JUST BELOW the dieter’s level of awareness. An ice cream sandwich every day after work (they’re so small yet refreshing!), a couple beers while mowing the lawn (must’ve sweated off those calories anyway).

No big deal, right?

But do that from Memorial Day to Labor Day and things can get real ugly.

Now contrast that with a week-long vacation with NO RULES. Seven days of eat whatever, whenever.

The catch being, for six months prior to the vacation our dieter ate a consistent, calorie controlled, whole food diet.

In that context, even a week of pure gluttony won’t have much of a lasting effect. All he or she has to do upon returning home is get right back on their pre-vacation diet and exercise pattern and that vaca-weight will quickly fall off.

But our Summer Slider is basically doing the opposite.

He or she was in a groove and then fell out of it, using the weather and time of year to rationalize abandoning the basic principles of successful, sustainable dieting. In effect, they’re now following a “cheat day” diet 7 days a week and wondering where their abs went.

So how do you prevent the Summer Slide?

* STOP. Just stop. You’re eating junk and drinking sugary chick drinks that make bartenders hate you. Don’t rationalize it or justify it. Just. Stop.

* BE PRESENT. It’s easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing. Remember your goals, your values, and what you need to do (and not do) to reach them. Drink water after you mow the lawn. Eat an apple instead of a corn dog. This shit isn’t that hard.

* TRAIN. They say diet is 80% of your body composition. That could be right, might be a tad high; all I know is that nothing happens without exercise. So if your habits are going to hell, go train. It will always be the spark that leads to change.

* SLEEP. Wanna “crush cravings?” Start with 6-9 hours a night. Regular sleep (and meal times) work wonders.

* TRACK YOUR CALORIES. Yeah, I hate tracking. But there are times when it’s the right tool for the job, like when you’re doing too much “subliminal snacking” or have been eyeballing portion sizes with a Stevie Wonder level of precision.

There’s an ebb and flow to everything, and summer (like food) is meant to be enjoyed. Just don’t get too far off the reservation.

In short, keep one foot on the ladder and your ass off the slide.