52 small steps to big weight loss
Eat off of blue plates
Ever wonder why McDonald’s colour scheme is yellow and red? 'We are naturally drawn to red, yellow and orange in our dining area or restaurants because psychologically it stimulates us to want to eat - and eat a lot. Studies show if you put your food on blue plates it can cause you to eat less,' says Tamal Dodge, a certified yoga instructor in California, USA.
Eat eggs for breakfast
According to a 2008 study published in the International Journal of Obesity, swapping out your morning bagel for eggs could help you lose 65 percent more weight. Subjects who ate eggs for breakfast lost more weight, body fat and inches from their waist than those who ate the same amount of calories in the form of a bagel. Researchers believe the higher protein content of the eggs helps you stay fuller, longer and leads to eating less throughout the day.
Put a big fork in it
You’ve heard that eating from smaller plates can help you eat less, but did you know that using a larger fork can do the same? A recent study by researchers at the University of Utah found that participants eating with a larger fork - one that held 20 percent more food - at an Italian restaurant ate about 10 percent less than those who used a regular fork. Researchers believe a smaller fork makes us feel we aren’t making as much of a dent on our plate so we’ll take more forkfuls to satisfy our hunger. (Note: This only worked with large portions. When diners were served smaller meals, fork size didn’t affect their consumption). So next time you’re order a super-sized entree, ask for a bigger fork to help you eat less. And while you’re at it, stop when you’re satisfied - not stuffed.
Turn off the telly
You know you probably shouldn’t, but sometimes you eat in front of the TV or computer. But do you know how much it affects your waistline? Studies show that we eat around 40 percent more when watching TV and we’re more likely to eat junk food while distracted. To lose weight without major sacrifice, power down your TV, computer or smart phone during dinner and concentrate only on your meal.
Fill your (small) plate
According to Brian Wansink, Ph.D., a behavioral scientist and ‘mindless eating’ expert at the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, people who fill their plate with everything they plan to eat (including dessert) eat about 14 percent less than those who don’t fill it as much but return for second helpings. So to eat less, load up your plate - but only once. To reduce your intake even more, use a smaller plate. Wansink found that subjects who served themselves using smaller dishes ate up to 60 percent less.
Focus on the future
Feeling positive about the future, rather than focusing on the past or present, is more likely to lead you toward a healthier snack, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research. Instead of rewarding your happiness with a candy bar in the moment (or eating one for comfort), focus on the future outcome (like a healthier, lighter you) so you’ll make better choices in the present.
Hold the mayo
One simple little change like skipping the ketchup, mayo or other ‘special’ sauces could save you around 100 calories per day, says Molly Morgan, a registered dietitian and owner of Creative Nutrition Solutions in New York. That one small step alone could help you lose up to 10 pounds this year.
Slim down your daily coffee
Removing just two teaspoons of sugar from your daily cup of coffee may not seem like a big deal, but it can save you 32 extra calories a day or three extra pounds a year, says Morgan. If you’re a cafe fiend and make two trips a day, consider this: Skipping that afternoon latte could save you an extra 54,750 calories - and almost a thousand pounds - by the end of the year.
Add fruits & veggies
Weight loss doesn’t always mean cutting down on things. In fact, adding in more fruits and vegetables helps you stay fuller, longer, with less calories and more nutrition. To lose weight without feeling hungry, eat at least one serving of fruit or vegetables with every snack and two with meals, recommends Rachel Begun, a registered dietitian and food industry consultant in Rye Brook, New York.
Slowly swap out processed foods
Tossing everything in your pantry out all at once is a good way to waste money and cause a Ben & Jerry’s meltdown, but gradually replacing processed foods with fresh alternatives helps curb cravings and hunger, says Begun. 'Highly processed foods are low in nutrients, causing the body to seek more food to find the nutrients it needs, which leads to a vicious cycle of overeating.' You don’t have to empty the pantry all at once, but slowly start making swaps like fresh fruit and yogurt for protein bars (which can contain as much sugar as a candy bar) or hummus and fresh vegetables instead of nutritionally devoid pretzels.
Try Tabata training
You may already be exercising, but adding Tabata training to your routine may help speed up your weight loss. ‘Tabata’ intervals are quick, 20-second bouts of heavy exertion (to the point where your breathing is very laboured), followed by 10 seconds of rest - repeating the cycle a total of 8 times. Whether you use a skipping rope, ride your bike or do other cardio, studies have shown this magic formula seems to help your body continue to burn calories long after you finish your workout, says Gretchen Zelek, co-creator of Do or Die Fitness.
Don’t take weekends 'off'
Many dieters think that being ‘good’ during the week gives them a license to let go on the weekends, but if you add it up, eating poorly and not exercising Friday to Sunday comes out to 12 days 'off' a month! Instead of letting the days of the week influence your habits, focus on creating a healthy lifestyle that is sustainable all month long (with the occasional indulgence) for lasting weight loss.
Take a time out
Too much stress could be thwarting your weight loss efforts. 'Cortisol is the stress hormone in your body that glues itself onto fat and keeps it on your hips, abs and thighs,' says Jillian Moriarty, a certified yoga instructor and owner of Happily Ever Active in Wayzata, USA. To decrease cortisol and decrease fat, try this quick time out every day (especially when stressed), recommends Moriarty. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and choose a mantra such as ‘relax’ or ‘let go’ and repeat it in your mind as you take slow, deep breaths for about 10 minutes.
Eat a lighter lunch
According to a new Cornell University study, people who ate smaller, portion-controlled lunches consumed about 250 calories less per day (that’s about two pounds a month) than those who ate as much as they wanted. Portion control doesn’t mean you’ll go hungry. Reward yourself with a snack for sticking to smaller meals, which can help shave off pounds without major sacrifice.
Taking cues from your body on what to eat on a daily basis can help you eat less, says Jasia Steinmetz, a registered dietitian and author of Eat Local: Simple Steps to Enjoy Real, Healthy & Affordable Food. Next time you’re hungry, pay attention to what foods seem appealing to you - and why. Craving sweets, for example, may be a cue that you need energy. If you really want a Snickers, for instance, enjoy a bite-size. Don’t limit yourself - if nothing is off limits, you may find yourself craving nutritional food as well. 'The vitamins and minerals that are so essential to the various functions of your body will come from a wide variety of foods, and choosing which foods appeal to you each day will help you tune into your body. Paying attention before, during and after you eat will help you respond to the positive feeling you get from eating healthfully and lovingly.'
Stay satisfied (sans snickers)
'Adding small amounts of fat and protein [to your meal] will trigger your satiety centre, signaling you are satisfied and help slow digestion so you feel full longer,' says Steinmetz. She recommends adding either one-quarter cup of nuts, a small bowl of beans or an egg to meals - you’ll ward off hunger and keep your energy level constant.
'Taste' the first four bites (then move on)
Many dieters get so bored with bland 'diet' foods they end up eating more of them to feel fulfilled. Instead of eating for quantity, focus on the quality of your food. 'You may notice that the first few tastes of the food are the most satisfying - your taste buds are on high alert,' says Steinmetz. 'Buying small quantities of high quality food and concentrating on taste will help you savour small bites. Stop after the first four bites so that your taste is not ‘saturated’, and then try a different food.'
Eat only in designated dining areas
'Eat only in the food-appropriate areas of your home like at the kitchen or dining room table,' recommends Mary Miriani, an American College of Sports Medicine certified Health and Fitness Specialist in Naperville, Ill. Sitting down at the table to eat (instead of in the car, standing at the kitchen counter or sitting at your desk) means you are more likely to focus only on eating and pay more attention to the visual cues that help us decide when we are full. According to research, being able to see all that you have eaten (evidenced by the remnants of food on the table) could help you eat up to 27 percent less at meals.
Keep serving dishes off the table
According to a 2010 Cornell University study, you’ll eat about 20 percent less if you keep your serving dishes in the kitchen instead of on the dinner table. Researchers tested how eating habits would change if food was served from the kitchen, not the table. Participants ate less when the food was out of reach, and were more likely to choose fruits and vegetables when kept in plain sight.
Go for a walk immediately after a meal
Walking is great exercise for weight loss, but it seems to be even more effective when done just after eating. A 2011 Japanese study found that walking immediately after a meal was more effective for weight loss than waiting up to an hour afterwards. Subjects who went for a brisk, 30-minute walk just after lunch and dinner lost more weight than those who waited to walk. And because walking is a low impact form of exercise, it shouldn’t cause any digestive distress.
Burn more fat with walnuts
Research shows that eating two ounces of walnuts a day in the place of another snack can help you burn fat 62 percent faster. The reason walnuts help burn body fat quicker is likely due to the high amount of Omega-3 fatty acids they contain, explains Marissa Vicario, a certified holistic health coach and founder of Marissa's Well-Being and Health in New York City. 'Omega-3s are known to improve heart and brain function and are also important in muscle recovery and fat burning.'
Stay away from ‘enriched’ foods
Steer clear of breads or flours that have ‘enriched’ on the packaging if you want to stay slim, says Kim Truman, a certified CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach and peak performance trainer in Dallas, Texas. ‘Enriched’ means the nutrients have been stripped and then added back in, leaving you with basically nutrient-empty calories. Instead, buy whole grain products, such as wheat bread, whole-wheat flour and old-fashioned oats, which have their nutritional value intact and are more filling.
Start your meal with soup or salad
A 2007 study by researchers at Penn State University found that when subjects ate vegetable and broth-based soups before a meal, they ate about 20 percent less. Fill up on vegetable-dense soup or a salad before your main course so you’ll eat less overall. While you’re at it, try to increase your daily vegetable intake, too.
Join weight watchers
According to a recent study published in the medical journal Lancet, overweight patients who were referred to the Weight Watchers program and told by their doctors to lose weight, lost twice as much weight over the course of a year as those who didn’t. The program’s regular, consistent support may help you lose more weight than if you try to do it alone.
Skip the rice or almond milk
Lactose intolerant? Switching to non-dairy milk alternatives could be adding an extra 30 calories (per 240ml) to your daily diet. That doesn’t sound like much, but if you drink a cup every day it can add up to three extra pounds a year. Instead, try lactose-free, skim milk instead. Not to mention, almond and rice milk also have far less protein than regular milk (1.5 g and 1 g per 240ml, respectively, compared to 8 g), says Rania Batayneh, a nutritionist and owner of Essential Nutrition for Yo' in San Francisco, California. 'Milk also has much more bone-healthy calcium, with 300 mg, compared to almond milk’s 2 mg and rice milk’s 1 mg.”
Skinny up your sweet tooth
Got a sweet tooth? There’s no reason to give up sweets completely, even if you’re trying to lose weight. Just make some adjustments. Instead of two handfuls of M&M’s, have a Freddo. You’ll still get to enjoy a chocolate treat, but it will satisfy and save you about 140 calories (almost 14 pounds a year). 'Or, instead of indulging your sweet tooth every day, have a piece of dark chocolate on those days when a chocolate craving really strikes - the less sugar you eat, the less sugar you crave. And dark chocolate contains heart-healthy flavanoids,' says Batayneh.
Chew more to weigh less
Chewing your food 40 times (instead of the average 15 times) can may help you eat about 12 percent less food, says a new study from China published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study found a direct correlation between chewing more and lower levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin and higher levels of CCK, the hormone believed to reduce appetite. Cutting your calorie intake by only 12 percent may not sound like much, but that translates to a loss of almost 25 pounds over 12 months.
Increase your daily fibre intake
Increasing your daily fibre intake to 20-30g a day can help you lose weight, says Judi Goldstone, M.D., a physician specialist in Bariatric medicine in Torrance, Calif. 'There are two types of fibre, solubele and insoluble, both of which are essential for weight loss. Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water, but absorbs it, which helps you feel full and promotes quicker movement of food through the digestive tract. Soluble fibre, which dissolves in water, slows down the absorption of glucose, allowing cells to burn sugar for energy, rather than storing it as fat. It also regulates insulin levels, controlling hunger.' Aim to eat a combination of both types of fiber (fruits and veggies are a great source), but increase your intake gradually to avoid digestive distress.
Focus on the deeper reason you want to lose weight
You may be more likely to stick with a regular routine of healthy eating and exercise, and be more likely to maintain your weight loss over the long term, if you are intrinsically motivated, says Mary Miriani, a health and fitness specialist in Naperville. Next time you’re ready to skip your workout, think about how you’ll feel afterwards, instead of how you are trying to look. 'Don't try to lose weight or exercise just to look better,' says Mirani. 'Let it come from the inside out.'
Get some sunshine
One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that obese subjects had 57 percent lower levels of Vitamin D than non-obese participants. 'Getting about 15 minutes of sun exposure every day can boost your vitamin D3 levels, which has been linked to increasing your body’s type 2, fast twitch muscle cell fibers (which help you perform explosive movements such as jumping) enhancing your athletic performance,' says Dodge. Not only will a little sun help your absorb Vitamin D, it can also help boost your mood and energy level, all of which can help you stay on track with a weight loss program.
Shop along the perimeter of the grocery store
'Stay along the outer aisles of the grocery store, where the produce, meat, fish and other fresh, healthy items are found, and avoid the tempting processed foods on the inner aisles,' recommends Wayne Andersen, M.D., who specialises in weight management and serves as the medical director for Take Shape for Life wellness program in Annapolis. If you don’t buy tempting foods, they are a lot easier to say 'no' to than if they are already in your pantry.
Sour up to slim down
'Use vinegar and lemon juice, pickle your vegetables, and eat sourdough bread to slow down starch digestion and the rate at which your stomach empties,' recommends Dr. Andersen. You will stay fuller longer and will be more likely to reduce your overall calorie intake.
Cook your starches al dente
Over time, high blood sugar levels can lead to insulin resistance, which has been directly linked to weight gain. To help avoid blood sugar spikes, undercook your spaghetti, oatmeal and other starches to slow digestion and prevent starch from gelatinising, recommends Andersen. 'Starch in raw food is stored in compact granules, which are hard and difficult to digest. But when you cook a raw starch in water it expands, making it very easy for the enzymes in our gut to convert to simple sugars - rapidly increasing our blood sugar. By serving pasta al dente, the starch is still protected in the granules, so it raises the blood sugar slower.'
Eat more brain healthy fats
'If you feed your brain properly, you won't get hungry for hours,' says Larry McCleary, M.D., retired Acting Chief of Neurosurgery at Denver Children’s Hospital and author of Feed Your Brain, Lose Your Belly. Dr. McCleary says brain healthy fats (like those found in cold water fish, flax oil, flax seeds and avocados) are better than any energy drink, and can help you lose weight and keep hunger at bay by fueling your body without empty calories.
Substitute canned fruit or juices for fresh or frozen
Save calories and skip added sugar by avoiding fruit or juice in a can, recommends Truman. 'Processed fruits are usually canned in heavy syrups that are full of sugar. Try at all costs to use fresh fruits, or use frozen fruit if it’s out of season. If you must use canned fruit, look for ‘packaged in water’ on the label.' Eating a piece of fresh fruit daily instead of a of fruit canned in syrup could save you around 130 calories, or an extra 13 pounds a year.
Get sneaky with your veg!
You know that increasing your vegetable intake can help you lose weight, but what if you aren’t a big fan of eating them? 'Try hiding them in your favourite dishes by pureeing them first,' suggests Truman. 'Vegetables such as spinach, kale and peas blend up smoothly and can be mixed into sauces and smoothies without even changing the flavour. Adding three to five daily servings of vegetables to your diet can help ward off cravings for junk food.'
Swap your sports drink for a glass of chocolate milk
Feeling virtuous after a tough workout? Don’t sabotage your calorie burn during a workout with a sports drink; grab a glass of chocolatey skimmed milk instead. A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that drinking low-fat chocolate milk helped cyclists go 50 percent longer than those who drank sports drinks. This simple swap may help your body recover faster from a workout, which could lead to more exercise sessions (translation: more calories burned) more often.
Sprinkle a pinch of salt on your dessert
Adding just a tiny bit of salt to your dessert may help enhance its flavour, making it taste sweeter and helping you feel satisfied without eating the whole thing. Besides using a little salt, another strategy is splitting dessert with a friend. If you’re alone, exercise your self-control muscle and eat only half - that muscle will be stronger for the next time, says Batayneh.
Drink water before meals
Believe it or not, drinking water can be more effective than diet pills when it comes to weight loss. A 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that drinking 1pint of water 30 minutes before a meal helped participants eat about 13 percent less. 'A lot of people can confuse hunger with thirst, so regularly sipping on water can help keep hunger and cravings at bay,' says Batayneh. 'And if you get bored with water, try sipping on green tea or water with a fresh fruit or vegetable slice.'
Write down your daily plan
'Studies show that people are 80 percent more likely to follow their meal plan if they write it down,' says Nicole Kuhl, a nutritionist at Lifespan Medicine in Santa Monica, California. 'Take five minutes in the morning to write down what you'll eat for the day to make sure you stay within your calorie limits.'
Delete fake-fat foods from your diet
According to a new Purdue University study, rats who were fed crisps that contained the ‘fake fat’ Olestra consumed more and gained more weight than those that ate regular crisps. Scientists believe that real fat helps send our body signals to stop eating, but fake fat can lead to overeating because it confuses our normal appetite signals. So if you have a craving for crisps, indulge it, but stick to a single serving of a full-fat version in order to stay on track for weight loss.
Boost your meals with beans
According to a recent study, regular bean eaters are 22 percent less likely to be overweight and have smaller waistlines than those who pass on legumes. Beans release energy slowly into the body, making them a great weight loss food, says Marissa Vicario, a certified holistic health coach in New York City. 'They are also high in protein and fibre, which satiates the appetite and helps keep you full for longer periods of time.' Add them as a side dish or into ground meat, casserole dishes or salads.
Leave the last few bites on your plate
Shaving off those last five bites of your meal you can cut, on average, about 250 calories. Do it every night and that can turn into a loss of 26 pounds in just one year. Try this the next time you eat out: Put the last five bites into a doggy bag and make it into a meal the next day. Add your leftovers to a vegetarian protein (like beans or tofu) and serve with a spinach salad. If you loved your dinner the night before, having a little bit more the next day is always a pleasure, says Batayneh.
Skip diet fizzy drinks and artificial sweeteners
You may think you’re doing your waistline a favour by using artificial sweeteners or drinking diet coke, but new research shows you could be confusing your body, making it harder to shed unwanted pounds. According to Purdue University researchers, ingesting sugar substitutes that don’t deliver calories may lead to eating more. Your body knows the difference between sugar and artificial sweeteners - so when a sugar craving strikes, and you try to fix it with the fake stuff, you just crave more real sugar, which could lead to overeating, says Batayneh. 'Artificial sweeteners may affect our serotonin levels, which can lead to more cravings for comfort foods.'
Swap fruit for dessert
Always crave something sweet after a meal? Have a piece of fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth with a lot less calories. 'Fruit is a great alternative to sugary desserts. To retrain your taste buds, try avoiding sugar for a couple days. When you reintroduce fruit into your diet, it’ll really taste like dessert,' says Batayneh. Instead of a piece of apple pie, try a baked apple with cinnamon. You’ll still enjoy the flavour, but with about 290 less calories. You can even add a half-cup serving of ice cream on top and still shed 14 extra pounds this year!
Eat more brussels sprouts
Not only are these low-calorie, fat-free, nutrient-packed vegetables good for you, but new research shows that they may help boost your body’s production of adiponectin, the hormone that plays a role in burning stored fat for fuel. Brussels sprouts are also full of fibre, which fills you up and prevents you from overeating, says Batayneh. Add a serving with dinner to boost fat burning while you fill up faster and load up on nutrients...remeber they're not just for christmas!
Stick with kids’ sizes
Want to enjoy some popcorn at the movies? Stick with a kids’ size bag (sans butter) to save about 200 calories. By today’s standards, 'small' sizes are not very small, so it’s best to downgrade to a child’s size for a truly small-portioned treat. 'Losing weight is not about eliminating your favourite foods; it’s about moderating your intake. When you stick with small amounts, you feel less deprived and more satisfied because you are managing your portions well,' says Batayneh.
Follow the 80-percent principle
Moderation is the key to sustaining weight loss over the long term and this is one of the most effective tools: Choose healthy foods at least 80 percent of the time and eat until you are 80 percent full - not stuffed. 'Finding that magic place can be difficult, so listen to your body. You don’t want to be hungry, but you don’t want to be uncomfortably stuffed. It takes practice to know when you are at your own sweet spot. Eat slowly so that your brain has time to register the food you’ve eaten (it can take 20 minutes). And remember that there’s always a next meal,' says Batayneh.
Go the extra 10
Out for a power walk? Good for you! Why not push yourself a little more and tack on an extra 10 minutes to burn an extra 100-200 calories? That could translate to an extra one to two pounds lost each month, says Exercise TV fitness expert Cari Shoemate.
Monitor your heart rate
Start monitoring your heart rate during your workouts to burn extra calories. You don’t even need a heart rate monitor to do it - just take your pulse for 10 seconds and then multiply by six. Aim to stay within 60-80 percent of your maximum heart rate for most of your workouts. To calculate your most efficient zone, subtract your age from 220, and then multiply that number first by .60 (to determine your 60 percent, low end target heart rate), and then by .80 (for your 80 percent, high end target heart rate). By keeping your heart rate in between those two numbers, you can burn an extra 200-300 calories an hour, says Shoemate.
Brush your tongue
Brushing your teeth between meals can help curb your snacking habit. Brush your tongue, too, to curb your cravings for salty foods (such as crisps). Researchers found that subjects who brushed their tongues lowered their taste for salty foods. The brushing can help improve your taste sensations, which means you’ll be more sensitive to the salty flavour of foods - and may be more satisfied with just a handful of chips instead of eating the whole bag.
'You can add up a surprising number of calories simply by fidgeting - toe tapping, knee bouncing, pencil thumping, etcetera,' says Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of exercise physiology at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alaska. Research from the Mayo Clinic shows that leaner people have trouble being still, and spend about two hours a day fidgeting and pacing. The number of calories you can burn with a fidgeting habit like that can equal around 350 extra calories burned a day, which is equivalent to a 3.5 mile jog - minus the sweat, says Olson.
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