Weight loss is about the big picture—setting goals and keeping a healthy mindset as you work to achieve them . But there are tiny tricks that can help tons along the way. We tapped experts and sifted through the science to bring you a no-fail stash of little-known tips you can start using immediately to succeed at losing weight, and keeping it off.
1. Cut down on the cardio.
"Don't be a cardio queen, or you'll risk becoming skinny-fat," warns Christy Brissette, M.S., R.D., president of 80Twenty Nutrition. "The best way to boost your metabolism is to build muscle by lifting weights or doing resistance exercises. Weight lifting increases your metabolism for days, not just for an hour like cardio does." That’s because muscle burns more calories just by existing in your body.
People tend to eat more when they're distracted by other tasks , like reading, checking their phones, or watching TV. University of Illinois researchers have found that even noise coming from another room can make a person eat more cookies at dinner than they would have otherwise. To make sure you're eating only what you meant to eat, and only what your hunger is really asking for, sit down for a mindful meal in a quiet place, and really pay attention—savor it.
3. Try the vegetable soup trick.
"Have a bowl of vegetable soup before your lunch and dinner and you'll eat about 250 fewer calories," suggests Brissette. "The water and vegetables fill your stomach so you end up eating less without going hungry."
4. Eat with chopsticks.
Using them instead of a fork or spoon causes you to eat more slowly and consume less food. (Assuming you’re not a pro at it already.) "It takes time to figure out how to put food on chopsticks—that can help you eat more mindfully ," explains Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., a registered dietician and founder of the F-Factor diet. Aim for eating with chopsticks two to three meals per week, at home or at your desk, to see benefits.
5. Stick to a standard breakfast.
"Rituals take the thinking out of weight loss," says Andrea Metcalf, a certified personal trainer and the author of Naked Fitness . "Have the same breakfast for seven to 10 days. You can plan your meal ahead." (That's a morning time-saver , too.) Get a jump on your days by prepping the ingredients for a yummy omelet with spinach and low-fat cheese, plus fresh fruit on the side. Here are six great low-calorie breakfast options you can make ahead of time.
6. Fire up with fiber.
"Having foods rich in soluble fiber , such as oats, barley, beans and lentils, can help you stay full longer so you end up eating fewer calories," says Brissette. Fiber-rich foods help your body use those calories more efficiently, too. "They provide a slow-release energy so you avoid the dreaded blood sugar/insulin peak that leads to fat storage," Brissette adds.
7. Serve a colorful plate.
When you eat the rainbow (not the Skittles way) you get a wider range of vitamins and other nutrients. Maximizing your nutrition can also make your meals more beautiful and satisfying. A Cornell University study showed that adults find a plate filled with three foods of three bright colors the most appealing (kids crave even more colors and variety). Put together a healthy veggie plate of, say, sunny yellow peppers, zingy green broccoli, and rich, red tomato, and dig in.
7. Take a before- and an after-dinner walk.
Metcalf recommends walking two hours a day or more if you are trying to lose weight: "I'm serious!" Getting in all of those steps isn't as daunting as you think , though. Metcalf suggests walking 10 minutes before and after each meal; that adds up to 60 minutes, and then schedule another hour on the treadmill or around your neighborhood or local trail. You can easily rack up even more benefits by taking the stairs, and strolling to and from work.
8. Fill your dish with a new kind of fish.
"There's evidence that omega-3 acids found in some kinds of fish can help you burn fat faster by stabilizing your blood sugar and insulin levels," says Brissette. One omega-3-packed fish you may not have tried is trout. It's yummy, and raised sustainably in the U.S., so give it a whirl twice a week.
9. Go out to dinner once a week, tops.
A Johns Hopkins study found that people who cooked dinner at home six to seven times a week were automatically more mindful about the ingredients they used, consuming less fat and sugar, and fewer calories overall, than those who ate frequent restaurant meals.
10. Skip the artificial sweeteners.
Artificial sweeteners may make your body expect sugar, but then don't satisfy the expectation on a molecular level, leaving you craving something sweet even after you've finished your low-cal treat. And studies show a broad association between using sugar substitutes and weight gain . If you do have to indulge in something sweet, might as well just got for a little bit of the real stuff—or have some fresh fruit to sate your sweet tooth with a dose of fiber and vitamins.
11. Stop to give yourself props.
Keep a log of the your progress along your weight-loss journey. Update it each week—and read it over each morning and night. Allow yourself to feel really proud! As Metcalf sums it up: "Focus on the positive. There's nothing like reflecting on your success, and letting how you're getting there really sink in!"
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