12 Quick Fixes for Lasting Weight Loss

Super-simple ways to slim down for life.

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Avoid Sugar Substitutes

While added sugar isn’t good for you, sugar substitutes (honey and molasses excluded) are worse. That’s because they make it harder for our bodies to recognize when we’re full, and some researchers suggest that the use of artificial sweeteners may convince the body that sugar-laden foods are actually low in calories. In fact, one study showed that for each can of diet soda the participants drank, their chance of becoming obese went up 41 percent.


If you crave drinks like soda, try making the switch to unsweetened sparkling water instead. It has the carbonation of soda but doesn’t have the calories. And if you make your own sparkling water with the use of a soda siphon, you’ll be helping the environment while you get healthy!

Trim the Fat from Your Meat

Although you’ll need some fat to enhance flavor, if there is excess fat on the edges of your protein, trim it off before cooking it. In doing so, you’ll not only reduce the overall amount of fat in your diet, you’ll also reduce the most harmful type of fat: saturated fat.


Join a Softball or Bowling League

Softball and bowling are not the most aerobic of sports, but they will get you moving, and something is better than nothing. By signing up for a league, you’ll be responsible for showing up for league play every week and expected to do your best. That pressure might inspire you to head to the lanes or the batting cages during the week to practice in anticipation of the upcoming game. Invite your friends out to watch you play if you need a little more incentive to play well. As you strive to get a home run or increase your strike potential, you’ll probably start working out a little more often on the side.


If you’ve had a hard time staying committed to exercising, joining one of these leagues means you’ll be burning extra calories at least one day a week. That, hopefully, will help convince you that burning calories doesn’t have to be a chore and can involve bonding, friendship, and even laughter!


Get Out on the Dance Floor

Whether you enroll in an organized class, such as ballet, jazz, tap, swing, salsa, or country line dancing, or shake your groove thing at a dance club, you’ll be sweating to the music and getting fitter as you have fun. Even if you start out with two left feet, after a handful of weekends out dancing at a club or in a scheduled course, you’ll start to have some rhythm and more confidence out on the dance floor.


Here are the average number of calories a 150-pound woman would burn in an hour using these different dancing styles:


  • Aerobic Dance: 442
  • Fast Ballroom: 374
  • Medium-Speed (Polka, Line): 306
  • Slow-Speed (Waltz, Tango, Mambo): 204
  • Ballet, Jazz, or Tap: 326

Have a Cup of Coffee or Tea Before Your Workout

Not only will you feel a little bit “wired” and have more short-term energy, you might also be better equipped to push yourself harder. After seven years of studying the connections between caffeine and exercise, Dr. Robert Motl of the University of Illinois has determined that having that cup of coffee or tea will reduce the amount of pain you feel when you exercise. Other researchers have found that having some caffeine following exercise can ease the soreness by helping with carbohydrate uptake and thus helping to direct more glycogen to your depleted muscles.


If you do choose to opt for the caffeine, don’t overdo it; stick to only a cup before or after your workout, depending on what you’re looking for. Don’t load up your coffee or tea with cream and sugar, and drink more water during your workout to counteract the diuretic effect of your java. The goal is to deliver caffeine, not calories.


Learn to Eyeball Portion Size

Information is power. For instance, you may know there are 100 calories in every ounce of cheese, but how big is an ounce? Since we don’t expect you to whip out a digital scale at a restaurant or your friend’s house, it’s important to know both the calorie content of food and what one serving of that food looks like if you want to lose weight.


Here are some helpful visual guidelines that will assist you in your estimating portion sizes:


  • A 3-ounce portion of cooked protein should be the size of a deck of playing cards.
  • A medium potato is about the size of a computer mouse.
  • A cup of rice or pasta is about the size of a fist or tennis ball.
  • A cup of fruit or a medium apple or orange is the size of a baseball.
  • A half-cup of chopped vegetables is about the size of three regular ice cubes.
  • A 1-ounce piece of cheese is the size of four dice.
  • Two tablespoons of peanut butter is about the size of a golf ball.
  • A thumb tip equals 1 teaspoon; 3 thumb tips equals 1 tablespoon; and a whole thumb equals 1 ounce.

Eat Vegetarian Meals

Vegetarianism is a way of life for some people. But if you want to lose weight, eating vegetarian meals as often as you can will help you achieve that goal. Studies have shown that vegetarians have lower rates of obesity, high blood pressure, colon cancer, and diabetes. Plus, healthy vegetarian diets are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol because animal products are the main source for those substances. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because you cut out meat you’ll automatically start to lose weight. You still have to eat healthily, because a vegetarian diet can still include cookies, candies, sodas, and other unhealthy foods. However, if you choose to fill your plate with tofu, beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, you’re likely to lower your cholesterol numbers and lose weight.


Use Flavored Vinegars and Oil in Your Salad

Instead of dumping dressing that is loaded with fat, sugar, and calories on what would otherwise be a healthy salad, avoid the high-calorie salad dressings (I’m looking at you, buttermilk ranch) and replace them with flavored oils and vinegars. There are a wide variety of fruit- or herb-infused olive oils and vinegars on the market, and when mixed together on their own or along with some Dijon mustard (if you want to enjoy a thicker dressing), you won’t miss the creamy, fattening ones you used to eat and you’ll actually be able to taste your salad. If you’re the type who really pours on the dressing and leaves a leftover puddle in the dish when you’re done with the salad, try putting the dressing in a spray bottle. This way, you can spritz some on in the beginning and add as you go without overdoing it early.


Distinguish Between Hunger and Cravings

Most of the time when we’re hungry, we’re actually just dehydrated. In fact, one in three Americans mistake thirst for hunger, because it fools us by giving us the same symptoms, such as hunger pangs and irritability. So the next time you’re feeling hungry, pour yourself a big glass of water. Ten minutes after drinking it, see if you still feel hungry. If you do, make yourself a healthy snack to hold you over until the next big or small meal.


If you feel that your momentary hunger is tied to a food craving, it’s important to figure out what your body is really craving. Different cravings can correlate to your body’s lack of certain vitamins and minerals, so instead of giving your body chocolate, give it what it really needs.


Match your craving with what your body needs:


If you’re craving: chocolate

Your body needs: B vitamins


If you’re craving: salt

Your body needs: less salt (Eating salt makes you want to eat more salt.)


If you’re craving: protein

Your body needs: iron or other amino acids


If you’re craving: dairy

Your body needs: less dairy (you might be allergic)


Shop the Perimeter

Challenge yourself to avoid the middle aisles of the grocery store—where most of the processed food products are usually located. Instead, shop primarily along the perimeter, where whole foods are stocked. By staying away from the center, you limit yourself to purchasing fresh produce, meat, seafood and dairy instead of frozen dinners, cookies, chips and more. This will make it easier for you to avoid temptations and to purchase healthy snacks, like fruits and vegetables.


Follow the 90/10 Rule

When you’re working on getting healthy, it’s easy to see things as black or white. No more chips, ever again. Exercise six days a week, forever. And so on. This mentality becomes draining very quickly and makes it harder for you to maintain a positive outlook on achieving your goal. If you aim to eat healthy and to exercise most days of the week, then don’t feel badly if you allow yourself to splurge on a treat or to relax in a nonphysical way during the other days. For instance, if you strive to eat lean protein, plenty of fresh produce, lean dairy, and whole grains 90 percent of the time, not eating as well the other 10 percent isn’t going to derail your efforts.


Use Visualization

First, instead of looking at yourself and seeing your flaws, look at what you love about yourself. Whether it’s your eyes, your nails, your skin, or your stomach, find at least a few things that you think are beautiful about yourself, and whenever you’re looking in the mirror, turn your attention toward those. This way, as you work to reach your fitness goals, instead of feeling discouraged when you look in the mirror, you’ll feel happy and that positive attitude will help you work through those tough workout weeks.


Second, start to imagine what your ideal body looks like. Is there a picture of you from years ago in which you’re a size you want to get back to? Stick that on the fridge or on the bathroom mirror as inspiration. If you don’t have a photo of yourself like that, look through magazines and find someone who has a body that you want to strive for. yourself achieving this shape while you’re working out or when you are getting ready for your day, and you’ll start to find that you manifest this destiny by making changes in your life that guide you toward it.


Best You Ever

Adapted from Best You Ever, Copyright © 2010 by Rebecca Swanner, Eve Adamson, Carolyn Dean, Rachel Laferriere, and Meera Lester. Used by permission of Adams Media, an F+W Media, Inc. Co. All rights reserved.


Next: 12 Free Ways to Feel Better Fast


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