28 Ways to Jump-Start Your Shape-Up Routine

You exercise and watch what you eat, but your weight still creeps upward. Here, small changes that can make a huge difference in your weight-loss plan

By Bari Nan Cohen
woman stretch exercise picture
  • Preworkout: A cup of coffee or tea, half a banana or half an energy bar
  • Breakfast: Egg-white omelet with veggies, or oatmeal with blueberries
  • Midmorning: Low-fat yogurt (six ounces) with sliced almonds, or one low-fat string cheese and a small fruit
  • Lunch: Turkey wrap or grilled fish or poultry on a bed of greens
  • Midafternoon: Hummus with carrots, two Wasa crackers with low-fat peanut butter, or a protein shake with a scoop of whey or soy-protein powder
  • Dinner: A large serving of vegetables and some protein, plus a piece of fruit

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

"If the body’s cells don’t get enough water, they become less efficient," Brooks says. Drink three to four ounces of water every 15 or 20 minutes during your workout and try to sip frequently throughout the day.

Drink Less Alcohol

"If you drink, you’ll lose only a third of the amount of weight as someone who doesn’t," says Christine Hart, RD, director of a nutrition consultant service in New York City. "One jigger of alcohol acts like 10 grams of fat in the body." The quickest way to trim down is not to drink for two weeks. "You’ll drop the three to four pounds of fluid that the alcohol retains and lose up to an inch from your waist," Hart says. Once you see results, you can add back one or two glasses a week, max.

Do the Math

"Ideally we should eat approximately 11 times our body weight in calories per day, as well as any calories burned in workouts," says Connie Barnhart, a certified fitness trainer and weight-loss counselor in Park City, Utah. "If you weigh 120 pounds, your baseline is 1,320 calories, plus 350 calories per day in exercise, for about 1,700 calories." It is easy to eat much more than that, so she suggests having six or more servings of fruits and vegetables, three to four servings of protein (10 to 15 grams per serving) and three to six servings of whole grains.

Balance Your Intake

Crave a cookie? Have it. "Just think about what you can cut out of another part of the meal — like salad dressing," Hart says. Want wine with dinner? Order a white fish, like sole, instead of salmon and you’ll balance out your calories and fat. "It takes only 50 calories a day — maybe an Oreo — to add five pounds a year," Barnhart says.

Be Carb-Smart

"Carbs are stored as fat if they’re not used for energy within about two days," Hart says. "Be strict with portions, keeping them to a half cup, or the amount that would fill an ice cream scoop just to the top." If you want to maintain your weight, you can eat 180 grams of carbohydrates a day, and if you exercise for a half hour, you get an extra 20. Each slice of bread has about 20 grams of carbs, and a baked potato has 50. The average dessert has 90.

Count Your Tastes

Be mindful of the way that random bites add up. "One french fry can have 60 calories and five grams of fat," Hart says. "If you pick eight fries off someone else’s plate, you’re taking in 500 calories. One forkful of cheesecake, carrot cake, chocolate mousse, or pecan pie is about 60 calories and two to three grams of fat."

Yes, You Need to Eat Breakfast

"The data shows that the number one predictor for a healthy life at a healthy weight is — yes — a healthy breakfast," Peeke says. "According to the National Weight Control Registry, 78 percent of those who maintained a weight loss of between 30 and 50 pounds ate breakfast every day. Just do it."

Do More for Your Core

If there’s one body part that shouts "over 40," it’s the abs. Years of crunches may have strengthened these muscles, but are they still shaping them? These three moves will nudge your gut out of its rut.

Bicycles

Research at San Diego State University showed that the bicycle (lie on your back, right leg extended and left knee bent toward chest; touch your right elbow to your left knee; repeat on other side) works a large number of abdominal muscles at once, so it’s one of the most effective exercises you can do.

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