Despite what you may think, weight loss doesn't have to entail deprivation and hours-long sweat sessions at the gym. Here, 25 easy-to-implement lifestyle changes that will help you slim down in a snap.
Swap beef or chicken for fish twice a week. Fatty fish, such as salmon, contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, says certified wellness coach Jackie Keller. And one study found that people who ate fish instead of beef for lunch ate 11 percent fewer calories at dinner.
The neighborhood-waistline link is an emerging area of obesity research. One study found that people who live in the most walkable communities are on average six pounds lighter than those in the most sprawling suburbs. Another survey of nearly 11,000 Atlanta residents found that those who spent the most time in cars were more likely to be obese than those who walked to shops and offices.
By midlife many long-term dieters have learned to rely on scheduled mealtimes—rather than their body’s signals—to decide when to eat. Just because the clock says 1 p.m., that doesn’t mean you need a big meal.
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.
Alcoholic beverages tend to be high in calories and may lower your inhibition, making you more likely to let down your nutritional guard. "Opt instead for light hot chocolate or a cup of hot tea, both of which can help you keep your hands and mouth busy while socializing," says , RD, a dietitian at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois.
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.
If you leave exercise to chance, you won’t fit it in. Make workout appointments that can’t be broken. Either carve out the same times every week and stick to that schedule or, if you don’t have a set routine, plan a week or even a month ahead.
Vow to do an activity that will get you breathing hard for at least 10 minutes, seven days a week. “Even if you just set the timer on the kitchen stove and vigorously clean the house or run up and down the stairs, you’ll do something good for your heart—and your waistline,” says Andrea Metcalf, a Chicago-based trainer.
Study after study confirms that we eat less over the course of the day if we start with a good breakfast, says , a certified wellness coach and nutrition educator. And the one component that’s often missing is fiber. Try to include a complex carbohydrate, such as whole-grain toast, or a high-fiber fruit or vegetable, such as raspberries, in your morning meal. It will help fill you up, making you less likely to graze the rest of the day.
Eating five or six smaller meals instead of three larger ones can help prevent both hunger and overeating. Mini meals steady blood sugar levels, and slow down the release of insulin, a hormone that can cause your body to store more fat, explains Maye Musk, RD, a New York-based nutritionist.
The more you grab meals on the go and then multitask, the easier it is to lose track of how much you’re actually consuming. Be more mindful when eating (feel the textures, inhale the aromas), because engaging your senses slows down the process, leaving you more satisfied.
They often contain sugar alcohols, low-calorie sweeteners that linger in the intestines where bacteria ferment them, causing gas and bloating. Mannitol is especially known for this, but be sure to check a product’s ingredient list for any sugar alcohols-they commonly end in "tol." If you’re concerned about calories, eat a smaller serving of the full-sugar version.
When you’ve spent a week working overtime or have stuck to your workout goals for a month straight, it’s only natural to want to reward yourself. Just don’t do it with food, says Keller. Instead, treat yourself to something you want more, such as a massage or new party dress. "Deprivation is a real downer, but having a system of rewarding yourself for healthy behaviors will help reinforce it for you," says Keller.
With a hectic schedule, it’s easy to become dependent on packaged foods instead of fresh ingredients. Buy precut produce or take the time to cut up some fruits and vegetables as soon as you get home from the grocery store. That way, when you’re pressed for time, you'll have something healthy to add to soup, salads, scrambled eggs or stir fries. "Aim for three to five servings of fruit and five or more servings of vegetables daily," says Keller.
A cute dress can motivate you as much as a bikini. Keep an article of clothing that you’re dying to wear out—and look fabulous in—visible, says Keller. The daily reminder with help you stick to your dietary goals.
When University of Michigan researchers fed tart cherry powder to rats as a tiny portion of their diet, the animals lost 17 percent of their belly fat in just three months. Another trial with crushed blueberries also reduced fat. "In certain fruits there may be components, particularly anthocyanins—the antioxidants that create their dark colors—that have a protective effect," explains Steven Bolling, MD, director of the University of Michigan’s Cardioprotection Research Laboratory.
The south-of-the-border staple provides high doses of monounsaturated fats, or MUFAs (as do nuts, olives and flaxseeds). "Eating MUFAs can help prevent the deposition of fat around your middle," says David Katz, MD, director of Yale’s Prevention Research Center. In Katz’s research, women who switched to a 1,600-calorie, high-MUFA diet shed a third of their belly fat in a month.
Overweight and obese adults who sipped a sports drink with a high concentration of green tea extract every day and also followed a moderate exercise routine dropped 7.7 percent of their belly fat in three months, reports The Journal of Nutrition. By comparison, those who exercised the same amount and drank a regular sports drink lost just 0.3 percent of that fat. The assumption is that sipping regular green tea would have the same effect. While the exact mechanism is not yet known, green tea’s phytochemical compounds may speed up the body’s metabolic rate, trigger the release of fat and/or promote fat burning, speculates study coauthor Kevin C. Maki, PhD, chief science officer for Provident Clinical Research and Consulting, an independent clinical research site in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.
Location, location, location: In a Cornell University study, when serving plates and bowls were kept on a kitchen counter rather than on the table, women ate 10 percent fewer calories. There’s only a split second between experiencing the impulse to eat and then heaping second, even third, helpings on our plates, notes study author Brian Wansink, PhD, director of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab and author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. "Keeping the platter away from the table interrupts this automatic feeding and provides enough of a pause that you ask yourself, 'Am I really that hungry?' Half the time, people say, 'No, I’ve had enough'."
Found primarily in the meat of the palm, coconut oil is a medium-chain triglyceride that’s metabolized faster than other saturated fats—so fast, in fact, that digesting it burns more calories than the oil contains. In a study published in Lipids, Brazilian researchers gave women either soy oil or coconut oil supplements to take for three months. At the end of the study, both groups lost a weight, but only those taking the coconut oil had less abdominal fat. Try adding fresh coconut to a pre-workout smoothie, suggests Adam Kelinson, creator of Organic Performance, an active lifestyle company, and the author of The Athlete’s Plate.
Dress steamed veggies with vinegar to boost your body’s ability to burn fat, suggests a new study. For six weeks, Japanese researchers fed two groups of mice a high-fat diet, supplementing one group’s intake with a daily dose of the main chemical in vinegar. Those who consumed the acetic acid developed less body fat than the ones who didn’t ingest it. In a follow-up study, people who downed three tablespoons of vinegar diluted into two cups of water daily experienced similar results after 12 weeks.
Sodium is an essential nutrient that helps our bodies maintain the right balance of fluids, but most people are getting way too much, which can lead to water retention. Nearly 75 percent of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed foods, so choose fresh or frozen foods whenever possible, select unsalted nuts, seeds and beans, and stay away from the salt shaker: One teaspoon contains 2,300 mg of sodium—800 mg more than the maximum amount the American Heart Association recommends getting daily.