If you’re anything like the rest of America, you tend to start off seasons on a healthy high note—only to fall flat within a month or so. It’s not that we don’t have the right goals set in place, but rather our game plan that needs tweaking.
“I think people just go so extreme [with their goals]. You will see results because you’re making a major change, but the problem is you can’t keep up with it,” says Jim White, RD, ACSM HFS, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios. He adds, “You want to take a more realistic approach to weight loss that will not only carry you past the first three months, but three years and 30 years of life.” Utilize the easy ideas below and then find out how to keep the weight off permanently with these 20 Ways to Lose Weight Forever!
Keep your measuring cups and tablespoons handy, because measuring out portions is one of the most effective ways to control calorie intake, without having to count anything. “I don’t recommend that people get so neurotic with counting calories, but we still have to be mindful when it comes to weight loss that it is calories in, calories out,” says White. Check out these 25 Ways to Cut 250 Calories for more ideas on reducing your intake.
Buy a Food Scale
Go one step beyond your Pyrex measuring cup and invest in a food scale. If you’re concerned about cost, you can find ones for around 20 dollars or less. “Buying a food scale is always my first recommendation. A lot of people eat chicken and salmon which are healthy, but still contribute to extra calories. By putting them on the scale you’ll see that an extra 2 ounces can easily add another 70 calories a day,” says White. Once you make it a habit, you’ll never understand how you lived without one.
Learn the “Language” of Serving Sizes
Did we say you should measure your food? Oh good, because it’s super important when it comes to weight loss! Two thumbs up if you’ve got all the right tools already, but you also need the right knowledge to go with it. “When a serving size says a tablespoon, it means a level tablespoon—not a heaping tablespoon,” advises White. Cheating on your portions will only cheat you out of better results. Speaking of portion control, you’ll want to know about these 20 Healthy Foods You Better Eat in Moderation.
Go to Bed Earlier
Exercise and nutrition may be the foundation of weight management, but great sleep habits are what keeps that foundation stable. “When we lack sleep, we’re more likely to overeat throughout the day and when we’re fatigued we’re more likely to skip our workouts,” heeds White. Adjust your schedule so you can hit those recommended 7-8 hours per night.
Skip A.M. Workouts If You’ve Had Less Than 5 Hours of Sleep
Sleep is essential when it comes to weight loss, and if you went to bed a little later than planned last night it’s okay to hit the snooze button on your 6 A.M. bootcamp class. “I’m a big advocate of exercise, but I’ve always recommended sleep over exercise. We’re so sleep deprived as Americans that it [can really interfere with our health],” says White. Employ these 30 Things to Do 30 Minutes Before Bed to Lose Weight to make the most of your evening time.
Keep Late Night Snacks Small
Even if that ice cream is not coffee flavored, eating too much too close to bedtime can disrupt sleep. “You want to eat at least three hours before bedtime, so if you eat dinner at 7 P.M. and you go to bed at 9 P.M., don’t eat a snack. However, if you eat dinner at 7 P.M. and go to bed at 11 or 12, have a snack right around 10 P.M. If you’re going to have a snack, I would recommend a higher protein snack from a dairy source. Just steer clear of the high-fat, high-carb, high-calorie snacks at night,” says White.
Drink Coffee Black
White warns against the “calorie creep”, and one of the most common places we tend to pick up added calories is in our daily cup (or cups) of joe. Just a small pour of whole milk or one packet of sugar into your cup of coffee or tea a few times throughout the day could add over 100 extra calories to your daily total. Start transitioning to black coffee or tea gradually—trust us, you’ll learn to appreciate the bold flavor and especially the body benefits. Watch this Video: What Coffee Does to Your Body to find out 7 crazy things that happen when you drink it!
Flavor With Citrus
If tea time just isn’t the same without a little added sweetness, try squeezing a lemon or lime over your brew in place of sugar. You’ll not only cut back on added calories, but you’ll also increase the nutritional value of your afternoon cup of tea thanks to the high doses of vitamin C present in the citrus fruits, which help boost immunity.
Sweeten Your Own Tea
Okay, if we’re being realistic, sometimes you don’t want to forgo your sweet tea–we get it. When you’re eating out, order your iced tea unsweetened and add in sugar yourself slowly. At least when you take this small step you know exactly how much sugar you’re consuming and can control portion sizes. When it comes to tea though, you really can’t beat something like green tea. Make the most of the benefits from tea with The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse! Test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in one week!
Saute With Broth, Not Oil
Sauteeing up a smorgasbord of veggies is certainly a diet-yes, but drowning them in calorie-dense oil (even if it is heart-healthy olive!) is most definitely a weight-loss don’t. When it comes down to it, oils contain a lot of calories in a very small serving. Next time you break out your frying pan, try swapping vegetable or chicken broth in place of oil to seriously save on calories.
Flavor With Cinnamon
Remember: it’s all about calories in versus calories out in the never ending game of weight management. When it comes time to whip up your morning oats, skip the honey, maple syrup and brown sugar and grab the cinnamon shaker. The spice will add flavor and sweetness without any additional calories.
Heat Things Up With Cayenne
Getting in the habit of flavoring with herbs and spices will save you a huge amount of unwanted calories and weight gain in the long term, especially when used in place of high-fat, high-calorie items like butter, oil and sugar. According to research published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, red cayenne pepper may help burn more calories and help to curb hunger, especially in people who aren’t used to eating it. Bonus: Peppers are one of the 20 Foods That Turn on Your Sex Drive!
Cutting out dessert or indulges all together falls under the category of “extreme”, and as White has already outlined–that could set you up for diet failure. If we’re being realistic, we all crave and enjoy having dessert every now and then, and the best way to include it in your diet is to find someone to share it with! Another fork in the mix means less calories being shoveled into your own mouth.
Trade Chips for Popcorn
It can be pretty hard to ignore cravings sometimes, especially when all you want to do is crunch down on something salty. Rather than setting yourself back with a nutritionally-void, sodium-heavy bag of chips, opt for air-popped popcorn instead and add your own seasoning. You’ll get the crunch and saltiness along with some added fiber to fill you up. Not into popcorn? Then try one of these 40 Healthy Snack Ideas to Keep You Slim instead!
Portion control is key to keeping your weight under wraps. When you’re picking up your morning latte or grabbing coffee with a friend go for the small and skip the artificial flavorings when possible. A grande mocha from Starbucks packs a steep 360 calories, versus a tall regular latte, coming in at a more waist-friendly 150 calories.
Try a “Flagel”
New York City bagels can be hard to pass up, but if you want to stay on track with your weight loss plan ask for your egg and cheese on a flat bagel. Doing so will nearly cut calories and carbohydrates in half. You’ll still walk away with a hot and toasty breakfast sandwich, just without all the diet-guil and carb-induced energy crash later.
Shrink Your Plates
Downsizing your dinner plate is one of the simplest ways to downsize your pants. The larger your plate or bowl, the more food you’ll likely put on it to fill it up and vice versa. Skip the traditional large dinner plates and eat your main meal off a salad plate instead to easily cut down on calories. Both this tip and the next (keep reading!) were on our list of The 50 Best Weight-Loss Tips From Last Year.
Red dinnerware, that is. Red-hued veggies like bell peppers and tomatoes are certainly weight-loss friendly foods, but eating your meals off dishes of the same color can help you drop even more weight. Research published in the journal Appetite, found that people tend to consume less food overall when eating off of red-colored dishes.
Fill Up On Veggies
When you fill up on veggies, you’re less likely to fill out your pants. Research published in the journal PLOS Medicine linked the greater consumption of vegetables like cauliflower, brussels sprouts and broccoli to greater weight loss results when compared with diets high in low fiber foods. Filling up half your plate with vegetables it a great place to start. Try these 18 Ways to Use Cauliflower for veggie inspo!
Buy a Good Bottle
Shop around a bit, buy yourself one nice looking water bottle and give it a permanent home on your desk at work. Research published in the journal Obesity, supports the claim that drinking more water does in fact promote greater weight loss, especially when consumed before a meal. If your water bottle is always around, there’s no excuse not to take a few sips from it.
Don’t Eat From the Bag
Remove your hand from the bag and grab a bowl. It might be tempting to sit on the couch and much on a bag of Tostitos, but research published in the journal Food Quality and Preference has found that just a few bites are enough to satisfy your cravings just as well as a larger serving, minus all the added calories.
Eat Full Fat Foods
Fat free food doesn’t necessarily translate to less fat in the body. The issue with many reduced-fat or fat free food items is that they’re often replaced with artificial ingredients and can be less satisfying overall thanks to the low fat content. Findings from numerous studies published in the European Journal of Nutrition discovered that study participants who ate full fat dairy tended weighed less and gained less weight over time. We also advise that 1% organic is an excellent option; see more lightning-quick answers like that with these 42 Food Qs From Millennials—Answered in 5 Words or Less.
Brush Your Teeth After Dinner
An old trick of the trade, brushing your teeth after a meal or snack not only will keep your pearly whites healthy and shiny, but it may also deter you from reaching for food soon after. The minty fresh feeling helps reduce the temptation to eat again, especially when you’re only reaching for that candy bar out of boredom.
Don’t Buy Junk Food
It’s pretty simple: If you don’t have junk food in your house, chances are you won’t eat as much junk food. If you vow not to buy the “bad stuff” in the first place or only purchase your vices in small amounts, you’re less likely to gorge on unhealthy foods and more likely to hit your weight loss goals.
Shop the Perimeter
Unless you’re low on spices, sticking to the outskirts of the grocery store could help you take home a healthier haul without even trying. Most processed foods tend to be shelved in the middle aisles of the store, while fresh produce, lean meats and the freezer aisles are located around the perimeter. If you don’t walk by those Oreos, you’re less likely to throw them into your cart impulsively.
Speak with a Registered Dietitian
“Online there are a lot of great resources, but I would always recommend hiring a registered dietitian to get started. For many people nutrition and fitness isn’t their expertise, so hire the professional!” says White. If you’re worried about the expense, check with your insurance company first. White shares that many dietitians and insurance companies are beginning to work together to help reduce the cost of nutrition services. Not ready to make the call yet? Then keep scoping out the ETNT site for great articles like 27 Foods Nutritionists Are Obsessed With!
Hit Up a Personal Trainer
If you want to lose weight, it’s best you talk to someone who is well-versed in the process. Again, if the expense is something you’re concerned about it doesn’t hurt to weigh your options and do a little digging. “Even getting personal training just for an initial month to stay educated is a great way to get help with your health goals,” says White. Even a free consultation at your gym could be enough to point you in the right direction. You can also view tons of fitness videos online.
Sync Your Fitbit
Increasing your activity levels could be as simple as being aware of your current activity. Actually using your fitness tracker or investing in one is a great way to start. “From your fitbit to your Garmin watch to your Nike Fuel Band–they all have calorie and fitness tracking abilities. Are they 100% accurate? No, but they’re pretty good. Using technology can help boost your motivation, too. It makes you want to park farther from the mall to get those extra steps in,” says White. Just like calories add up, so do small changes in daily activity—and walking for weight loss can be more effective than you may think!
Monitor Your Heart
Just as you would monitor your steps with your Fitbit, you can also monitor your activity by paying attention to your heart rate. White suggests that one of the best ways to boost weight loss is to crank up the intensity of your workouts, and wearing a heart rate monitor can help you do so. “Buy a heart rate monitor and try keeping your heart rate at the 80/85% mark, which would be a pretty high intensity,” says White.
Supplement With Green Tea
If water has you bored, trying slipping some green tea into your refreshment mix. Research supported by the National Institutes of Health found that consuming decaffeinated green tea in conjunction with regular exercise could boost weight loss efforts further.
It may not be Spring yet, but if you ever find yourself picking up a casual game of tennis with friends suggest playing rounds of singles instead of doubles. “We only have half an hour sometimes per day to workout or maybe an hour, so we might as well push as much as we can. For instance, playing singles versus doubles tennis there’s a big difference in physical exertion,” says White. The same rule could be applied to any sport or exercise you prefer—less players means more work you have to do and more calories burned in the end.
Time Your Workouts
The time in which you workout during the day may affect your weight loss, although some activity is always preferred over none. While the morning hours are often recommended by the experts, sometimes a 6 A.M. spin class just isn’t in the cards for us. “Exercise before bed is not the best time because it can interfere with sleep, which is important for weight loss. If you have to exercise at night just watch how close you do it to bed. Give yourself three hours before you go to bed,” says White. Bonus: Can’t Sleep? Avoid These 20 Foods That Keep You Up at Night