Something tells us you won’t miss those extra pounds.
Studies show that the simpler your diet, the easier it is to stick to over the long haul. Follow these steps to streamline your plan and shed unwanted pounds for good.
1. Make friends with your scale. If you want to lose weight, think of your scale as a friend, not a foe. Weigh yourself once a day, first thing in the morning after going to the bathroom and getting undressed (water weight and clothing can throw off the number). Track your results, and stay motivated by following the weight graph’s changes over the next few weeks.
2. Post goals in spots you’ll see. Keep yours top of mind by writing them down and posting in several places where you’ll notice them often—on your computer monitor, on the fridge, in your wallet. Then tell someone about it. Research conducted by the Dominican University of California showed that people who wrote down their goals, shared them with a friend, and then followed up with weekly updates were, on average, 33 percent more successful than those who didn’t write down their goals or share them with others.
3. Write down every bite, nibble, and swallow. According to recent studies, participants who keep a daily food journal lose twice as much weight as those who don’t. Keep track today by recording the food and portion size. Don’t forget to write down beverage calories, too. While tracking every day leads to more weight loss success, do what feels right to you. If tracking for two days a week is more realistic, then commit to completing that goal and staying mindful of what you eat the other days.
4. Eat breakfast every single day. Eating breakfast is like giving your metabolism a little jolt, causing it to rise faster and burn calories at an optimal rate. It can also help you keep weight off in the long term. According to data from the National Weight Control Registry on people who have maintained a weight loss of around 30 pounds for at least a year, 78 percent of the people reported eating breakfast every day. What you eat for breakfast is key, says Angela Ginn, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She suggests you choose foods with a lower glycemic index to keep blood sugar low and energy high, such as barley, which is high in fiber and has a nutty, wholesome flavor. “Get hulled barley and make it the same way you would oatmeal, and add healthy toppings,” says Ginn.
5. Think outside the apple. Change up the old standby fruits and veggies you’ve been rotating in your daily menu. Try Clementines, figs, or Asian pears—whatever’s in season and isn’t more of the same old apples, bananas, and baby carrots.
6. Plan healthy snacks like you do meals. Prepare for afternoon hunger with nutritious snacks you bring from home, says Jim White, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Writing down what snacks you’ll eat and when you’ll have them will keep you from grazing, so you’ll be less likely to overeat, he says. Aim to have your snack three to four hours after lunch to keep energy revved.
7. Ramp up water intake. People who drink about 7 cups of water a day eat nearly 200 fewer calories than those who get less than a glass a day, reports a study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Hunger and thirst are easy to confuse, says Marjorie Nolan, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “The last thing you want when you’re trying to lose weight is to think you’re hungry when you’re actually thirsty.” In order to get those seven cups in, drink one cup with each meal and snack, have a cup before and after your workout, and make time for a cup of decaf tea in the afternoon or evening.
8. Take dinnertime down a notch. Slow it down—you’ll feel fuller faster, plus research shows that the more you chew, the more nutrients your body absorbs. Sip water often, put your fork down between bites, and chew a few more times than you normally do so you’ll be less likely to overeat. Nolan suggests her patients practice these tips to slow down during meals and become more aware of their hunger signals:
- Concentrate on the taste, texture, and temperature of every bite.
- Always set the table.
- Take a deep breath before each bite.
- Experiment with using chopsticks.
9. Shake up your menu. Keep your day-to-day meals fresh by making a new, healthy recipe today. It could be as simple as a five-minute flat belly meal or one of our seasonal slow-cooker recipes.
10. Eat your last meal later. Contrary to popular belief, eating late at night won’t make you gain weight. Adjusting your dinner hour to a later time actually saves calories by curbing the urge to nosh in front of the TV. “Having dinner a little bit later—but at least two hours before sleeping—helps prevent mindless snacking, which often happens in the evening,” says Nolan.
11. Stop distracted eating. Don’t eat in front of the TV, when you’re on the computer, or while reading—all situations that encourage mindless noshing. Instead, sit down at the table when you eat. If you have to eat lunch at your desk, turn away from the computer and take a few minutes to enjoy your meal—no work distractions allowed. If you’re used to snacking in front of the TV, take that time to paint your nails, straighten up the living room during commercials, or use a teeth-whitening strip.
12. Find a low-calorie go-to dessert. You know you’re going to crave sweets, so get prepared with a healthier version. Keep dark chocolate squares in individual packets for a quick, chocolate fix at work, and store low-fat frozen treats in the freezer at home (keep them under 150 calories each).
13. Look for ways to fidget. Mayo Clinic researchers discovered that people who tap their feet, fidget, and move around more burn 350 extra calories a day—that’s enough to burn off a slice of pizza! If you’re not a natural-born fidgeter, try a quickie workout—even 10 minutes dancing around your kitchen after dinner. “Get up once an hour for five minutes,” suggests Nancy Snyderman, M.D., chief medical editor for NBC News and author of Diet Myths That Keep Us Fat. Increase your calorie burn throughout the workday with these seven tips.
14. Commit to eight hours of sleep. Tiredness could be the reason your cravings are out of control. Research shows that lack of sleep raises levels of ghrelin, a hunger-boosting hormone. In one study, appetite—particularly for sweet and salty foods—increased by 23 percent in people who lacked sleep. Get back in control by going to bed earlier for the recommended seven to nine hours a night. If you have trouble settling down, try this nighttime yoga routine to relax and fall asleep faster.
15. Get rid of “fat clothes.” Are you using too-large clothing as a crutch in case you gain more weight? Yeah, stop that. Go through your closets and drawers, and get rid of anything that’s too big for you right now that you haven’t worn in a while. Donate the clothes to a local Dress for Success organization, or try selling them online.
16. Switch up your cocktail. The next time you’re out with friends, choose a type of wine or bottle of beer that isn’t your usual standby, suggests White. Take your time sipping it slowly and savoring the flavors; you’ll be more likely to make it last longer and drink less instead of gulping down one after another. If cocktails are your thing, try a vodka and club soda combo with a splash of juice, or order a glass of bubbly—both drinks are under 150 calories.
17. Wear a form-fitting outfit on Fridays. “Friday is the day most people fall off their diet,” says Ginn. “I tell clients to wear something form-fitting on Friday or when they go out to eat. This will curb the urge to overindulge and help you stay motivated while losing weight.”