Despite conventional wisdom, maintaining a major weight loss doesn’t mean giving up croissants and cookies for good. It does, however, require cutting calories where you won’t miss ’em anyway so indulging from time to time won’t do any damage to your waistline. Swap fries for apple slices at McDonald’s, keep the cheese off your sandwiches and salads and ask for the sauce on the side when you dine out at a restaurant. Believe it or not, these simple tweaks will save you hundreds of calories—without drastically altering the taste of your meals. For even more calorie-saving tips, check out these 25 Ways to Cut 250 Calories!
Hold your horses; we’re not giving you the go to order a bubbling skillet of mac and cheese three times a day, but taking a break from your diet may be the secret weapon you need to ward off pesky pounds. An eye-opening study in the International Journal of Obesity found that participants who deviated from their low-calorie diets for two weeks ended up weighing 18 pounds than those who didn’t ditch their diet—even six months later! Although, there is a catch: During your double cheat week, you should be eating enough calories to maintain your current weight—not increase it. (Use a calorie calculator can help you find your caloric maintenance level.)
“Many people think that they can eat whatever they want as long as they work out. But the truth is, if you are looking to lose or maintain your weight, what you put in your body is significantly more important than hitting the gym. Exercise is important to keep your body healthy, but just because you work out for an hour or more per day, it doesn’t give you the liberty to eat whatever you want!” Ilyse Schapiro, MS, RDN, Co-Author of Should I Scoop out My Bagel tells us in 22 Top Weight Loss Tips, According to Nutritionists.
The challenge of the Presidential Sports Award program is for Americans to make a commitment to fitness through active and regular participation in sports and fitness activities. Earning the award means that an individual has put in time and effort to meet the challenge of personal fitness. The award recognizes this achievement and the fact that the individual is part of a nationwide effort toward a healthier, more vital America.
Most low-carb diets advocate replacing carbs with protein and fat, which could have some negative long-term effects on your health. If you do try a low-carb diet, you can reduce your risks and limit your intake of saturated and trans fats by choosing lean meats, fish and vegetarian sources of protein, low-fat dairy products, and eating plenty of leafy green and non-starchy vegetables.
As part of an eight-year study that included nearly 50,000 women, Harvard researchers tracked what happened when people either slashed their intake of sweetened drinks or started consuming more of them. Not surprisingly, the participants who raised their sugary-drink intake gained weight and increased their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. In fact, the more people's sweet-drink intake increased, the more weight they gained and the more their disease risk went up.
You're more likely to stay slim if the view out your window includes hills, water, a park, or a street that leads to one of those things. In a North Carolina study, counties with more natural amenities, including mountains and lakes, had lower obesity rates. "It could be that there's something healing and calming about simply being outside," says Stephanie Jilcott Pitts, PhD, an assistant professor at East Carolina University. For instance, research has shown that people tend to be happier walking outdoors than inside. They also stride faster, yet feel less exertion, than they do on a treadmill. Not only that, hoofing it outside curbs cravings along with calories: In a study, regular chocolate eaters who took a brisk 15-minute stroll consumed about half as much of their favorite treat as those who didn't go for a walk. So take your workout outdoors. If your neighborhood isn't made for exercising, find a park nearby and head there as often as you can to bike, run, or hike.
If you often find yourself binge-watching your favorite reality series or catching up on emails come midnight, you may be doing your body a disservice. A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that participants who slept over seven hours a night and reported better sleep quality, longer sleep duration, and shorter latency to sleep onset were actually able to maintain their weight loss more successfully than those who got less than six or seven hours of shut-eye. Plus, those who considered themselves early birds also reported better weight-loss maintenance. If you need help clocking in more hours of beauty rest, turn to our tried-and-true 20 Ways to Double Your Sleep Quality.
No matter how minute your cabinet space or how kid-friendly your kitchen, cereal boxes should always be stashed out of sight and never on your countertops. Why? Because if you have even one box of cereal on your counter, you're likely to weigh a startling 21 pounds more than someone who doesn't, concludes Wansink's research. And women, who tend to spend more time in the kitchen than men do, are especially vulnerable to cereal. "It has what we call a 'health halo'," says Wansink. "Its boxes are covered with phrases like 'contains whole grain' and 'now with 11 essential vitamins and minerals.' This implies it's healthy, so we underestimate the calories and overeat it to reward ourselves for being so healthy." And that's especially true if we see it every time we enter the kitchen. The only food Wansink recommends keeping in full view on your kitchen counter? Fruit.
Setting lofty weight-loss goals may actually set you up for lasting success, according to the same American Journal of Preventive Medicine study. Researchers found that those who lost the most weight initially ended up losing the most weight long-term, too. The study authors stress that large weight losses come hand-in-hand with greater health benefits, including increased sustained weight loss overall.
So think of any form of low carb diet plan. Or low fat diet. Or a diet that eliminates all sugar, or wheat, or grains or gluten or whatever else. Or the paleo diet, or a vegan diet, or a raw food diet, or an organic diet. Or a diet built around only eating “clean” foods. Or any diet that puts some non-calorie-based limit on when, how or what you can eat. Or 800 other similar examples.
Loads of research demonstrates people who log everything they eat — especially those who log while they're eating — are more likely to lose weight and keep it off for the long-haul. Start tracking on an app like MyFitnessPal when the pounds start sneaking up on you. It'll help you stay accountable for what you've eaten. Plus, you can easily identify some other areas of your daily eats that could use a little improvement when it's written out in front of you.
Adding whole, natural, and anti-inflammatory foods to your diet is a great start for better health and to keep weight off. “People who consume natural, whole foods have lower rates of diabetes, obesity, cancer, and heart disease,” says Luiza Petre, M.D., NYC-based cardiologist and weight management specialist. “Anti-inflammatory foods in particular, such as low-fat dairy, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, poultry, and fish, can make a significant difference when trying to shed pounds and belly fat. They are easily digested, keep you satiated, and boost energy levels.”
To lose weight, you'll need to consume fewer calories than you burn. The exact number will depend on your current weight and activity level, but generally, people should aim to cut 250 to 1,000 calories from their diet per day in order to lose 0.5 to 2 lbs. (0.2 to 0.9 kilograms) per week. There are calculators available to help you determine how many calories you should consume per day.
Here’s your chance to splurge on those dim, overhead kitchen lights you’ve been waiting. A 2012 study published in the journal Psychological Reports: Human Resources & Marketing found those who ate in environments with soft lighting and music ate fewer calories than those who ate in bright, loud environments. So turn down the lights and turn every meal into a fine-dining experience.
You can write down what you ate, but when looking back a week later, it may be tough to visualize exactly what a meal looked like. A quicker, and perhaps more telling, alternative is to take photos of each meal. A small study showed that photographic food diaries could alter attitudes and behaviors associated with food choices more than written diaries. Grab a camera and get snapping.
Kick the diet beverages and vitamin-enhanced sugar-water, and reach for good old H2O instead. Drinking water helps people feel full, and as a result, consume fewer calories. Drinking water also significantly elevates resting energy expenditure (basically the number of calories we’d burn if we sat around all day) and lower water intake is associated with obesity.
Eating cake first thing in the morning may sound like the worst diet advice ever (or the best!), but Israeli researchers found that "obese participants who ate a breakfast high in protein and carbohydrates that included a dessert were better able to stick to their diet and keep the pounds off longer than participants who ate a low-carb, low-calorie breakfast that did not include sweets." The scientists hypothesize that allowing yourself a treat in the a.m. helps curb your cravings for sweets later in the day.
Your purchases may not be as virtuous as you think. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently analyzed Americans' shopping habits and found that 61 percentof the calories in the food we buy are from highly processed items like refined breads, cookies, crackers, soda and chips. These foods also provide higher-than-optimal levels of saturated fat, sugar and sodium. To healthy-up your cart and help with weight loss, the study authors suggest buying mostly single-ingredient foods and shopping the perimeter of the store, where the fresher, healthier stuff like produce and fish tends to live. Chew some gum while you're at it too. Research shows it could help you buy 7 percent less junk food when you shop (minty gum works best).
“Everyone has something that’s going to be more meaningful to them, so you have to figure out what is it that’s going to drive you to actually do it. Is it time saving? Is it cost saving? Is it the ability to make things simple [so that] you don’t need to think about it?” says Delaney. “To sit down on a Sunday and think about planning takes time. How am I justifying that time? Well if I add up the cost savings and the time savings throughout the week, it may have only taken me an hour on a Sunday, but during the week without having to think about it, I just saved five hours. If you do the math, it’s worth it. You’re also giving yourself back some mental space. So instead of waking up in the morning and winging it, now you have some sort of routine so you can feel more in the present and not consistently worrying about what’s coming next.”
In addition to coordinating with your dishes, the hues you surround yourself with while you chow down can impact your appetite. According to several studies, blue is an appetite suppressant. Scientists suspect this is because there aren’t many naturally-occurring blue-hued foods aside from blueberries and a handful of others. This behavior might also stem from our ancestors, who when foraging for food, stayed away from sources that were blue, black, and purple because they were believed to be poisonous. So buy some blue dishes, or freshen up your eating area with a blue tablecloth or placemats.
Have Protein at Every Meal and Snack. Adding a source of lean or low-fat protein to each meal and snack will help keep you feeling full longer so you're less likely to overeat. Try low-fat yogurt, small portion of nuts, peanut butter, eggs, beans, or lean meats. Experts also recommend eating small, frequent meals and snacks (every 3-4 hours), to keep your blood sugar levels steady and to avoid overindulging.
Sure, you can lose weight quickly. There are plenty of fad diets that work to shed pounds rapidly -- while leaving you feeling hungry and deprived. But what good is losing weight only to regain it? To keep pounds off permanently, it's best to lose weight slowly. And many experts say you can do that without going on a "diet." Instead, the key is making simple tweaks to your lifestyle.
Simply blasting the air conditioner, cracking a window open, or turning down the heat during the winter may help attack belly fat while we sleep, according to a study published in the journal Diabetes. That’s because colder temperatures subtly enhance the effectiveness of our brown fat stores—fat that keeps you warm by helping you burn through the fat stored in your belly. Participants spent a few weeks sleeping in bedrooms with varying temperatures: a neutral 75 degrees, a cool 66 degrees, and a balmy 81 degrees. After four weeks of sleeping at 66 degrees, the subjects had almost doubled their volumes of brown fat. (And yes, that means that they lost belly fat.)
Sleep not only reduces stress, helps us heal faster and prevents depression, it can also help shave off pounds. That’s because sleep loss is linked to changes in appetite and the metabolism of glucose (sugar in the blood). Moral of the story: Sleep is associated with less weight gain. Take a look at our guide to sleep positions to optimize those hours spent under the sheets. And try other solutions for extra zzz’s like turning off electronics in the bedroom and avoiding large meals late at night.