There’s a lot more to losing weight than simply eating better and working out. If you want to dramatically increase your chances for long-term success, you’ll also want to modify the behavior that surrounds your meals and physical activity.
Surprising Weight Loss Tricks
Exercise is key to most weight loss plans because it helps you burn more calories, and more calories burned equals more pounds lost. But what if you hate exercise? Is it required to lose weight? It certainly helps you stay healthier (by revving your heart rate and building your muscles.) But it is not mandatory. There are ways to lose pounds without exercising. Here’s how:
1. Dim the lights and lower the noise
In a study by Cornell researcher Brain Wansink, Ph.D., people who went to a fast food restaurant where the lighting was softer and the music was more soothing ate, on average, 175 fewer calories than those who ate in the same place with bright lights and blaring music.
Wansink, the Dyson professor of consumer behavior and the author of the soon-to-be-published Slim By Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Every Day Life, says two things happen when you dim the lights: you tend to eat slower and your food cools off. That’s helpful because when you rush through your meals, you usually consume more calories. And hot food is more appealing than cold food. Soggy cold French fries, for example? No thank you!
2. Reduce the size of your plate
Most American plates are 11 or 12 inches wide. If you stick to a plate that is nine or 10 inches wide, however, Dr. Wansink says you can cut about 23 percent off the amount you serve yourself (and eat.) “It’s a mindlessly easy way to cut things down,” he says.
Similarly, if you use a smaller serving spoon, you can serve yourself about 14 percent less at each meal. “Over a number of months, that can add up to a lot less food and weight loss.”
3. Announce your snacks
This doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, but it’s very effective for some: “You can eat anything you want or snack as often as you want as long as you announce—out loud—‘I’m not hungry, but I’m gong to eat this anyway.’ The typical person who does this every day for a month loses 1.9 pounds.”
Why? “It breaks mindlessly negative eating behavior,” Dr. Wansink says. You’re not saying, “I can’t have this,” but you’re saying ‘I really have to fess up to what I’m doing’.”
4. Weigh yourself
A lot of people are in “fat denial,” says Irene Rubaum Keller, R.D. author of Foodaholic: The Seven Stages to Permanent Weight Loss. “They don’t get on scale, they buy stretchy clothes, they hide in the back of pictures—things that stop them from owning up to their weight.” Getting on the scale can stop the denial. “It may not help you lose weight, but may really stop you from gaining weight,” she says.
To weigh yourself fairly, Rubaum Keller suggests stepping on the scale in the morning after you’ve gone to the bathroom. Weigh yourself naked or wearing whatever you wear to bed. Do it exactly that way for seven days, recording your weight each day. Then, total the number and divide by seven. That will be your average (and most true) weight over the seven-day period. Based on that weight, you can then begin a weight loss plan or decide that you are happy where you are.
5. Keep a food journal
Writing down what you eat every day keeps you honest and really makes you aware of how much you’re eating. “It’s one of the most important things you can do,” says Rubaum Keller. “Yet it’s one of the things that people really resist. They think it’s so hard, but it really only takes a few minutes.”
If you want a place to keep track online, Keller recommends Loseit.com.
6. Get enough sleep
Did you ever notice that when you’re sleepy, you tend to eat more? Your observation is backed by science: Studies have shown that tired people put more food in their mouths. There is some debate as to why.
Marie Pierre St. Onge, Ph.D., assistant professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and research associate at New York Obesity Research Center, says some studies have shown that sleep deprived people produce more ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite. But the problem is not just physiological. It’s psychological, too, she says. In brain scans of sleep-deprived people, St. Onge says, the portion of the brain involved in rewards and pleasure lights up when they eat—more so than their well-rested counterparts.
“The food is more rewarding and satisfying and it probably creates this reinforcing cycle—you eat and then you want to eat more,” St. Onge says. Add to that the reality that a tired brain is less able to control its impulses, and you can see that a well rested person is much better able to moderate his or her eating.
7. Eat a good breakfast
And that doesn’t mean pile up the bacon, hash browns, and breakfast breads. Eat a heavy-on-protein breakfast every day, says Dr. Wansink, and you’ll control your hunger long into the day. For breakfast consider eggs, yogurt, or peanut butter. And, says Rubaum Keller, don’t let more than three hours pass between eating. Be sure to have small snacks available to eat between meals.