How to Lose Weight: 42 Fast, Easy Tips
All credit goes to Reader's Digest Editors from the book Stealth Health
1. Write down what you eat for one week and you will lose weight.
Studies found that people who keep food diaries wind up eating about 15 percent less food than those who don’t. Watch out for weekends: A University of North Carolina study found people tend to consume an extra 115 calories per weekend day, primarily from alcohol and fat. (Though good news: You can work out only on weekends and still lose weight.) Then cut out or down calories from spreads, dressings, sauces, condiments, drinks, and snacks; they could make the difference between weight gain and loss. Don’t miss these other tricks for stopping weekend weight gain.
2. Add 10 percent to the amount of daily calories you think you’re eating
If you think you’re consuming 1,700 calories a day and don’t understand why you’re not losing weight, add another 170 calories to your guesstimate. Chances are, the new number is more accurate. Adjust your eating habits accordingly. For instance, your cup of coffee might have more calories than you thought.
3. Get an online weight loss buddy to lose more weight
A University of Vermont study found that online weight-loss buddies help you keep the weight off. The researchers followed volunteers for 18 months. Those assigned to an Internet-based weight maintenance program sustained their weight loss better than those who met face-to-face in a support group. You and your weight loss buddy can share tips like these ways to lose weight without exercise.
4. Get a weight-loss mantra
You’ve heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy? If you keep focusing on things you can’t do, like resisting junk food or getting out the door for a daily walk, chances are you won’t do them. Instead (whether you believe it or not) repeat positive thoughts to yourself. “I can lose weight.” “I will get out for my walk today.” “I know I can resist the pastry cart after dinner.” Repeat these phrases and before too long, they will become true for you. Try these other daily mantras that can help you reach your goals.
5. After breakfast, stick to water
At breakfast, go ahead and drink orange juice. But throughout the rest of the day, focus on water instead of juice or soda. The average American consumes an extra 245 calories a day from soft drinks. That’s nearly 90,000 calories a year—or 25 pounds! And research shows that despite the calories, sugary drinks don’t trigger a sense of fullness the way that food does. Find out how to tell if you drink too many of your calories.
6. Eat three fewer bites of your meal
…or one less treat a day, or one less glass of orange juice. Doing any of these can save you about 100 calories a day, and that alone is enough to prevent you from gaining the two pounds most people mindlessly pack on each year. Check out these other weight loss tricks that don’t require diet or exercise.
7. Watch one less hour of TV
A study of 76 undergraduate students found the more they watched television, the more often they ate and the more they ate overall. Sacrifice one program (there’s probably one you don’t really want to watch anyway) and go for a walk instead—in even just 15 minutes, you’ll reap these amazing benefits of walking. And during your favorite shows, get off the couch and try these exercises you can do while watching TV.
8. Wash something thoroughly once a week
Whether that’s a floor, a couple of windows, the shower stall, bathroom tile, your car, or one of these everyday items no one cleans enough, a 150-pound person will burn about four calories for every minute spent cleaning. Scrub for 30 minutes and you could work off approximately 120 calories, the same number in a half-cup of vanilla frozen yogurt. If you do treat yourself with fro yo, stick with these nutritionist-approved toppings.
9. Wait until your stomach rumbles before you reach for food
It’s stunning how often we eat out of boredom, nervousness, habit, or frustration—so often, in fact, that many of us have actually forgotten what physical hunger feels like. (Don’t miss these other common reasons you can’t stop eating.) If you’re hankering for a specific food, it’s probably a craving, not hunger. If you’d eat anything you could get your hands on, chances are you’re truly hungry. Learn how to recognize these feelings mistaken for hunger, then find ways other than eating to express love, tame stress, and relieve boredom. But talk to your doctor if you think you’re always hungry for a medical reason.
10. Sniff a banana, an apple, or a peppermint when you feel hungry
You might feel silly, but it works. When Alan R. Hirsch, MD, neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, tried this with 3,000 volunteers, he found that the more frequently people sniffed, the less hungry they were and the more weight they lost—an average of 30 pounds each. One theory is that sniffing the food tricks the brain into thinking you’re actually eating it. Use these other tricks to become a more mindful eater.
11. Stare at the color blue
There’s a good reason you won’t see many fast-food restaurants decorated in blue: it functions as an appetite suppressant. So serve up dinner on blue plates, dress in blue while you eat, and cover your table with a blue tablecloth. Conversely, avoid red, yellow, and orange in your dining areas. Studies find they encourage eating. Don’t miss these other kitchen changes to help you eat less without noticing.
12. Eat in front of mirrors and you’ll lose weight
One study found that eating in front of mirrors slashed the amount people ate by nearly one-third. Having to look yourself in the eye reflects back some of your own inner standards and goals, and reminds you of why you’re trying to lose weight in the first place. Try more easy mind tricks that help you lose weight.
13. Spend 10 minutes a day walking up and down stairs
The Centers for Disease Control says that’s all it takes to help you shed as much as 10 pounds a year (assuming you don’t start eating more). Check out these other tricks for squeezing in more steps every day.
14. Walk five minutes for at least every two hours
Stuck at a desk all day? A brisk five-minute walk every two hours will parlay into an extra 20-minute walk by the end of the day, and getting moving is more beneficial than a standing desk. Plus, getting a break will make you less likely to reach for snacks out of antsiness. While you’re up, use this effective stretch for avoiding back pain.
15. You’ll lose weight and fat if you walk 45 minutes a day, not 30
The reason we’re suggesting 45 minutes instead of the typical 30 is that a Duke University study found that while 30 minutes of daily walking is enough to prevent weight gain in most relatively sedentary people, exercise beyond 30 minutes results in weight and fat loss. Burning an additional 300 calories a day with three miles of brisk walking (45 minutes should do it) could help you lose 30 pounds in a year without even changing how much you’re eating. If you ned motivation, try these secrets of women who work out every day.
16. Don’t buy any prepared food
… that lists sugar, fructose, or corn syrup among the first four ingredients on the label. You should be able to find a lower-sugar version of the same type of food. If you can’t, grab a piece of fruit instead, especially if you show signs you’re eating too much sugar. Look for sugar-free varieties of foods such as ketchup, mayonnaise, salad dressing, and these other foods with way more sugar than you realize. Also, avoid partially hydrogenated foods, and look for more than two grams of fiber per 100 calories in all grain products. Finally, a short ingredient list means fewer flavor enhancers and empty calories. Sounds impossible, but you can actually learn how to give up sugar without missing it.
17. Put your fork or spoon down between every bite
At the table, sip water frequently. Intersperse your eating with stories for your dining partner of the amusing things that happened during your day. Your brain lags your stomach by about 20 minutes when it comes to satiety (fullness) signals. If you eat slowly enough, your brain will catch up to tell you that you are no longer in need of food. Check out this other trick that helps you eat less.
18. Throw out your “fat” clothes for good
Once you’ve started losing weight, throw out or give away every piece of clothing that doesn’t fit, and fill your closet with a dress that shows off your favorite body part. The idea of having to buy a whole new wardrobe if you gain the weight back will serve as a strong incentive to stay fit.
19. Close the kitchen for 12 hours
After dinner, wash all the dishes, wipe down the counters, turn out the light, and, if necessary, tape closed the cabinets and refrigerator. Late-evening eating significantly increases the overall number of calories you eat, a University of Texas study found. Learning how to stop late-night snacking can save 300 or more calories a day, or 31 pounds a year. Learn more about how eating late at night makes you fat.
20. Walk before dinner and you’ll cut calories AND your appetite
In a study of ten obese women conducted at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, 20 minutes of walking reduced appetite and increased sensations of fullness as effectively as a light meal.
21. Make one social outing this week an active one
Pass on the movies and screen the views of a local park instead. Not only will you sit less, but you’ll be saving calories because you won’t chow down on that bucket of popcorn. Other active ideas: a tennis match, a guided nature or city walk (check your local listings), a bike ride, bowling, and these sneaky workouts you can do while hanging out with friends.
22. Hook on a step tracker, and aim for an extra 1,000 steps a day
Are you showing signs you need to move more? On average, sedentary people take only 2,000 to 3,000 steps a day. Adding 2,000 steps will help you maintain your current weight and stop gaining weight; adding more than that will help you lose weight.
23. Put less food out and you’ll take less in
Conversely, the more food in front of you, the more you’ll eat—regardless of how hungry you are. So instead of using regular dinner plates that range these days from 10 to 14 inches (making them look empty if they’re not heaped with food), serve your main course on salad plates (about 7 to 9 inches wide). Instead of 16-ounce glasses and oversized coffee mugs, return to the old days of 8-ounce glasses and 6-ounce coffee cups. Try these other tricks for eating in moderation.
24. Eat 90 percent of your meals at home
You’re more likely to eat more—and eat more high-fat, high-calorie foods—when you eat out than when you eat at home. Restaurants today serve such large portions that many have switched to larger plates and tables to accommodate them. You’ll gasp when you see just how bad the unhealthiest restaurant meals in America are. If cooking sounds like too much work, steal these tips from working parents who cook every night.
25. Serve food on your plate instead of on platters
If you eat your dinner restaurant style on your plate rather than family style, helping yourself from bowls and platters on the table, you’ll lose weight. Most of us tend to eat an average of 150 percent more calories in the evening than in the morning. You’ll avoid that now because when your plate is empty, you’re finished; there’s no reaching for seconds. Check out these other sneaky ways to get your family to eat better.
26. Don’t eat with a large group
A study published in the Journal of Physiological Behavior found that we tend to eat more when we eat with other people, most likely because we spend more time at the table. But eating with your significant other or your family, and using table time for talking in between chewing, can help cut down on calories. Don’t miss these other tricks to start eating better in just one day.
27. Order the smallest portion of everything
If you’re out and ordering a sub, get the six-inch sandwich. Buy a small popcorn, a small salad, a small hamburger. Again, studies find we tend to eat what’s in front of us, even though we’d feel just as full on less. Try these portion-control tricks when you’re dishing your own food.
28. Eat water-rich foods and you’ll eat fewer calories overall
A body of research out of Pennsylvania State University finds that eating water-rich foods such as zucchini, tomatoes, and cucumbers during meals reduces your overall calorie consumption. Other water-rich foods include soups and salads. You won’t get the same benefits by just drinking your water, though (but you will get other benefits of staying hydrated). Because the body processes hunger and thirst through different mechanisms, it simply doesn’t register a sense of fullness with water (or soda, tea, coffee, or juice). Learn how to tell if you need to eat more vegetables.
29. Bulk up your meals with veggies
You can eat twice as much pasta salad loaded with veggies like broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes for the same calories as a pasta salad sporting just mayonnaise. Same goes for stir-fries, omelets, and other veggie-friendly dishes. If you eat a 1:1 ratio of grains to veggies, the high-fiber veggies will help satisfy your hunger before you overeat the grains. Bonus: Fiber is highly beneficial for preventing constipation, which can make you look bloated. Find out if your diet doesn’t have enough fiber.
30. Avoid white foods
There is some scientific legitimacy to today’s lower-carb diets: Large amounts of simple carbohydrates from white flour and added sugar can wreak havoc on your blood sugar and lead to weight gain. While avoiding sugar, white rice, and white flour, however, you should eat plenty of whole-grain breads and brown rice. One Harvard study of 74,000 women found that those who ate more than two daily servings of whole grains were 49 percent less likely to be overweight than those who ate the white stuff. Plus, whole grains can even make you smarter.
31. Switch to ordinary coffee
Fancy coffee drinks from trendy coffee joints often pack several hundred calories, thanks to whole milk, whipped cream, sugar, and sugary syrups. A cup of regular coffee with skim milk has just a small fraction of those calories. And when brewed with good beans, it tastes just as great. You can also try nonfat powdered milk in coffee. You’ll get the nutritional benefits of skim milk, which is high in calcium and low in calories. And, because the water has been removed, powdered milk doesn’t dilute the coffee the way skim milk does. Try these other calorie-free coffee hacks to wean off the bad stuff.
32. If you’re going to indulge, choose fat-releasing foods
They should help keep you from feeling deprived and bingeing on higher-calorie foods. For instance: honey has just 64 fat-releasing calories in one tablespoon. Eggs have just 70 calories in one hard-boiled egg, loaded with fat-releasing protein. Part-skim ricotta cheese has just 39 calories in one ounce, packed with fat-releasing calcium. Dark chocolate has about 168 calories in a one-ounce square, but it’s packed with fat releasers. And a University of Tennessee study found that people who cut 500 calories a day and ate yogurt three times a day for 12 weeks lost more weight and body fat than a group that only cut the calories. The researchers concluded that the calcium in low-fat dairy foods triggers a hormonal response that inhibits the body’s production of fat cells and boosts the breakdown of fat. Add these other fat-burning foods to your diet, too.
33. Enjoy high-calorie treats as the accent, not the centerpiece
Eating dessert every day can be good for you, as long as you don’t overdo it. Make a spoonful of ice cream the jewel and a bowl of fruit the crown. Cut down on the chips by pairing each bite with lots of chunky, filling fresh salsa, suggests Jeff Novick, director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Florida. Balance a little cheese with a lot of fruit or salad.
34. Eat cereal for breakfast five days a week
Studies find that people who eat cereal for breakfast every day are significantly less likely to be obese and have diabetes than those who don’t. They also consume more fiber and calcium—and less fat—than those who eat other breakfast foods. Make oatmeal, or pour out a high-fiber, low-sugar cereal like Total or Grape Nuts, and boost it up with these healthy cereal hacks.
35. Try hot sauce, salsa, and Cajun seasonings
They provide lots of flavor with no fat and few calories, plus they turn up your digestive fires, causing your body to temporarily burn more calories. Choose them over butter and creamy or sugary sauces. Learn more ways to eat less fat without missing the taste.
36. Eat fruit instead of drinking fruit juice
For the calories in one kid-size box of apple juice, you can enjoy an apple, orange, and a slice of watermelon. These whole foods will keep you satisfied much longer than that box of apple juice, so you’ll eat less overall. Check out these other healthy food swaps you never thought of.
37. Drop your milk type and you cut calories by about 20 percent
If you drink regular, go to 2%. If you already drink 2%, go down another notch to 1% or skim milk. Each step downward cuts the calories by about 20 percent. Once you train your taste buds to enjoy skim milk, you’ll have cut the calories in the whole milk by about half and trimmed the fat by more than 95 percent. One disclaimer: There are times when fat-free dairy isn’t the best option.
38. Snack on a small handful of nuts
Studies have found that overweight people who ate a moderate-fat diet containing almonds lost more weight than a control group that didn’t eat nuts. Snacking once or twice a day helps stave off hunger and keeps your metabolism stoked. You can also pack up baby carrots or your own trail mix with the 5 healthiest nuts you can eat, plus raisins, seeds, and dried fruit. If trail mix isn’t calling your name, try these healthy snacks for every craving.
39. Get most of your calories before noon
Studies find that the more you eat in the morning, the less you’ll eat in the evening. And you have more opportunities to burn off those early-day calories than you do to burn off dinner calories. Just don’t make these healthy breakfast mistakes that can ruin your good intentions.
40. Brush your teeth after every meal, especially dinner
That clean, minty freshness will serve as a cue to your body and brain that mealtime is over. Try these other tricks to stop eating when you’re not hungry.
41. Serve food in courses
Instead of piling everything on one plate, bring food to the table in individual courses. For the first two courses, bring out soup or veggies such as a green salad or the most filling fruits and vegetables. By the time you get to the more calorie-dense foods, like meat and dessert, you’ll be eating less or may already be full. Nothing wrong with leftovers!
42. Don’t pour dressing
You already know to get your dressing on the side because restaurants tend to drown salads with too much. (Learn more ways a salad can make you fat.) But instead of pouring it on or even dipping the leaves in, do the “fork dip.” Stick the tongs of an empty fork into the dish of dressing before skewering any salad. You’ll be surprised by how much flavor you’ll get, but with way fewer calories.