On paper, it seems like weight loss should be so simple: Calories in through food; calories out through activity. It doesn't take a Ph.D. in nutrition or exercise science to understand this basic equation—and for some people, weight loss follows this tried-and-true path. But many dieters find themselves hitting a wall, unable to achieve their weight-loss goals through this strategy, and research increasingly shows that a one-size-fits-all approach may set us up for failure.
Meatless Monday is more than just an alliteration; it’s an easy way to drop a few pounds. Numerous studies have shown that those who eat the least amount of meat are less likely to be obese, have lower BMIs, and lower body fat levels. Though it’s perfectly fine to eat meat a few times a week, these high-protein foods tend to fill you up before you can work your way over to the veggies, which possess fat-fighting, waist-trimming powers. Try spotlighting just greens and healthy grains in your meals a few times a month.
Get this: Nearly 80 percent of National Weight Control Registry members—who have lost an average of 66 lbs and kept it off for 5.5 years—regularly eat breakfast. Though researchers haven’t discovered a definite connection between the morning meal and weight loss, one theory is that when you start your day with something healthy and satiating it helps set a healthy tone for the rest of the day. To get on board, whip up one of these 50 Best Overnight Oats Recipes or enjoy an omelet with some Ezekiel bread and some berries.
When you’re done cooking, portion out just enough for your meal and pack the rest away. Putting your food away asap will not only keep it fresh for future meals but it will also deter you from mindlessly nibbling and eating more than the desired portion size. Same goes for when you’re dining out: Ask for a to-go box along with your meal, that way you can pack away the leftovers and aren’t tempted to overeat. When noshing on the leftovers at your next meal, you can also experiment with adding some additional fiber or protein to give the dish a nutritional boost.
Having a healthy option at your fingertips when you’re starving can make all the difference between sticking to your goals and giving in to temptation. “I keep little containers of hummus and carrots, pickles, nuts and dried apricots, salsa and rice crackers, and other healthy combos in the front of my fridge and pantry so they are literally the first thing I see when I open the door,” says Lita Moreno. “I don’t even give myself a choice to cheat.” This one little change has helped her drop almost 80 pounds.
To help combat the negative impact of artificial light, try working close to a window. Researchers have discovered that those who sit near a window tend to be healthier than those who don’t. Per a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, workers near a window got 46 more minutes of sleep a night on average, which is beneficial to weight loss, while workers who weren’t near a window had more sleep disturbances. Additional research has shown that those exposed to natural light during the workweek tended to be more inspired to get outside and exercise.
Unsurprisingly, the results showed that nothing had happened to the weight of the women receiving calcium or the placebo. However, the group which took the multivitamin lost more weight – about 3 kg more – and improved their health markers. Among other things, their basal metabolic rate (the rate at which the body burns calories when at rest) increased.
“I have one heck of a sweet tooth, and so I have to refuse to bring candy, cake, or sweets into the house, period,” say Lin Williams, who’s lost 105 pounds. Instead, if she wants a treat she has to want it bad enough to get up, get in the car, leave her home, and go to the store—a process that rarely feels worth it. And on the rare occasion she does indulge? “I get exactly what I want and enjoy every bite of it!” she says.
Wansink and his team found that people who sat by a window or in a well-lit part of a restaurant tended to order healthier foods than those who sat at darker tables or in booths. And diners sitting within two tables of the bar drank an average of three more beers or mixed drinks (per table of four) than those sitting farther away. Additionally, the closer a person was to a TV, the more fried food he or she ordered. Whether or not these choices are causal remains to be determined, but it can't hurt to request a table by the window, right?
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.
Counting calories may have helped you lose weight initially, but as you might have guessed, it’s not a habit you can maintain for life. Instead, hold onto your flat belly with the help of the plate rule. “I never recommend counting calories to any of my clients,” says Smith. “ Instead, I tell them to fill 50% of their plate at each meal with non-starchy vegetables like kale, broccoli and carrots. This ensures that they’ll take in a fair amount of fiber, which promotes satiety and weight maintenance.” (Unrefined carbohydrates like beans, sweet potatoes and whole grains should make up a fourth of the plate and the last fourth should be reserved for lean proteins.) Research backs Smith’s claim: A Brigham Young University College study found that women who consume more fiber have a significantly lower risk of gaining weight than those who eat less of the nutrient, likely because they consumed fewer overall calories throughout the day.
Even if you’re stocking up on fruits and veggies, buying inorganic may be doing your body a disservice, thanks to the pesticides. “They have been shown to poison the mitochondria so it cannot burn fuel,” says Walter Crinnion, N.D., chairman of the environmental medicine department at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Phoenix in Weight Loss Tricks You Haven’t Tried. “Fuel that is not burned turns to fat.” If you’re worried about breaking your budget at Whole Foods, start by stocking up on these 17 Cheap Organic Foods You Must Buy.