PHOTOGRAPH BY SHUTTERSTOCK
That being said, countless studies suggest that the best way to lose weight is by making small, sustainable changes you can maintain forever.
And since setting tiny goals to get healthier can result in a huge weight-loss success, we asked dietitians and trainers for their small yet mighty strategies to rev up your metabolism and send the scale on a downward spiral.
See their expert tricks:
Planning and shopping for your meals on Saturday and making them all on Sunday ensures that you have healthy food Monday through Friday to help in your weight-loss efforts, says Alissa Rumsey, R.D., C.S.C.S. Plus, you won’t be tempted to grab something unhealthy in a moment of hanger. Turn on Sunday football and start prepping.
“Increasing your non-exercise movement by walking around every hour will increase your overall calorie burn without a lot of extra effort,” says Emilee Petti, C.S.C.S., personal trainer at Catalyst Fitness. “This is especially important for those who sit most of the day,” she says. (Work towards your weight-loss goals with these workouts from Women’s Health’s Look Better Naked DVD!)
Cutting your portions in half, especially when dining out, can drastically slash the number of calories you consume, says Stacey Antine, R.D. Save the other half for another meal and give it a weight-loss friendly makeover with these tips to make your leftovers more nutritious.
“Produce is packed with fiber and water, which can help you feel full,” says Joy Bauer, R.D.N., health and nutrition expert for NBC’s TODAY show and author of From Junk Food to Joy Food. Toss veggies (such as spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes) into your omelet, add sliced cucumbers or peppers to your sandwich for a crunch, or munch on some kale chips with your turkey burger, she says.
Don’t be afraid of going for the full-fat version of foods, like cheese, nut butter, and yogurt, says Albert Matheny, R.D., C.S.C.S. “Fat is usually replaced with sugar in foods labeled as ‘low-fat,'” he says. So even if the calorie count is the same, you’ll consume more carbohydrates from the sugar. And more than likely, those extra carbs will be stored as fat, he says. The only caveat is that you need to cut your portion size back to make sure you’re creating a calorie deficit, he says. Here’s a helpful guide to the portion sizes of foods you eat all the time.
Nosh on Greek yogurt with slivered almonds or a salad with lean protein before you head to a restaurant to curb—but not spoil—your appetite, says Janie Zeitlin, R.D. When your stomach isn’t grumbling, that bread basket will be so much easier to avoid.
“Going longer than five hours between meals during the day is the main cause ofovereating, which causes weight gain over time,” says Lisa Moskovitz, R.D.,founder of The New York Nutrition Group. Sticking to an eating schedule keeps you from cookie-monstering your pantry once you finally have time to eat, she says.
Sharing that pint of ice cream or slice of cake with friends or family will reduce your calorie intake overall, says Antine. Plus, sampling dessert instead of devouring it all yourself can satisfy your craving without leading to weight gain, she says.
Substituting a six-ounce container of Greek yogurt for every six ounces of sour cream in your favorite dips will save you a whopping 250 calories and 21 grams of saturated fat, says Zeitlin. You can also use it to top a baked sweet potato! Check out these 50 other ways to use Greek yogurt to lose weight.
Dehydration can be confused with hunger, which leads to unnecessary calorie consumption, says Moskovitz. Downing a glass of water before you eat (and throughout the day) will help you stave off cravings and keep your digestive system moving at full speed, she says. Bye, bloating.
“Choosing flavored seltzer or unsweetened iced tea instead of soda will save you about 140 calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar per can,” says Zeitlin. If you drink five sodas a week, you’ll save 700 calories.
Since veggies bulk up your meals with fewer calories, this strategy helps reduce your overall calorie intake, says Moskovitz. Vegetables are full of fiber and water to keep you fuller longer, for roughly 25 calories per cup. “Make these the foundation of your plate—not the side dish,” she says.
By subbing white meat ground turkey for ground beef, you’ll save 100 calories and 10 grams of fat for every three ounces you consume, says Zeitlin. Check out these other smart sources of lean protein.
Dropping the temperature on your thermostat or shower, drinking ice-cold water, and exercising outdoors once the temperature drops below 60 degrees turns white fat into the calorie-burning brown fat necessary for keeping your body warm, says Zeitlin. That’s crucial for weight loss since research shows that activating brown fat helps you burn calories at a faster rate, revving your metabolism, she says.
The texture is different than regular pasta, but indulging in a heaping bowl of shirataki noodles, which have an average of 20 calories per four-ounce serving, can regulate your bowels, lower your blood sugar, and keep you feeling full, says Zeitlin. That’s because the noodles are made from Asian yams and contain tons of soluble fiber. To make your noodle bowl even more weight-loss friendly, mix your noods with loads of veggies like broccoli, carrots, and peppers.
Subbing in greens, like spinach and kale, for bananas and other sugary fruitsadds fiber and lowers the calorie count of your healthy sips, says Zeitlin. For flavor without super-sweet fruit, try adding cucumber, ginger, and lemon for a refreshing change of pace. You can also throw in nut butter and milk (or almond milk) with your kale. If you’re still craving sweetness, use berries, which have less sugar than most other fruits, she says.
Foods like quinoa, brown rice, canned beans, lentils, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and frozen fruits and vegetables can last for months and help you create a balanced meal without much effort, says Rumsey. Keep them on hand for when you need to whip up something healthy in a pinch.
New studies suggest that fasting for 12 hours between dinner and your morning meal can help you lose weight, says Moskovitz. So if you usually eat your last bite of the day at 9 p.m. (hey, primetime calls for popcorn), wait until 9 a.m. to down your morning meal, she says.
Keeping track of what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat it can help you improve your eating patterns, says Petti. Seeing your eating habits on paper gives a clearer picture about why you’re struggling to lose weight. From there, you can make a better nutritional plan of attack, she says.
Having healthy, high-fiber, high-protein snacks, like celery and nut butter,Greek yogurt and fruit, or whole-wheat crackers and cheese, between meals will ensure that you won’t overeat later, says Moskovitz. That can be especially helpful when your schedule gets crazy.
Resistance training builds lean muscle, which stokes your metabolism to burn more calories at rest, says Matheny. To get big results in less time, perform four sets of multi-joint movements (like squats, deadlifts, pushups, and lunges) twice a week or more, he says. Aim to do 10 reps during each set.