The formula for weight loss is, by now, probably burned into your brain: Exercise more often and eat a healthier diet. But there’s good news if that sounds old hat to you. Sleep, stress levels and even your plate size can affect your weight-loss efforts if you’re doing them the right way. Try these nine strategies to reach your goals faster.
1. EAT (AND ONLY EAT) AT MEALS
When was the last time you had a meal and focused only on the food and the company? If you typically eat while working on a computer, answering texts, watching TV or even reading a book, it’s time to stop. British researchers reviewed 24 studies on distracted eating and found that not only do multitasking eaters consume more at their meals, they eat even more later on. “When you are eating, just eat,” says Mike Roussell, PhD, author of “The MetaShred Diet.” “This will help your body cognitively process the amount of food that you are eating, making you more satiated at the end of the meal.”
2. BUDDY UP
We all get by with a little help from our friends: “There’s nothing like the support of another person to help you reach your goals,” says Keri Gans, RDN, author of “The Small Change Diet.” “You are more likely to hit the gym if you know your friend is counting on you.” And you can also team up to healthy cook meals together, whether you’re cooking for one or the whole family.
3. SHRINK YOUR PLATE
Halving the size of your plate can help you eat 30% less food, according to research by Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab. The study authors say you naturally serve yourself less with a small plate or bowl.
4. GET YOUR ZZZ’S
Yes, sleep counts in the quest to drop pounds. “Research has shown that the less hours of sleep you get, the more likely you are to make poor food choices in the morning,” Gans says. “When you’re overly tired, those sugar-loaded breakfast options become more desirable.” It may also help to…
5. INVEST IN BLACKOUT CURTAINS
Or at least a sleep mask. Too much light in your bedroom may make it harder to lose weight, according to a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Researchers looked at the sleep habits and weight of more than 113,000 women over nine years and discovered that women who slept in the darkest rooms were 21% less likely to be obese compared to those sleeping in the brightest rooms. They believe light inhibits the production of melatonin, a hormone that makes us sleepy.
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6. KEEP A FOOD AND MOOD JOURNAL
“Writing down everything you eat and the moods you are experiencing throughout the day can definitely be eye-opening,” says Gans. This will help you spot habits, which means you can then take action to change those habits, she explains. For example, you may notice that every time you feel anxious about work deadlines, you grab chips from the vending machine. Find a new habit — like taking a short walk, making a cup of tea or listening to a short meditation — and start doing that every time you’re drawn to those chips.
7. MANAGE STRESS
Stress has been linked to weight gain for years, and a new study suggests a stress-response protein is the culprit. University of Florida Health researchers found that mice under stress produced more of a protein called betatrophin. “Betatrophin reduces the body’s ability to break down fat, underscoring a link between chronic stress and weight gain,” wrote the study’s lead author, Dr. Li-Jun Yang. So do yoga, meditate, take walks outside — do whatever helps you chill when life has you ready to snap.
Water, that is. In a study in the Annals of Family Medicine, people with higher body mass indexes were more likely to be inadequately hydrated. The study authors say that, in addition to sipping H20, eating produce that is high in water — such as watermelon, cucumber and zucchini — can help you stay hydrated and curb cravings.
9. COOK MORE OFTEN
Yes, cooking takes time, but it’s worth it for your waistline. People who cook most of their meals at home eat fewer calories and carbs, and less sugar and fat than people who cook less — even if they’re not trying to lose weight, Johns Hopkins researchers reported. Those who cooked six or seven nights a week even ate less when they did go out to eat. If you feel lost in the kitchen, take a cooking class or ask a friend who likes to cook to let you be their sous chef for a few days.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT WORKOUT