Drop a Pound a Week
You weren’t born yesterday, so you know that the only way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories than you burn. But if it were that simple, chances are, you wouldn’t have clicked on this article.
Trying to eat healthy is hard enough in today’s world–food options abound, yet there’s little time to spend preparing smart meals–and slimming down can be even more challenging. Luckily, there are some smart strategies to make your weight loss efforts a little easier. Put two or more of them into practice today and you can save 500 calories instantly. Follow them all regularly and you’ll shed inches in no time.
Buying gigantic boxes of toilet paper might be a smart way to save cash, but pass on the 5-gallon tub of ice cream, even if it is only $3.17. Stockpiling massive containers of junk food–or any food, for that matter–is like giving yourself a green light to overmunch, according to research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Not only do mondo containers create pressure to plow through before the food goes stale, but they also make you lose all concept of how much you’re consuming. Oversize boxes, bags, dishes, glasses and serving pieces all throw off portion perception.
If you want to save cash, shop for jumbo versions of healthful foods such as soups, whole-grain cereals and frozen vegetables. If you overdo it on these (which isn’t likely), the calorie damage will be minimal. When you do buy higher-calorie foods, portion out reasonable amounts into individual sandwich bags, or purchase less healthy products in single-serving packages.
Put some space between you and your treats
Stepping away from your favorite indulgence could help you eat less of it. A study in the journal Appetite revealed that office workers who kept chocolate kisses on their desks ate twice as many as those who stored the candy just 6 feet away. Your strategy? Keep “emergency” bags of chips and your stash of dark chocolate miniatures in the least convenient place possible, such as a high shelf or the basement freezer. Think of it this way: out of sight, out of mind, out of mouth. Then position good-for-you stuff, such as fresh fruit or veggies, in plain sight, so you’ll be more likely to reach for them when hunger strikes.
Skip the diet resolutions
“I’ll start my diet tomorrow!” has got to be among the list of most commonly used phrases (it ranks somewhere between “I’m tired” and “I’ll call you back”). Whether it’s birthday cake at the office or a pizza night with pals, there will always be some excuse to put off healthy eating another day (and eat more today, thinking it’s your last chance!). Instead, forget the word “diet.” The goal should be to make doable, lasting lifestyle changes, not be a perfect plan-following robot.
Start by tweaking unfavorable eating habits one tiny step at a time: Increase your fruit and veggie intake by adding one serving a day, swap white bread for whole-wheat or begin eating cereal from a small bowl, not the box. Gradually, you can take on bigger challenges. And make sure you eat a little of what you crave: Completely cutting out creamy cheeses, for example, could lead to you diving head-first into a wedge of Brie.
Don’t blame carbs
A calorie is a calorie, whether it comes from a carrot or a cupcake. Unfortunately, we’re often led to believe the healthier a food is, the more of it we can eat. People given a lower-calorie version of a high-calorie ice cream ate 30 percent more of it than those given the higher-calorie treat, a study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign finds. Ultimately, both groups consumed approximately the same amount of calories, so the low-calorie eaters didn’t benefit from their dessert being low-cal.
The upshot: Regardless of what you nosh, always keep portion size in mind. The only truly all-you-can-eat food: the greens and other healthy veggies you could grow in your own backyard.
Be realistic about the power of your workout
Overestimating how much you exercise can jeopardize your slim-down success. Sure, walking torches calories, but a 135-pound woman would have to tread the length of a football field just to burn off the calories in two M&M’s. And even when you’re sweating, you may not be meeting the level of exertion you need to shed pounds. Make every minute of your workout count by deciding exactly what activity you want to do and for how long. When your schedule is tight, opt for a short (30-minute) intense cardio workout. Find loads of options at Self.com/fitness.
At roughly 225 calories a pop, a 20-ounce bottle packs nearly the same calories as a chocolate bar but is far less satisfying. Diet soda is no body bargain, either. For every can you sip daily, your risk of becoming overweight rises by 37 percent, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio found. Another study from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, hints at why: Regular use of artificial sweeteners is linked to increased calorie intake, body fat and weight gain in rats.
Savoring sweetness sans calories may change your body’s ability to regulate calorie consumption, so pass up the diet soda and you could find it easier to avoid overeating. I have my own theory: I used to eat the calories I’d save by having a no-cal soda, probably three times over! So instead of saving those calories, I was spending them on other things, usually sweets.
Let SELF help you drop pounds! Log on to SelfDietClub.com and find the tools to shed fat and eat right for life, including a personalized daily calorie budget based on your weight, activity level and goals; an interactive food log; and a meal planner to find healthy choices that fit into your individual calorie plan.