Weight loss can be challenging. As much as we want to find that one magic secret that makes the weight melt away, there isn’t one. Sustainable weight loss is often a matter of building consistent habits that culminate in big changes over time. There are some easy ways to lose weight that involve making small daily changes.
The good news is, there are nearly endless ways you can modify your daily lifestyle to lose weight and be healthier. You may be engaging in unhealthy habits that contribute to weight gain without even realizing it. The more of these small habits you can shift, the more you’ll improve your overall health, which in turn makes weight loss easier.
1. Prep your meals in advance
Spend time during the weekend planning and preparing healthy meals to eat throughout the week. You can also do “freezer cooking,” which involves cooking once a month or every other week and then freezing your meals. This involves a large time commitment on the day you cook, but will save time (and money) throughout the rest of the month in addition to promoting healthier eating habits. If you have a prepared meal ready to pop in the oven, there’s no excuse for not eating healthy! If taking on a project of this magnitude feels like too much, try just a few extra minutes of meal planning and preparing for the coming week and make an effort to buy enough healthy ingredients to last the entire week.
2. Shop smart – and plan what to buy
What your mom said is true: Don’t go to the grocery store on an empty stomach — it’s bad for your waistline and your wallet! Also, make sure you have a list with you. Wandering around the grocery aisles without a plan sets the stage for unhealthy impulse purchases. Don’t veer off the list unless it’s for a great price on healthy produce! Download a grocery app, such as Out of Milk, that allows you to save your frequently purchased items and even organize your list according to the store layout.
3. Slow down when you eat
It takes time for the brain to receive the signal that the stomach is satisfied. By eating more slowly, you give your body time to realize it has had enough before you become over-stuffed. Try chewing each bite more slowly and putting your fork down while you chew. A Harbin Medical University study showed that people who chewed each bite 40 times consumed fewer calories than people who chewed only 15 times per bite. There’s another benefit to eating more slowly also: eventually you’ll be able to recognize when you’re 80% full. When you stop eating at this point, it eases the strain on your digestive system, and may even help you live longer.
4. Move more
Everyone knows that exercise is good for the body, but not everyone has the time or budget to hit the gym regularly. Small lifestyle changes can add up to a lot more movement throughout the day. Consider these ideas:
- Park farther away from your destination.
- Dance as you clean the house.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Walk on a treadmill or walk in place as you watch TV.
- Get a standing desk.
- Get up and go talk to a colleague instead of sending an email.
5. Sleep it off
Quality sleep is essential for weight loss. A Canadian study over a six-year period found that people who were chronically deprived of sleep gained 4.5 pounds more than those who got 7-8 hours per night. Two hormones affect hunger – ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin tells the brain when it’s time to eat, and leptin tells the brain when it’s time to stop eating. People who are sleep deprived tend to produce more ghrelin and less leptin, which leads to poor appetite regulation.
6. Replace the habit
If sitting in front of the television cues your brain to munch, pre-empt the craving by planning a different activity to do during TV viewing. If you can’t hit the gym, keep some light weights near the television and perform various arm exercises while you watch.
7. Write it down
Keep a journal of what you eat throughout the day, or use an app to track your meals. People who write down what they eat tend to eat more mindfully and consume fewer calories.
8. Buddy up
Create a daily goal and find a buddy to hold you accountable. If you have to report your progress each day through a phone call, email, or text, you’re less likely to self-sabotage. Studies also show that people who attempt a weight-loss program with a friend are more likely to stick with it.
9. Switch to water
Water has zero calories, and your body needs a lot of it! Most people don’t drink enough water, so even if you feel like you’re good about hydrating, chances are you could still drink more. Replace calorie-laden sweet drinks with water to improve your health and your waistline. If you don’t enjoy the taste of plain water, infuse it with slices of fruit, berries, or mint leaves. Caffeine-free herbal teas, hot or cold, are also a healthy, flavorful beverage.
10. Listen to your body
Don’t eat unless your body demands to be fed. Many people have forgotten what it feels like to be hungry because they eat for emotional reasons, out of boredom, or because it’s “time” to eat. Wait until your stomach grumbles, and eat only until it feels satisfied. Be sure to keep healthy snacks on hand, so you don’t reach for candy for potato chips when hunger strikes. Snacks high in protein and healthy fats will help keep you feeling full longer than something sugary.
11. Think small
Trick your brain into thinking you’re consuming more food by using smaller plates. Salad plates are generally three to five inches smaller than dinner plates. Heap that salad plate with healthy food!
12. Use a meal service
If your budget allows it, use a meal prep delivery service. A variety of services are available that deliver healthy ingredients and instructions right to your door. Don’t only is this a great time saver, but you stay out of the tempting grocery store and they deliver just the right amount of food. Less waste and less … waist! Plus, you may encounter some new favorite foods you wouldn’t have otherwise tried!
13. Have an eggs-cellent breakfast
Eating a protein-rich breakfast, rather than a grain-based breakfast, positively influences your subsequent caloric intake throughout the day. Protein keeps you feeling full longer than grains, which cause a spike in blood sugar and then a crash after your body releases insulin. Start your day off right by having eggs or other protein-rich foods for breakfast instead of a bowl of cereal or a muffin.
14. Choose fruit over juice
Juice may sound like a healthy choice, but most juice is little more than sugar water. It takes three to six apples to make a single glass of apple juice. Drinking that glass of juice is the equivalent of sucking the sugar out of those three to six apples. Eating a whole piece of fruit balances the sugar content of the fruit with healthy fiber so you feel satisfied longer.
15. Go nuts
When you’re feeling hungry, nuts are a great option. Eating a small handful of nuts such as almonds or walnuts keeps hunger at bay and gives your body a boost of protein and healthy fats. Make sure to stay away from sugar-sweetened nuts, though, and measure out a portion so you don’t mindlessly nibble the whole package.
16. Brush your teeth
Brushing your teeth after a meal sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to stop eating. It also produces a clean feeling in your mouth that may keep you from mindlessly reaching for snacks.
Set yourself up for success
Don’t try to do everything at once. Pick just one or two suggestions and work them into your life until they become a regular habit.
If creating a healthy lifestyle and losing weight seems like a daunting task, you’re not alone. The experts at Garcia Weight Loss and Wellness Centers will work with you to develop a plan that’s right for you and your lifestyle. Contact us today for your no-cost consultation!
Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on March 6, 2018