If you’re trying to drop a few pounds, don’t start off by trying to overhaul all your eating and exercise habits. You’re better off finding several simple things you can do on a daily basis—along with following the cardinal rules of eating more vegetables and less fat and getting more physical activity. Together, they should send the scale numbers in the right direction: down.
1. Indulge in fat releasing foods. They should help keep you from feeling deprived and binging on higher-calorie foods. For instance:
- Honey. Just 64 fat releasing calories in one tablespoon. Drizzle on fresh fruit.
- Eggs. Just 70 calories in one hard-boiled egg, loaded with fat releasing protein. Sprinkle with chives for an even more elegant treat.
- Part-skim ricotta cheese. Just 39 calories in one ounce of this food, packed with fat releasing calcium. Dollop over a bowl of fresh fruit for dessert.
- Dark chocolate. About 168 calories in a one-ounce square, but it’s packed with fat releasing fiber.
- Shrimp. Just 60 calories in 12 large.
- MORE: 13 fat releasing foods »
2. Treat high-calorie foods as jewels in the crown. Make a spoonful of ice cream the jewel and a bowl of fruit the crown. Cut down on the chips by pairing each bite with lots of chunky, filling fresh salsa, suggests Jeff Novick, director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Florida. Balance a little cheese with a lot of salad.
3. After breakfast, make water your primary drink. At breakfast, go ahead and drink orange juice. But throughout the rest of the day, focus on water instead of juice or soda. The average American consumes an extra 245 calories a day from soft drinks. That’s nearly 90,000 calories a year — or 25 pounds! And research shows that despite the calories, sugary drinks don’t trigger a sense of fullness the way that food does.
4. Carry a palm-size notebook everywhere you go for one week. Write down every single morsel that enters your lips—even water. Studies have found that people who maintain food diaries wind up eating about 15 percent less food than those who don’t.
5. Buy a pedometer, clip it to your belt, and aim for an extra 1,000 steps a day. On average, sedentary people take only 2,000 to 3,000 steps a day. Adding 2,000 steps will help you maintain your current weight and stop gaining weight; adding more than that will help you lose weight.
6. Add 10 percent to the amount of daily calories you think you’re eating, then adjust your eating habits accordingly. If you think you’re consuming 1,700 calories a day and don’t understand why you’re not losing weight, add another 170 calories to your guesstimate. Chances are, the new number is more accurate.
7. Eat five or six small meals or snacks a day instead of three large meals. A 1999 South African study found that when men ate parts of their morning meal at intervals over five hours, they consumed almost 30 percent fewer calories at lunch than when they ate a single breakfast. Other studies show that even if you eat the same number of calories distributed this way, your body releases less insulin, which keeps blood sugar steady and helps control hunger.
8. Walk for 45 minutes a day. The reason we’re suggesting 45 minutes instead of the typical 30 is that a Duke University study found that while 30 minutes of daily walking is enough to prevent weight gain in most relatively sedentary people, exercise beyond 30 minutes results in weight and fat loss. Burning an additional 300 calories a day with three miles of brisk walking (45 minutes should do it) could help you lose 30 pounds in a year without even changing how much you’re eating.
9. Find an online weight-loss buddy. A University of Vermont study found that online weight-loss buddies help you keep the weight off. The researchers followed volunteers for 18 months. Those assigned to an Internet-based weight maintenance program sustained their weight loss better than those who met face-to-face in a support group.
10. Bring the color blue into your life more often. There’s a good reason you won’t see many fast-food restaurants decorated in blue: Believe it or not, the color blue functions as an appetite suppressant. So serve up dinner on blue plates, dress in blue while you eat, and cover your table with a blue tablecloth. Conversely, avoid red, yellow, and orange in your dining areas. Studies find they encourage eating.
NEXT: 10 more easy ways to lose weight