Easy Ways to Lose Weight: 50+ Ideas
You know the drill when it comes to losing weight — take in fewer calories, burn more calories. But you also know that most diets and quick weight-loss plans have about as much substance as a politician’s campaign pledges. Here are more than 50 easy ways for you to finally lose the weight.
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.
11. Clean your closet of the “fat” clothes. Once you’ve reached your target weight, throw out or give away every piece of clothing that doesn’t fit. The idea of having to buy a whole new wardrobe if you gain the weight back will serve as a strong incentive to maintain your new figure.
12. Downsize your dinner plates. Studies find that the less food put in front of you, the less food you’ll eat. Conversely, the more food in front of you, the more you’ll eat — regardless of how hungry you are. So instead of using regular dinner plates that range these days from 10-14 inches (making them look forlornly empty if they’re not heaped with food), serve your main course on salad plates (about 7-9 inches wide). The same goes for liquids. Instead of 16-ounce glasses and oversized coffee mugs, return to the old days of 8-ounce glasses and 6-ounce coffee cups.
13. Serve your dinner restaurant style (food on the plates) rather than family style (food served in bowls and on platters on the table). When your plate is empty, you’re finished; there’s no reaching for seconds.
14. Hang a mirror opposite your seat at the table. One study found that eating in front of mirrors slashed the amount people ate by nearly one-third. Seems having to look yourself in the eye reflects back some of your own inner standards and goals, and reminds you of why you’re trying to lose weight in the first place.
15. Put out a vegetable platter. A body of research out of Pennsylvania State University finds that eating water-rich foods such as zucchini, tomatoes, and cucumbers during meals reduces your overall calorie consumption. Other water-rich foods include soups and salads. You won’t get the same benefits by just drinking your water, though. Because the body processes hunger and thirst through different mechanisms, it simply doesn’t register a sense of fullness with water (or soda, tea, coffee, or juice).
16. Use vegetables to bulk up meals. You can eat twice as much pasta salad loaded with veggies like broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes for the same calories as a pasta salad sporting just mayonnaise. Same goes for stir-fries. And add vegetables to make a fluffier, more satisfying omelet without having to up the number of eggs.
17. Eat one less cookie a day. Or consume one less can of regular soda, or one less glass of orange juice, or three fewer bites of a fast-food hamburger. Doing any of these saves you about 100 calories a day, according to weight-loss researcher James O. Hill, Ph.D., of the University of Colorado. And that alone is enough to prevent you from gaining the 1.8 to 2 pounds most people pack on each year.
18. Avoid white foods. There is some scientific legitimacy to today’s lower-carb diets: Large amounts of simple carbohydrates from white flour and added sugar can wreak havoc on your blood sugar and lead to weight gain. But you shouldn’t toss out the baby with the bathwater. While avoiding sugar, white rice, and white flour, you should eat plenty of whole grain breads and brown rice. One Harvard study of 74,000 women found that those who ate more than two daily servings of whole grains were 49 percent less likely to be overweight than those who ate the white stuff.
19. Switch to ordinary coffee. Fancy coffee drinks from trendy coffee joints often pack several hundred calories, thanks to whole milk, whipped cream, sugar, and sugary syrups. A cup of regular coffee with skim milk has just a small fraction of those calories. And when brewed with good beans, it tastes just as great.
20. Use nonfat powdered milk in coffee. You get the nutritional benefits of skim milk, which is high in calcium and low in calories. And, because the water has been removed, powdered milk doesn’t dilute the coffee the way skim milk does.
21. Eat cereal for breakfast five days a week. Studies find that people who eat cereal for breakfast every day are significantly less likely to be obese and have diabetes than those who don’t. They also consume more fiber and calcium—and less fat—than those who eat other breakfast foods. Of course, that doesn’t mean reaching for the Cap’n Crunch. Instead, pour out a high-fiber, low-sugar cereal like Total or Grape Nuts.
22. Pare your portions. Whether you eat at home or in a restaurant, immediately remove one-third of the food on your plate. Arguably the worst food trend of the past few decades has been the explosion in portion sizes on America’s dinner plates (and breakfast and lunch plates). We eat far, far more today than our bodies need. Studies find that if you serve people more food, they’ll eat more food, regardless of their hunger level. The converse is also true: Serve yourself less and you’ll eat less.
23. Eat 90 percent of your meals at home. You’re more likely to eat more—and eat more high-fat, high-calorie foods—when you eat out than when you eat at home. Restaurants today serve such large portions that many have switched to larger plates and tables to accommodate them!
24. Avoid any prepared food that lists sugar, fructose, or corn syrup among the first four ingredients on the label. You should be able to find a lower-sugar version of the same type of food. If you can’t, grab a piece of fruit instead! Look for sugar-free varieties of foods such as ketchup, mayonnaise, and salad dressing.
25. Eat slowly and calmly. Put your fork or spoon down between every bite. Sip water frequently. Intersperse your eating with stories for your dining partner of the amusing things that happened during your day. Your brain lags your stomach by about 20 minutes when it comes to satiety (fullness) signals. If you eat slowly enough, your brain will catch up to tell you that you are no longer in need of food.
26. Eat only when you hear your stomach growling. It’s stunning how often we eat out of boredom, nervousness, habit, or frustration—so often, in fact, that many of us have actually forgotten what physical hunger feels like. Next time, wait until your stomach is growling before you reach for food. If you’re hankering for a specific food, it’s probably a craving, not hunger. If you’d eat anything you could get your hands on, chances are you’re truly hungry.
27. Find ways other than eating to express love, tame stress, and relieve boredom. For instance, you might make your family a photo album of special events instead of a rich dessert, sign up for a stress-management course at the local hospital or take up an active hobby, like bowling.
28. State the positive. You’ve heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy? Well, if you keep focusing on things you can’t do, like resisting junk food or getting out the door for a daily walk, chances are you won’t do them. Instead (whether you believe it or not) repeat positive thoughts to yourself. “I can lose weight.” “I will get out for my walk today.” “I know I can resist the pastry cart after dinner.” Repeat these phrases like a mantra all day long. Before too long, they will become their own self-fulfilling prophecy.
29. Discover your dietary point of preference. If you work hard to control your weight, you may get pleasure from your appearance, but you may also feel sorry for yourself each time you forgo a favorite food. There is a balance to be struck between the immediate gratification of indulgent foods and the long-term pleasure of maintaining a desirable weight and good health. When you have that balance worked out, you have identified your own personal dietary pleasure “point of preference.” This is where you want to stay.
30. Use flavorings such as hot sauce, salsa, and Cajun seasonings instead of relying on butter and creamy or sugary sauces. Besides providing lots of flavor with no fat and few calories, many of these seasonings—the spicy ones—turn up your digestive fires, causing your body to temporarily burn more calories.
31. Eat fruit instead of drinking fruit juice. For the calories in one kid-size box of apple juice, you can enjoy an apple, orange, and a slice of watermelon. These whole foods will keep you satisfied much longer than that box of apple juice, so you’ll eat less overall.
32. Spend 10 minutes a day walking up and down stairs. The Centers for Disease Control says that’s all it takes to help you shed as much as 10 pounds a year (assuming you don’t start eating more).
33. Eat equal portions of vegetables and grains at dinner. A cup of cooked rice or pasta has about 200 calories, whereas a cup of cooked veggies doles out a mere 50 calories, on average, says Joan Salge Blake, R.D., clinical assistant professor of nutrition at Boston University’s Sargent College. To avoid a grain calorie overload, eat a 1:1 ratio of grains to veggies. The high-fiber veggies will help satisfy your hunger before you overeat the grains.
34. Get up and walk around the office or your home for five minutes at least every two hours. Stuck at a desk all day? A brisk five-minute walk every two hours will parlay into an extra 20-minute walk by the end of the day. And getting a break will make you less likely to reach for snacks out of antsiness.
35. Wash something thoroughly once a week—a floor, a couple of windows, the shower stall, bathroom tile, or your car. A 150-pound person who dons rubber gloves and exerts some elbow grease will burn about four calories for every minute spent cleaning, says Blake. Scrub for 30 minutes and you could work off approximately 120 calories, the same number in a half-cup of vanilla frozen yogurt. And your surroundings will sparkle!
36. Make one social outing this week an active one. Pass on the movie tickets and screen the views of a local park instead. Not only will you sit less, but you’ll be saving calories because you won’t chow down on that bucket of popcorn. Other active date ideas: Plan a tennis match, sign up for a guided nature or city walk (check your local newspaper), go cycling on a bike path, or join a volleyball league or bowling team.
37. Order the smallest portion of everything. If you’re ordering a sub, get the 6-inch sandwich. Buy a small popcorn, a small salad, a small hamburger. Studies find we tend to eat what’s in front of us, even though we’d feel just as full on less.
38. Switch from regular milk to 2%. If you already drink 2%, go down another notch to 1% or skim milk. Each step downward cuts the calories by about 20 percent. Once you train your taste buds to enjoy skim milk, you’ll have cut the calories in the whole milk by about half and trimmed the fat by more than 95 percent.
39. Take a walk before dinner. You’ll do more than burn calories — you’ll cut your appetite. In a study of 10 obese women conducted at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, 20 minutes of walking reduced appetite and increased sensations of fullness as effectively as a light meal.
40. Substitute a handful of almonds in place of a sugary snack. A study from the City of Hope National Medical Center found that overweight people who ate a moderate-fat diet containing almonds lost more weight than a control group that didn’t eat nuts. Really, any nut will do.
41. Eat a frozen dinner. Not just any frozen dinner, but one designed for weight loss. Most of us tend to eat an average of 150 percent more calories in the evening than in the morning. An easy way to keep dinner calories under control is to buy a pre-portioned meal. Just make sure that it contains only one serving. If it contains two, make sure you share.
42. Don’t eat with a large group. A study published in the Journal of Physiological Behavior found that we tend to eat more when we eat with other people, most likely because we spend more time at the table. But eating with your significant other or your family, and using table time for talking in between chewing, can help cut down on calories — and help with bonding in the bargain.
43. Watch one less hour of TV. A study of 76 undergraduate students found the more they watched television, the more often they ate and the more they ate overall. Sacrifice one program (there’s probably one you don’t really want to watch anyway) and go for a walk instead. You’ll have time left over to finish a chore or gaze at the stars.
44. Get most of your calories before noon. Studies find that the more you eat in the morning, the less you’ll eat in the evening. And you have more opportunities to burn off those early-day calories than you do to burn off dinner calories.
45. Close out the kitchen after dinner. Wash all the dishes, wipe down the counters, turn out the light, and, if necessary, tape closed the cabinets and refrigerator. Late-evening eating significantly increases the overall number of calories you eat, a University of Texas study found. Stopping late-night snacking can save 300 or more calories a day, or 31 pounds a year.
46. Sniff a banana, an apple, or a peppermint when you feel hungry. You might feel silly, but it works. When Alan R. Hirsch, M.D., neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, tried this with 3,000 volunteers, he found that the more frequently people sniffed, the less hungry they were and the more weight they lost — an average of 30 pounds each. One theory is that sniffing the food tricks the brain into thinking you’re actually eating it.
47. Order wine by the glass, not the bottle. That way you’ll be more aware of how much alcohol you’re downing. Moderate drinking can be good for your health, but alcohol is high in calories. And because drinking turns off our inhibitions, it can drown our best intentions to keep portions in check.
48. Watch every morsel you put in your mouth on weekends. A University of North Carolina study found people tend to consume an extra 115 calories per weekend day, primarily from alcohol and fat.
49. Stock your refrigerator with low-fat yogurt. A University of Tennessee study found that people who cut 500 calories a day and ate yogurt three times a day for 12 weeks lost more weight and body fat than a group that only cut the calories. The researchers concluded that the calcium in low-fat dairy foods triggers a hormonal response that inhibits the body’s production of fat cells and boosts the breakdown of fat.
50. Order your dressing on the side and then stick a fork in it — not your salad. The small amount of dressing that clings to the tines of the fork are plenty for the forkful of salad you then pick up.
51. Brush your teeth after every meal, especially after dinner. That clean, minty freshness will serve as a cue to your body and brain that mealtime is over.
52. Serve individual courses rather than piling everything on one plate. Make the first two courses soup or vegetables (such as a green salad). By the time you get to the more calorie-dense foods, like meat and dessert, you’ll be eating less or may already be full (leftovers are a good thing).
53. Passionately kiss your partner 10 times a day. According to the 1991 Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex, a passionate kiss burns 6.4 calories per minute. Ten minutes a day of kissing equates to about 23,000 calories—or eight pounds—a year!
54. Add hot peppers to your pasta sauce. Capsaicin, the ingredient in hot peppers that makes them hot, also helps reduce your appetite.
55. Pack nutritious snacks. Snacking once or twice a day helps stave off hunger and keeps your metabolism stoked, but healthy snacks can be pretty darn hard to come by when you’re on the go. Pack up baby carrots or your own trail mix made with nuts, raisins, seeds, and dried fruit.
56. When you shop, choose nutritious foods based on these four simple rules:
1. Avoid partially hydrogenated.
2. Avoid high fructose corn syrup.
3. Choose a short ingredient list over long; there will be fewer flavor enhancers and empty calories.
4. Look for more than two grams of fiber per 100 calories in all grain products (cereal, bread, crackers, and chips)
57. Weed out calories you’ve been overlooking: spreads, dressings, sauces, condiments, drinks, and snacks. These calories count, whether or not you’ve been counting them, and could make the difference between weight gain and loss.
58. When you’re eating out with friends or family, dress up in your most flattering outfit. You’ll get loads of compliments, says Susie Galvez, author of Weight Loss Wisdom, which will be a great reminder to watch what you eat.