We are excited to share one of our fave stories from Prevention here on FitSugar!Quadruple your weight loss by making one easy tweak to your routine per week
By Alyssa Shaffer
If your goal is to lose weight and exercise more, forget the deprivation diet and marathon workouts. New research shows that taking baby steps — not giant leaps —is the best way to get lasting results. A study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that participants who made one small, potentially permanent change in their food choices and/or physical activity each week (such as drinking one fewer can of soda or walking five more minutes each day) lost more than twice as much belly fat, two and half more inches off their waistlines, and about four times more weight during a four-month program, compared with those who followed traditional calorie-restriction and physical-activity guidelines.
"When you focus on just a couple of small changes at a time, you begin to ingrain some healthy habits that last for a lifetime, rather than trying an all-or-nothing approach that more often than not fails because it's too hard to follow," says Lesley Lutes, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of psychology at East Carolina University. We've uncovered these simple steps (with proven results) to help you move more, eat less, and look and feel better than ever. Add just one or two a week to your regular routine and you can lose nearly three inches off your waistline and be about 10 pounds lighter come in a few months. Even better: Once these healthy habits become second nature, they'll benefit you for a lifetime.
1. Pick Up a Pen After Every Meal
Mindlessly munching on a bag of chips could result in easily polishing off the whole thing; write down how much you've eaten and you're more likely to practice portion control. Keeping a food log helps control extra calories in two ways: the combination of plain old reality check (I just ate 30 minutes ago!) and awareness that what you're putting in your mouth will soon be recorded for posterity. In a recent study, people who kept a food journal lost twice as much weight as those who didn't. When they combined it with a moderate diet and exercise plan, they lost an average of 13 pounds in 6 months. Journaling also gives you insight on your eating habits, says Lutes. Do you skip meals? Eat the same during the week as on the weekend? Binge when you're feeling stressed? "Knowing your routine helps you figure out what changes are right for you," she adds.
2. Limit High-Fat Foods to One Per Week
Tag the high-fat/high-calorie foods that are typically your favorites (our top five: cookies, candy, ice cream, potato chips, and fries) and gradually downshift. "If you're eating six of these foods a week, try to go down to five," says Lutes. Each week, drop another until you're at no more than one or two; at the same time, add in a good-for-you choice like baby carrots, sautéed broccoli, oranges, and other fresh fruits and veggies.
Keep reading for more simple tip to help you lose big.
3. Strength Train in Mini-Bursts
Basic body-weight exercises like squats and push-ups are a simple way to build more metabolism-revving muscle in minutes, and research shows they're just as effective as hitting the gym. "Your muscles don't know the difference between working against your body's own resistance and on a fancy piece of equipment," says Wayne Westcott, fitness research director at Quincy College. "The one rule to follow is that each exercise should fatigue your muscles within 60 to 90 seconds."
Try this mini-workout: Do 10 reps each of knee push-ups, squats, crunches, lunges, and chair dips. Then gradually increase the number of reps it takes for your muscles to feel fully fatigued.
4. Sign Up For Healthy E-Newsletters
One recent study from Kaiser Permanente found that people who received weekly emails about diet and fitness for 16 weeks substantially increased their levels of physical activity and intake of healthy foods like fruits and vegetables while cutting back on trans and saturated fats.
5. Brown-Bag It at Least Once a Week
You'll save thousands of calories (not to mention hundreds of dollars) over the course of a year. Consider this: a premade chicken Caesar wrap from a chain restaurant has 610 calories, more than 40 percent of which come from fat, as well as 1,440 mg of sodium (more than half the recommended daily amount). Make your own with presliced deli chicken breast on whole wheat bread with light mayo and romaine lettuce for about 230 calories. You'll cut almost 400 calories and about 520 mg of sodium, which leaves room for a side salad and could still add up to a 28-pound weight loss after a year. "When you make and eat your own food, you not only control the quality and portion sizes but also reduce the amount of sugar, salt, and fat that you're consuming, which can be significantly higher in restaurant fare," says Ashley Koff, RD, a nutrition consultant based in Los Angeles.
6. Obey the One-mile Rule During Errands
Americans use their cars for two-thirds of all trips that are less than one mile and 89 percent of all trips that are one to two miles, yet each additional hour you spend driving is associated with a 6 percent increase in obesity. Burn calories instead of gas by following this rule: If your errands are less than one mile away, vow to walk them at a brisk pace instead of driving. Or park where you can run several errands within a mile instead of moving your car each time. Walk every day and you'll be 13 to 17 pounds lighter next year.
7. Eat Fruit — Don't Drink It
Skip juice and eat the whole fruit, instead. You’ll not only get more heart-healthy fiber in your diet (3.5g for a small apple versus .5g in a glass of juice), you’ll also stay satisfied, longer. Research shows that fiber aside, liquid carbohydrates just aren’t as filling as solids. "When you chew a food, you generate more saliva, which in turn carries a message to the brain that your gut needs to get ready for digestion," explains Koff. "Drinking doesn’t require such digestion, so the body doesn’t register that it’s full as quickly." Plus there are the extra calories — 48 percent more if you’re drinking that juice rather than eating the whole apple. (Do that daily and you may gain up to four pounds by year's end.)
8. Drink Your Coffee the Old School Way
A regular cup with a dash of milk and even a little sugar has hundreds of fewer calories then the blended drinks, which are practically dessert in a cup. One recent study of about 3,000 purchases from 115 coffee shops in New York City found that while servings of brewed coffee or tea averaged about 63 calories (including milk and sugar), while the fancier drinks averaged nearly four times more, with 239 calories. A daily habit can translate to an 18-pound gain over a year.