12 Simple Steps to Lose Weight in 2020
You don't need a calendar to know it's time for New Year's resolutions. Just swing by a gym the first week of January and you'll know from the resolution-ready crowd getting their sweat on and taking up the treadmills that you're not the only one who is determined to lose some weight and get stronger than ever this new year. But setting a general goal to lose the weight can feel daunting, and sometimes even impossible, so here is a list of 12 simple steps. Start with one, and build on them each month to help you reach weight-loss success. Each one is practical, manageable, and — most importantly — easy enough to do all year long without having to think twice about it.
January: Wear a Fitness Tracker
Did you manage to snag a Fitbit at your work's white elephant gift swap? Then start the new year off by wearing it daily to take note of how active you really are, said Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies. "Awareness is key for weight management. Even if you go to the gym daily but are sitting for the rest of the day, you may be burning fewer calories than you realize," she said.
February: Start Doing More Bodyweight Exercises
"Bodyweight exercises require more muscles to be used because you're not using a machine that guides the weight for you," said Alfonso Moretti, NSCA, founder and trainer at MERGE in Los Angeles. To start, he recommends mastering push-ups, pull-ups, body squats, lunges, and jumping jacks. "Try each exercise for 30 seconds for a five-round circuit," he said. And don't be afraid to start out with modified versions (i.e. doing push-ups on your knees) until you work up your strength to do the advanced forms.
Here are eight no-equipment workouts (cardio included!) to get started.
March: Drink More Water
Aim to drink 17 ounces of water a day, Palinski-Wade said. "Not only can drinking a glass or two before a meal help you to feel full sooner (resulting in eating fewer calories), but past research [published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism] has found drinking this amount of water may increase metabolism as much as 30 percent for a brief period of time," she said.
April: Eat Fewer Carbs and Sugars After Noon
Keep digestible, fast-acting carbs (like fruit) to earlier in the day, when you'll have a better chance to burn them off, said Moretti, who gives this tip to his clients. Fiber-filled foods and complex carbs (such as veggies and quinoa) are perfect for later in the day to keep insulin levels low, he added.
May: Make Sure 30% of Your Diet Is Protein
Palinski-Wade said that protein burns more calories being digested than any other macronutrient, so if you increase consumption up to 30 percent, you'll burn more calories by the day's end. "Protein also takes longer to digest, which can help with appetite regulation and portion control," she said. To do this, add almonds to your morning yogurt, pair nut butter with fruit for a snack, or hard-boil some eggs for an on-the-go option.
June: Try HIIT Training
"High-intensity interval training burns more calories in less time," Moretti said. What's more, past studies have found (like one published in the journal Metabolism Clinical and Experimental) that your metabolism can stay elevated for hours after a 20-minute HIIT session, he added. Try this 20-minute HIIT workout to get started.
July: Practice Deep Breathing
Download a mindfulness app, or just take a few minutes each day to sit alone and decompress. "When your stress levels are high, stress hormones are elevated, and these same hormones cause your body to store fat versus burn it," Palinski-Wade said. "By taking a few deep, controlled breaths, you can begin to reduce stress levels and slow your heart rate. And when stress is lower, so are those fat-storing stress hormones."
August: Leave a Few Bites on Your Plate
Little changes can add up to big results, Moretti said. See for yourself by aiming to leave about a third of the food on your plate at each meal. By eating a little less, you'll save hundreds of calories over the course of one week (and ones you likely didn't really need to begin with). Pack up the leftovers for later to avoid waste.
September: Set a Bedtime
Losing weight can be extremely difficult if you're sleep deprived (or not getting enough quality sleep). Both Moretti and Palinski-Wade recommend aiming for about seven hours a night to reduce stress and cravings and improve appetite control. A recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition even found that people who are sleep deprived can eat up to 385 more calories every day. Yikes!
October: Try Tempo Changes
"Tempo is the time or speed at which you perform reps of an exercise," Moretti said. "Most people subconsciously use a timing that's two seconds up, two seconds down." Instead, Moretti said to try doing exercises at a tempo that's six to eight seconds, hold the bottom position for one count, then lift back up in a six- to eight-second tempo for a maximum burn that will increase the difficulty of your exercises. Try these tempo push-ups as a test run.
November: Eat More Fiber
"Most of us get only 15 grams of fiber per day," Palinski-Wade said. "Fiber fills us up with fewer calories, making it easier to maintain a healthy bodyweight." Try increasing your intake to 30 grams. Start with these high-fiber foods you can easily eat in one week.
December: Surround Yourself With Fit Friends
You are the company you keep, and research shows that's especially true when it comes to staying in shape. A 2016 study published in Obesity found that overweight individuals lost more weight when they interacted more frequently with fit friends, and another 2010 study published in the Journal of Social Sciences found that people tend to gravitate to exercise behaviors of those around them. Find a friend who's crushing her workout routine lately and ask to join her in a class or for a morning run to reap the weight-loss benefits.