Sustainable weight loss doesn’t happen overnight (and if it does, it’s probably self-destructive). But if you’re anxious to lose weight for a legit reason, follow these painless tips to improve your diet, streamline your workouts, and shed weight *the healthy way*.
1. Pregame for meals with water. Drinking water throughout the day and during your meals promotes proper digestion so you don’t get backed up and bloated. But some research suggests downing two glasses of water glasses before meals can make you feel fuller when you take that first forkful, leading you to eat less overall.
2. Eat breakfast. Skipping breakfast tricks your body into thinking it is starving — and it is (at least since last night!). In response, your body conserves energy by slowing down your metabolism and increasing its insulin response. The next thing you eat will spike your blood sugar big-time and leave you feeling hungry shortly after. Meanwhile, you work up a major appetite that causes you to scarf down food impulsively — bad news if you’re trying to make smarter decisions.
Even if you aren’t hungry-hungry at the ass crack of dawn eating at least a little protein and fiber, like overnight oatmeal, a yogurt parfait, avocado toast with a scrambled egg, a green smoothie, or even last night’s leftovers will go a long way.
3. Don’t make dinner your heaviest meal. Research suggests that people who eat their largest meals later in the day lose less weight than people who eat their heaviest meals early on, mostly because the body digests food differently at different times — and more slowly at night.
4. Focus on eating more fruits and vegetables instead of eating fewer carbs or less fat. You’ll fill up on the nutrients you need to function and fiber to keep you full, so you’ll feel satisfied instead of sorely deprived by a bunch of restrictive rules.
5. Take a break from soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks. Of course, water and unsweetened tea don’t hit the same spot as a Coke or Frappuccino, but getting rid of liquid sugar in your diet is the only way to drastically reduce your caloric intake without changing a single thing you eat — a pretty good deal when you think about it!
6. Eat fruit for dessert. No one said your sweet tooth has to suffer when you clean up your diet — but you’ll fill up faster and stay that way longer if you punctuate your meals with fiber-rich fruit.
Frozen grapes or mashed frozen bananas as a stand-in for straight-up ice cream without the classic dessert’s extra fat and added sugars is a better substitute. Or you could always microwave a cored apple with a sprinkle of cinnamon to make the fruit tasteless like, “You call this dessert?!” and more like pie.
7. Phase out salty snacks. Instead of pretzels and chips, which promote water retention that puffs you up, snack on carrot sticks or hydrating cucumbers dipped in hummus or guacamole, you’ll feel more full and less bloated.
8. Avoid sugar-free gum, bubbly drinks, beans, and other salty, gassy foods. Stick with water, fresh fruits and vegetables, unsalted nuts, and lean protein, and you’ll feel energized without residual bloating.
9. When you eat, slowwww downnnnn — and nix distractions. “It takes time for the food in your stomach to tell your brain that you’re no longer hungry,” explains Luciani. To help your brain register fullness and prevent the overeating that makes you feel not-so-hot, set a 15-minute phone timer before you take your first bite, then focus on the food in front of you, not the deliciousness cropping up in your Instagram feed, whatever show is on TV, or the snap you just received. If you’re feeling like going for seconds, wait until the buzzer goes off to ask yourself whether you’re actually still hungry, and dig in only when the answer sounds a little bit like, “YAS!”
10. Focus on high-intensity workouts. When you alternate between periods of high-intensity exercises (like burpees, squat jumps, or straight-up sprints) and short recovery periods, you burn body fat more efficiently during and after the actual workout session.
That can mean turning your walk into a run with this interval-training program, or taking on a high-intensity interval workout like the one below, which you can do at home with no equipment
11. Get all up in those weights. Lifting your body weight, alone, can give you a killer workout (You could sweat just from watching the workout above!), but strength-training with weights can help you build lean muscle that your body burns calories to maintain — even when you’re sitting on your butt.
12. Make exercise a regular thing. Some unfortunate facts of life: Doing one set of crunches will not give you a six-pack any more than doing one set of squats will give you a Beyoncé butt.
13. Put workouts on your social calendar. “The best time of day to work out is the time of day that you’re actually going to work out. So if you know you get E-X-H-A-U-S-T-E-D after school or work, that’s probably not your hour to shine. Once you figure out when you can sweat as you mean it, but at least two or three sessions a week into your phone calendar to make things official.
14. Make QT more active. Instead of meeting your squad for dinner, go for a walk or do a partner workout. And if Netflix beckons, try this workout you can do while you watch TV together:
15. Remember that exercise reduces hunger. Because everyone knows that exercise burns calories, it’s easy to psych yourself into thinking you’ve earned a little extra something-something (I SEE YOU, CHOCOLATE) on gym days. While you can and should refuel — Your body needs food to function! — adding additional treats to your diet set you up for weight gain and even trigger hunger if you end up housing a bunch of sugary sweets.
To overcome the impulse to reward workouts with food, tweak your thinking: Remind yourself that besides burning calories, exercise actually reduces hunger — it’s a hormone thing. Use this fact to call B.S. on hunger pains that seem to stem from your mind — and raid your kitchen only when your stomach says you’re really truly hungry.
16. Make sleep a Serious Priority. When you don’t sleep enough (and the threshold is different for everyone), the hormones that moderate your appetite get all messed up, so you’re left with high levels of the ones that tell you to eat, and low levels of the ones that tell you when to stop. The result: You eat way more food than your body actually needs until your clothes feel notably tighter. To keep your hormones (and appetite) in check, establish a consistent bedtime that leaves you with no less than six hours for shut-eye (more = better!). And when the clock strikes bedtime, tuck in without your devices to help your body beat the odds.
17. Focus on small goals instead of the number on the scale. If you have a real reason to lose weight, and you gauge your progress on a scale that won’t budge, you’re going to get discouraged pretty quickly. “Nothing will sabotage your efforts more quickly than impatience, pessimism, or the hopelessness that comes from unrealistic expectations,”. So give yourself some freaking credit for the baby steps you can control from day-to-day, like ordering a salad instead of a pizza or turning down a cupcake that you weren’t actually hungry for. And if you really want to feel like a queen? Record your smart decisions in an iPhone note (“I ate veggies at ~every~ meal!”), and reference the list daily to reaffirm how far you’ve come.
Oh and by the way, don’t forget to pin this to your favorite Pinterest board…