If your goal is to lose weight and exercise more, forget the deprivation diet and marathon workouts. Here are thirty simple lifestyle changes you can make to get you on the road to permanent weight loss. I have used these techniques, along with others, with much success in my private practice helping clients lose weight and keep it off.
1. Use Smaller Plates
Using smaller plates and bowls means there’s less space to fill up with food to make your plate look full. With this approach, it’s likely you could eat 20% less, and chances are you’ll feel just as full, especially if you eat slow. This also helps avoid portion distortion.
2. Skip Sodas and Juice
Today, the average American consumes 20% of his or her daily calories through liquids, and unfortunately, many of these are empty calories that come from sodas, coffee beverages, and large juice drinks and smoothies. Stick with water or skim milk to reduce your caloric intake vastly every day. Drinking water regularly throughout the day can help you feel more hydrated as well.
3. Use Cooking Spray
Using cooking spray can cut numerous calories and fat from the food you prepare at home. For instance, you may put two spoonfuls of butter or margarine in a pan when cooking eggs for breakfast. If you switch to cooking spray, you could save 34 calories or more each meal. Over time, this adds up.
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4. Skip the Dressing
Instead of drenching your salad with creamy dressing, use oil (lightly) or vinegar (which is calorie-free). You can save more than 100 calories per salad this way.
5. Trim Your Pizza
When I order pizza, I get it with extra sauce, and light cheese, which cuts a ton of fat and calories – and, in my opinion, makes the pie tastier since it’s not as greasy and heavy. You can also trim calories by getting toppings such as mushrooms, olives, or other veggies, rather than sausage or pepperoni.
6. Eat Healthy Snacks
There’s nothing worse than getting that 3pm urge to snack – if it arrives and you are unprepared, you may grab something quick from a vending machine. Most of those foods are high in sugar, sodium, and empty calories.
7. Practice portion control.
As an advocate for portion control, watching how much you eat is one of the best ways to lose weight. I have been counseling clients for years, and I have seen in my private practice that when clients watch the sizes of their portions (aka eat less), they shave hundreds of calories daily, and lose weight effortlessly.
8. Think positive.
Instead of dwelling on the foods you cannot eat, try instead to focus on what you can have. I tell my clients that there is no restaurant that is completely off limits. You can always find something healthy to eat.
9. Keep food records.
There is no better way to get a handle on what and how much you eat than by keeping food records. And, for the good news you do not have to keep records forever. People who keep records are generally more aware of the mistakes they make and are then able to make corrections.
10. Eat structured meals and snacks.
Speaking of nibbling and mindless munching, one advantage to eating structured meals and snacks is that you tend to get famished less often. And when we are famished, we tend to just grab whatever food is in sight.
11. Move more.
All exercise helps. The key is to do what you enjoy and follow an exercise program you can stick with. You do not have to spend thousands of dollars on a fancy gym. Lifestyle activities also add up.
12. Cut yourself some slack.
I am a big advocate of focusing on progress, not perfection. It is important to take stock of the changes you’ve made so far and look at the big picture.
13. Shop the Perimeter of the Grocery Store
The outer perimeter of grocery stores is where the healthiest and lowest-calorie foods are located. Here is where you’ll find foods such as fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, and yogurt. If you want to cut calories, avoid the middle of the store, where all the processed foods are.
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14. Identify Your Triggers
I write from home full-time, and I always used to head down to the kitchen when I was working on a really challenging article. Taking a walk to the kitchen and rummaging through the refrigerator or the cupboards was my way of taking a break. However, all these trips to the kitchen added up to hundreds of extra calories throughout the day.
15. Use an Exercise Ball at Work
As I write this, I’m at my desk where I sit for eight hours a day. However, I’m not hunched over like a soft potato – I’m bobbing up and down, rolling around, and balancing. I’m also having a lot of fun.
16. Follow a Dream
Have you always wanted to learn how to surf, rock climb, or belly dance? Do you wish you had the endurance to swim a mile? Would you like to treasure hunt with a metal detector? The great thing about exercise is that often it doesn’t feel like exercise, especially when doing something you have great interest in.
17. Walk at Lunch
Instead of standing in line at a fast food joint or spending your lunch hour at a restaurant, why not eat a healthy lunch and then go for a walk? You can save a lot of money by bringing lunch to work instead of buying food every day, and you can make much healthier, low-calorie choices.
18. Buy a Push Mower
Motor-less push mowers (also called reel mowers) are the mowers most people used 50 years ago – they require you to expend energy pushing the mower, rather than relying on gasoline combustion. Using this type of lawnmower is a great way to get additional exercise doing a chore you have to do anyway.
19. Sign up for an Athletic Event or League
Signing up for a charity run is an excellent way to force yourself to get some exercise – plus, you can help raise money for a great cause. If the next charitable fun run won’t take place in your area for a while, consider playing a sport.
20. Stop Watching TV
The average American watches more than five hours of television every day. So why not cancel your cable to spend more time doing other things, such as exercising and cooking healthy meals? Even if you cut just 30 minutes to one hour of TV time each night, you can use that time to hit the gym or jog around the neighborhood.
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21. Pick up a pen
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—and see how to lose weight fast.
22. Limit high-fat foods
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 Dr. Lutes.
23. Walk 5 minutes more
In Dr. Lutes’s pilot study, increasing daily activity levels by just a few minutes at a time helped participants lose weight faster. Eventually, your goal should be to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, but it doesn’t have to be all at once.
24. Add mini strength training
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.
25. Take a pedometer with you
Just as you wouldn’t leave home without your cell phone, make a pedometer a must-have accessory. Research shows pedometer users take nearly 2,500 more steps a day than nonusers.
26. Take 10 to eat a treat
Try this strategy to permanently reduce cravings: Portion out one serving of your favorite treat, taking a minute to smell it, look at it, and think about it. Take one small bite. Chew slowly, moving it around your mouth and focusing on the texture and taste, then swallow.
27. Eat fruits; don’t drink ’em
Skip juice and eat the whole fruit, instead. You’ll not only get more heart-healthy fiber in your diet, you’ll also stay satisfied, longer. Research shows that fiber aside, liquid carbohydrates just aren’t as filling as solids.
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28. Go old school with coffee
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
29. Sleep away weight gain
Make a point of turning in earlier and you’ll see weight loss within a week. Research from the University of Pennsylvania found even just a few nights of sleep deprivation can lead to almost immediate weight gain.
30. Obey the 1-mile rule
Americans use their cars for two-thirds of all trips that are less than 1 mile and 89% of all trips that are 1 to 2 miles, yet each additional hour you spend driving is associated with a 6% increase in obesity.