Diet and exercise get all the glory in the weight loss biz. And, without a doubt, they’re definitely star players.
But what about all the little people working behind the camera? What about the support staff behind the scenes, who make it all come together more successfully in a way that diet and exercise alone can’t do?
Are you just beginning your weight loss journey and not yet ready to entirely make-over your diet and activity routine? Or have you already reformed your diet and exercise program and are looking for more ways to kick your weight loss results up to the next level? Where ever you are in your journey, these 15 brilliantly effective weight loss nuggets go beyond the diet-and-exercise box, and are proven game-changers when it comes to losing weight.
Approaching weight loss as more than just a body project – recognizing that it’s also a mental, emotional, spiritual and holistic journey – is key to successfully traversing it. It’s also the only way to ensure that you don’t only just arrive at the goals you’re striving so hard for, but that you also manage to remain there as well.
Tyra Banks boasts “I don’t count a damn calorie.” So how does this bodacious top model keep herself accountable?
She writes down everything she eats. Banks claims that simply the act of listing everything that goes into your mouth on paper forces you to take responsibility for it, and also helps to curb impulse eating.
Having to write down that you snuck three extra slices of chocolate cake into bed last night, for all the world to see, may make you think twice before doing it. Your food journal is not only a list of the foods you eat, but is also a snapshot of your current eating habits. By keeping you accountable for all of your eating choices, food journaling can be a very useful tool and source of encouragement when it comes to selecting a healthier path.
Other bite-it-‘n-write-it committed food journalists include Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz and Carrie Underwood.
2. Practice the 4 S’s
At every meal, commit to the 4 S’s…Serve yourself. Sit down. Slow down. And then, Silence.
Begin each snack and meal by serving out the food you intend to eat on a small plate (preferably a 9 or 10 inch plate, and try to find one that is blue). When we eat out of the bag or container, we tend to mindlessly keep eating without any concept of the amount we’ve consumed. Serving the food on to a small plate helps us remain conscious of how much we’re eating, and not to go beyond a reasonable amount. Sitting down while eating, rather than standing, has the same effect, helping us focus on the food and not fall into mindless overconsumption while trying to simultaneously multi-task. Slowing down your entire eating ritual by focusing on each bite, chewing each morsel thoroughly and trying not to distract yourself with conversation or other activities all helps to tune the mind and body into the task at hand.
These simple steps make you naturally more attune to what you are eating and how much you are eating. It also gives your meal a starting point and an ending point, which you will be more willing to adhere to when you stop allowing yourself to eat and do other things at the same time. Your body’s own instinctual mechanisms of digestion and satiation can then kick in, allowing you to eat only what you need and to naturally stop eating at the right time.
Research has shown that healthy levels of vitamin D – a compound that our skin produces when exposed to sunshine – is critical for good health and weight management. During the dark winter months, most people are deficient in this essential vitamin.
Try to get outside as often as you can – even during the winter – and make sure to expose some skin. If the weather gets too cold and dark for you to do this every day, than be sure to regularly take a vitamin D3 supplement. Learn more about the link between sunlight and cellulite here.
It turns out that stress is not just a state of mind. It’s also a state of body. A flabby body, that is.
Research has shown that an increased amount of stress hormone, cortisol, in the body causes depression, memory loss, digestion problems and low libido. It also increases appetite and cravings while lowering muscle mass and bone density, all of which lead to weight gain and belly fat. A Yale University study found that even slender women with high cortisol levels had a higher than average amount of abdominal fat. Therefore, successful weight management isn’t only about staying active – it’s also about knowing how to relax.
Explore different methods of stress management and relaxation techniques, such as going for walks, listening to music, mediation, taking a bath, breathing exercises, etc. Also, getting enough sleep each night is essential for keeping weight-gaining cortisol levels down while keeping weight-controlling leptin hormones up. Studies have shown that getting less than 5 hours of sleep a night leads to weight gain – even when diet and exercise are in play – while sleeping 7 to 9 hours is associated with successful weight loss.
5. Don’t Feed your Pain
Strangely, food researchers have discovered that hunger is not the most common reason that Americans are snacking so much. Many of us are chronically overeating for a number of other reasons, many of which stem from unresolved emotions.
Emotional eating is when you use food to make yourself feel better, to help you deal with negative (and sometimes even positive) emotions or problems in your life. Breaking out of a destructive emotional eating pattern can allow you to finally start achieving the weight loss and positive lifestyle changes that you’re actually hungry for.
Learn how to recognize whether you’re an emotional eater, how to identify the differences between physical hunger and emotional hunger, which situations drive emotionally eating and how to finally stop emotional eating from eating away at your life, here.
A study on college women revealed that women are much more likely than men to engage in weight-related negative behaviors, such as weighing themselves regularly.
Weighing in may seem like a good way to motivate yourself on your weight loss program and to track your progress, but in reality, it could lead you to become overly pre-occupied with your weight and could actually be giving you completely misguided messages. This is because the numbers staring back at you on your scale don’t only reflect how much fat you’re carrying; they also includes the weight of your organs, bones, internal fluids, water and your muscles. You may be congratulating yourself for a much-welcomed weight drop on your scale, but this may simply mean that you’ve lost water and no fat at all. On the other hand, you may be beating yourself up for showing no weight loss after weeks of exercising and healthy eating, when in reality, you’ve actually burnt off lots of fat tissue and gained more fat-burning muscle tissue instead. Muscle weighs more than fat, but it’s more lean, compact, healthy, and will help you torch more pounds of body fat overall in the long term, which reflects success in your weight loss program, not failure.
Stop using your bathroom scale as a marker for weight loss success. Instead, ask a fitness professional to show you ways of tracking how much fat – not weight – you are losing, such as using body fat measuring calipers, digital body fat calculators, etc. You can also use other measures of success, like charting how many inches you’ve lost, watching how certain articles of clothing start to fit you differently, tracking how much further you can run, how much more weight you can lift, and how much stronger, more energetic and fitter you feel. The increase in your confidence – not just the decrease in your fat – is what will turn you into a happier, more attractive person.
6. Shake Up Your Routine
Sometimes, the smallest, simplest changes to your usual routines and surroundings are enough to entirely reset your brain and body, and to help the pounds start rolling off more effectively.
This is what researchers at the University of Southern California discovered when they handed movie-loving study participants a bucket of popcorn and showed them a movie — in a conference room, instead of a regular movie theater. Without any outside encouragement, the movie watchers ate much less popcorn when watching in the conference room, compared to what they usually chowed down in movie theaters. Even just asking the noshers to eat the popcorn with their non-dominant hand helped them portion control their snacking and not overeat, as they usually did. The USC researchers concluded that even the slightest change in bad eating routines helped snackers become more mindful of their eating and to eat less.
This has powerful implications for hard core snack addicts. While it’s not always possible or easy for dieters to completely avoid or change where they snack and typically overeat, it is possible to start regaining control over eating by making simple changes to how they snack. Next time you snack, trying using your non-dominant hand to eat, or try sitting up in a chair during eating rather than lying down on the couch. Better yet, try to make snacking a dedicated activity performed at the table, and avoid doing it at the same time as another activity, like watching television, a movie, in front of the computer or while on the phone. This will help your brain to stop viewing these other activities or environments as triggers for (false) hunger, tuning you back into eating when your body tells you to — rather than when your mind does.
7. Become a Neat Freak
Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that putting people in a clean and tidy setting, versus a messy and disorderly one, led to better behaviors, like not engaging in crime, not littering, giving more money to charity, and making healthier eating choices.
Psychology scientist Kathleen Vohls believes that being in a clean, organized environment encourages people to conform and do what’s expected. For people looking to lose weight, this can be used as a powerful mental tool to help you conform to your own weight loss goals. Before sitting down to your next snack, take a few moments to clean up your immediate surroundings first, which could help you make cleaner, healthier food choices that stay true to your self-expectations and weight loss efforts.
8. Keep Your Mouth Busy
Years of bad snacking habits ingrain themselves into the deepest and oldest parts of your brain. These parts of the brain are wired to make you repeat habitual movements that don’t require thinking, like handling something in your hands, putting it into your mouth, and chewing it. The bright side is that your ancient brain isn’t overly concerned about what that thing actually is. Whatever is closest, easiest and requires the least thought often does the trick.
For dieters, the key is recognizing that there is a difference between your brain’s need for an oral occupation and actual hunger. This means that you can often satisfy your habitual “snacking” urges with activities other than snacking. Chewing gum, nibbling on a celery stick, or continually sipping a warm beverage can often calm down your brain’s need for an oral occupation just as well as a bag of Pringles. Or sometimes, simply occupying your hands is enough to satisfy a snacking urge (which is often triggered by boredom in the first place), like twiddling with a pencil, twisting a rubber band, or giving yourself a hand massage.
9. Freeze off Fat
Oncologists conducting CT scans in search of cancer kept noticing hot spots in the neck and between the shoulders – especially during the winter months – that turned out not to be cancer after all, but just fat. In 2005, when this fat tissue was removed and further examined, it was discovered that this fat was actually brown adipose tissue, which is a special type of fat that burns up white adipose tissue (the fat tissue that makes us look pudgy and doughy) in order to maintain inner body temperatures.
Brown adipose tissue, or BAT, can be stimulated to burn fat when people are exposed to cold temperatures. The research showed that two hours of cold exposure every day for six weeks led to a significant reduction in body fat, showing that the more BAT an adult has, and the more active it is, the thinner the person. This is why many celebrities and top athletes incorporate regular ice baths and cold showers into their weight loss programs, to help them naturally shed pounds more successfully.
Australian researchers kept in touch with 31 university students via SMS messages throughout the day, encouraging them to report any sudden food cravings as they experienced it. Those that reported being in the midst of a craving were prompted to play a game of Tetris, a classic block-shifting puzzle game, on their smart phones for 3 minutes.
The researchers found that just 3 minutes of Tetris playing was not only sufficient to significantly reduce cravings for food, but it also reduced indulgence of drugs, cigarettes, caffeine, alcohol, sex, sleep, and other activities people often report as difficult to resist.
If Tetris isn’t your thing, find something else that you can keep on hand and bring out at an instant when a sudden food craving hits. It should be something that requires rational thinking and absorbs you both mentally and physically for several minutes. A short, simple and temporary distraction is a quick and dirty tool that takes the edge off an intense craving that threatens to take you and your very best weight loss intentions down with it.
11. Get the Blues
Food researchers have discovered an interesting connection between color and appetite – several studies have shown that simply seeing particular colors has the power to stimulate hunger, while seeing other colors has the power to shut it off. Color and food appeal have proven to be closely related, as just the sight of food is enough to set off a flurry of signals in your brain and begin the digestion process.
Warmer colors, like reds, yellows, oranges, greens and browns, have shown the ability to stimulate the appetite and to increase the speed at which people eat. And, hands down, the color that consistently proves to turn people OFF from eating – before they’ve even bothered to taste or smell a food – is the color blue. When trying to manage overall appetite control, hunger, cravings and reducing how much you eat, use blue plates, blue place mats and blue table clothes to act as natural appetite suppressants. You can even try inserting a blue light bulb into your fridge or painting the walls of your eating area blue.
12. Slow Down to Slim Down
After reviewing the research findings from 23 different studies, Japanese scientists concluded that self-reported fast eaters were more than twice as likely to be obese than those who reported eating more slowly.
Why would zipping through dinner make you fatter than slowly savoring each mouthful? The researchers believe that it’s likely due to a number of different reasons. One factor is the experience of fullness. The longer food stays in your mouth and in your stomach, the more it triggers sensors and hormones that send satiety signals to your brain. Eating slowly also helps your blood sugar levels stay more stable, whereas eating quickly can lead to more abrupt spikes in your blood sugar and greater insulin surges that encourage increased hunger and increased fat storage. Finally, food that has not spent enough time being broken down by physical processes and enzymes in the mouth, stomach and gut is more likely to be improperly digested, activating internal inflammation and deposited as fat rather than burned for energy.
Eating in a mindful way without distractions, chewing your food thoroughly before swallowing and allowing yourself to have a dedicated eating time rather than multi-tasking during fly-by meals all help you digest your food more completely, to lose weight more successfully and to have a healthier relationship with food.
At the end of every meal and snack that you eat, brush your teeth for no less than 2 minutes, followed by a floss and rinse. A study involving more than 14,000 subjects published in the Journal of the Japan Society for the Study of Obesity determined that people who brush after every meal tend to weigh less than people who don’t. Moreover, brushing your teeth as a regular post-meal ritual helps to signal your brain that the meal is over and it’s time to stop eating, while the minty aftertaste of the toothpaste coupled with the tingling sensation in your gums after brushing all act to naturally supress your appetite.
14. Ditch Plastic and Aluminum Containers
A recent study performed over the span of 10 years revealed that women with the highest exposure to BPA (a chemical commonly found in aluminum cans) and phthalates (a group of chemicals commonly found in plastics and vinyl) experienced 95 percent more weight gain than women with the lowest BPA and phthalate exposure. Choose foods and beverages stored in glass jars over those stored in aluminum or plastic. Better yet, stick to fresh foods that you’ve prepped and cooked yourself. Learn about other effective ways to reduce your BPA and plastic exposure while improving your weight and health, here.
15. Smaller Plate, Smaller Appetite
A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that eating food from a plate with a wide colored rim may trick your brain into thinking your meal is about 3 percent larger than it actually is. If you place a small portion on a large plate, you automatically assume the meal will be less satisfying and tend to each more. However, by placing food on a smaller plate, the plate looks filled which, in turn, allows you to feel more satisfied after eating less food. Eating off of smaller plates and bowls helps to naturally portion control your meals while helping you feel fuller faster.