Meticulous meal planning. Counting every calorie you consume. Spending an entire weekend cooking healthy meals for the following week. Finding even more time to exercise. Sure, these weight-loss strategies work, but they can be awfully time consuming. Enter our slacker's guide to weight loss. The following 16 no-effort tweaks can be applied to your current routine instantly.
Indulge your Candy Crush addiction
Turns out playing video games reduces the vividness and frequency of cravings compared with waiting it out, according to new research in the journal Appetite. (Study participants played Tetris.) Why? Because playing games distracts your laser focus on about that pint of ooey-gooey chocolate ice cream sitting in your freezer.
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Keep good food close
Laziness plays a bigger role in your food choices—both good and bad—than you might think, suggests another study published in Appetite. Undergraduates at Saint Bonaventure University in Upstate New York were separated into three groups: one that sat with apple slices within reach and buttered popcorn roughly six feet away, one with the popcorn within reach and the apple slices six feet away, and one with both snacks within reach. Even though the participants told the researchers they preferred to eat the popcorn over the apples, they ate whatever was nearest to them.
There's no better way to indulge in your lazy tendencies than to get more sleep. Sleeping fewer than than five hours a night could send the scale soaring 30% higher than if you got seven hours or more, suggests a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Order your drinks unsweetened
"Order a plain latte instead of flavored, plain iced tea, plain coffee," says Beth Saltz, RD. Opting for the plain latte over the flavored will save you 40 calories per 16-ounce serving and forgoing the half and half in your coffee will save you up to 20 calories and 2 grams of fat per one-tablespoon serving of the creamy stuff.
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Eat sitting down
"You would be amazed how many calories you consume without paying attention, especially from tray-passed foods and buffets at parties or get-togethers," Saltz says. Mindless eating is the enemy of weight loss. Studies out of Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab show we unconsciously eat more out of bigger containers, and in social situations. "If you're sitting down at a table, though, you will be more mindful of what you are eating and keep extra calories from sneaking in from tray-passed snacks and buffet food," she says. To reduce temptation even more, sit further away from the food.
Save the salad for last
Salad comes with your meal; just eat it at the end of your meal. "Rather than taking seconds of the main course, a salad can be a very filling, low-calorie option," says Debra Wein, RD, president of Wellness Workdays, a leading provider of worksite wellness programs. "By eating it last, it will give your brain a chance to catch up with your stomach so you realize that you aren't as hungry as when you started your meal. Just make sure you skip the creamy dressings."
A low-stress lifestyle may keep belly fat away, suggests research published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology. For a year, researchers from the University of California at San Francisco followed 61 healthy women; 33 were chronically stressed while the other 28 were not. All were asked to keep a record of their consumption of high sugar, high fat foods. Researchers found that eating these unhealthy foods frequently predicted metabolic risk, including a larger waistline, more belly fat, higher oxidative damage, and more insulin resistance—but only in the high-stress group. Women in the low-stress group who also ate a lot of high fat, high sugar foods did not experience the same negative metabolic effects.
Forget about diet soda
Research out of the University of Texas at Austin found that people who drank diet soda tended to have larger waists. After following 474 people for about a decade, they found that those who drank diet soda had a 70% greater increase in waist circumferences compared with non-drinkers. What's more: people who consumed two or more diet sodas a day saw a 500% greater increase.
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Make water your go-to drink
Sure, we've all been told we should make sure to drink enough water, but it bears repeating—research shows it can be an effective weight-loss aid. In one Virginia Tech study, overweight people who followed a low-calorie diet and drank two eight-ounce glasses of water before every meal lost an average of 15.5 pounds over three months. People who reduced their calorie intake but didn't down the H20 dropped just 11 pounds.
Grab Greek yogurt or cottage cheese for breakfast
Both are easy, no-cook breakfasts that give your body a big dose of calcium and nearly 20 grams of protein, says registered dietician Tiffani Buchus, who is the co-author of No Excuses! 50 Healthy Ways to ROCK Breakfast! In a recent study, women who consumed about 30 grams of protein at breakfast reported feeling fuller for longer and consuming fewer calories at lunch than those who ate just three grams of protein.
Opt for raw
When you're hungry, grabbing a piece of fruit is easy—no cooking is required. "Fruits are naturally sweet, high in fiber, and full of hydration," says Wein. "If you fill up on fruits, you'll be less likely to want to eat other foods." Raw vegetables can have the same effect.
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Don't drown your food
Bypassing dips and dressings can help shave off calories. "While a few dabs won't break you, a little here and a little there will jeopardize your weight loss efforts," says Buchus. Most creamy dips can rack up the calorie count to over 100 calories and 10 to 15 grams fat for only four tablespoons.
Limit your frozen yogurt
Are you a fro-yo fiend? Keep your self-serve in check by employing a dollar limit. "Most yogurt is 20 to 30 calories per ounce, so calories add up quickly even before toppings," Saltz says. "If you stay under a certain dollar limit—I suggest $3— you will be sure to also limit your calories. Just weigh your yogurt on the scale at the register and they can easily tell you what amount you've hit. The right amount of yogurt is about a fist-sized portion, and the right amount of topping is thumb-sized."
Choose alcohol or dessert, not both
If you start dinner with a glass or two of wine and end it with dessert, you've bookended your meal with an extra 500 to 1,000 calories, Saltz says. To lose weight, you have got to cut calories. So unless you plan to order a plain salad with balsamic for your entree, she suggests cutting elsewhere to avoid a 2,000-calorie meal. "If alcohol is your choice—I usually pick wine over dessert—order a decaf coffee to finish your meal," she says. "If you want to splurge on dessert, then keep your liquid calories zero during the meal."
Feed your salsa or curry obsession
By embracing spicy food, you could be tricking your body into eating less, suggests a study in the June 2014 issue of Appetite. In the small Danish study, adding one gram of red chili pepper to each meal kept participants more satiated and full whether they consumed 100% or only 75% of their daily calories and prevented them from overeating after dinner. You can put this to work for you very easily since one gram is approximately one-fourth of a teaspoon.