20 Ways to Get Rid of a Few Lbs
In a 16-year study at Harvard, scientists found that people who slept for 5 hours or less a night were 32 percent more likely to pack on major pounds than those who dozed a full 7 hours. Although “major” was defined as 33 pounds, the average increase was 2 pounds a year, a gain that’s easy to miss from month to month. “Due to accumulating fatigue, those who get the least shuteye may also move around the least during the day,” says study author Sanjay Patel, M.D.
Don’t believe your eyes
Warning: Your breakfast may be larger than it appears. Cornell University scientists found that people ate more cereal from bigger bowls than from smaller ones, even though they thought the opposite to be true. “It’s called the sizecontrast illusion,” says researcher Brian Wansink, Ph.D. “Because food takes up a smaller percentage of space in larger dishes, it seems like you’re eating less.” Use a measuring cup to portion out your cereal; in a few days, you’ll be able to eyeball servings accurately.
Don’t neglect your legs
To take inches off your waist, work the muscles below your belt. In a new Syracuse University study, people burned more calories the day after they did lowerbody resistance training than the day after they worked their upper body. “Leg muscles like your quads and glutes generally have more mass than the muscles in your chest and arms,” says study author Kyle Hackney, Ph. D.(c). “Work more muscle, and your body uses more energy to repair and upgrade it later.” The best approach? Hit every muscle each workout.
Go ahead. Live a little.
Eating frequent, low-sugar desserts can help keep the weight off. Dieters in a Greek study who ate a low-sugar dessert 2 times a week lost 9 more pounds after 12 weeks than those who ate any dessert they wanted just once a week. Eating dessert more frequently can keep you from feeling deprived, the researchers say. But limit desserts 100 calories or less.
Avoid the Fizz
Turns out, soft drinks really are just empty calories. Penn State University researchers fed men lunch once a week for 6 weeks, along with either a 12 or 18-ounce regular soda, diet soda, or water. The result: The men ate the same amount of food no matter the size or type of beverage served. Which means they consumed far fewer total calories when they drank water or diet soda compared with the sugar-laden stuff. What’s more, the participants’ ratings of satiety and hunger were identical after each lunch, showing that the extra calories in the regular soda had no benefit.
Planning your responses to hunger may help you shed fat faster, according to Dutch researchers. Dieters who wrote a list of “if, then” statements (“If I’m hungry at 4 p.m., then I’ll have a few almonds.”) lost more weight and stuck to their diets better than those who didn’t put pen to paper. A specific plan may help you avoid poor choices when hunger strikes, the scientists say. Schedule safe snacks for your weakest times, and switch them up every few weeks.
Crunch on these
Turkish scientists recently discovered that eating hazelnuts lowers your risk of heart disease. When men with high cholesterol ate about 1 ounce of the sweet nuts daily for 8 weeks, their LDL (bad) cholesterol dropped 30 percent, while their HDL (good) cholesterol rose 12 percent. As with almonds and walnuts, the researchers credit the upgrade in blood lipids to the hazelnuts’ high content of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
Bowl yourself over
Eating a soup appetizer will cut your calorie intake by 20 percent, according to a Penn State study. After serving men pasta lunches for a month, the researchers found that the participants ate an average of 135 fewer calories when they started their meals with a 150-calorie serving (1 1/2 cups) of a broth-based vegetable soup. “Eating soup forces you to slow down, allowing your body to recognize that it’s becoming full before moving to the second course,” say the researchers. What’s more, the same held true in a University of Texas study of fatty soups like chowder—men consumed 227 fewer calories when a pizza meal was preceded by the soup.
Come up for air
Fast eating may lead to diabetes and weight gain. In a recent study, Japanese scientists found that people who wolfed down their food were more likely to be overweight and insulin resistant both early signs of future diabetes than those who ate at a slower pace. The researchers are planning more studies to determine the connection. Do you need to slow down at the dinner table? Be your own judge. The study participants were classified as fast or slow eaters based on how they rated their eating speed. Fifty-five percent of young men say they’re “fast eaters,” according to a university of Rhode Island survey.
Choose your partner wisely
Researchers from Eastern Illinois University have discovered that people consume 65 percent more calories when they eat with a person who opts for seconds than when they dine with a companion who doesn’t. But you don’t have to eat alone for the rest of your life. “This is a subconscious behavior,” says Men’s Health nutrition advisor Jonny Bowden, Ph.D. “So being aware of it can help you avoid becoming a victim.” Instead of taking seconds or ordering dessert, opt for a cup of herbal tea after you finish your main course. It will keep your mouth busy while providing a refreshing, no-calorie end to your meal.
Stock up on pistachios
An old trick is now backed up by research: Eating in-shell pistachios can help you lose weight, say Eastern Illinois University researchers. In the study, people who ate already-shelled nuts consumed about 100 calories more than those who had to pry off the shells. One reason: Opening nuts slows you down, giving you more time to realize you’re full, say the scientists.
That “medium” soda may actually be a large. Duke University researchers have discovered that some fast-food chains are encouraging customers to buy larger soft drinks, which justifies higher prices by increasing the number of ounces in all sizes of drinks. They know what you may not: Most people subconsciously pick the middle option without considering the actual amount, says study author Richard Staelin, Ph.D. Remember, 8 ounces is one serving. In the past 30 years, portion sizes of sweetened beverages have increased by 62 percent.
Don’t forget your lunch
This study could cause you to lose your appetite. British researchers discovered that thinking about what you had for lunch keeps you from bingeing on afternoon snacks. During a sham taste test, scientists asked men to rate three types of salted popcorn and encouraged them to eat as much as they wanted. Interestingly, those who were first asked to recall exactly what they’d eaten for lunch downed 30 percent less popcorn than those who were allowed to skip the review session. “Remembering recent eating might enhance awareness of how satiating the food was, which then has an effect on subsequent consumption,” says study author Suzanne Higgs, Ph.D.
Eat off your feet
Before scarfing a quick bite, grab a chair. People who snack while sitting at a set table eat fewer calories at their next meal than people who snack on the go, according to a Canadian study. Researchers served identical portions of soup and crackers, a sandwich, and fruit and yogurt to 64 adults, who ate either at a cloth-covered table or while standing at a counter. Those who were seated consumed a third less when they returned for dinner. “All the trappings of a formal meal make you think you’re eating more than you actually are, increasing your satiety levels,” says study author Patricia Pliner, Ph.D.
Go heavy to get light
When researchers at the University of Southern Maine used an advanced method to estimate energy expenditure during exercise, they found that weight training burns as many as 71 percent more calories than originally thought. In fact, the researchers calculated that performing just one circuit of eight exercises can expend up to 231 calories. The more muscle you work, the more calories you’ll burn, says study author Christopher Scott, Ph.D.
Maximize the number of muscle fibers you activate in each set by performing a circuit in which you alternate upper-body movements with lower-body and abdominal exercises. This allows your upper-body muscles to rest while your lower body muscles work, and vice versa—ensuring your best effort each set. Complete three full circuits of eight exercises and it’s likely you’ll burn as many calories as you would by jogging for 30 minutes.
Just say no—to the TV dinner
Stop eating in front of your television. University of Massachusetts scientists found that people who watch TV during a meal consume, on average, 288 more calories than those who don’t chew while changing channels. In the study, researchers had groups of people eat pizza or macaroni and cheese while either watching Seinfeld or listening to music. When intakes were tallied, the scientists determined that the television viewers downed 36 percent more calories from the pizza and 71 percent more from the mac and cheese. “When you’re distracted by a TV show, your brain may not recognize that you’re full as fast,” says study author Elliott Blass, Ph.D.
Reserve a table for two
Dinner dates can make you thin. In a recent study, researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo observed that men downed 35 percent fewer calories when eating with their significant others, compared with eating with their buddies. “People tend to match their own intake to the amount their dining partners eat,” says study author Sarah Jeanne Salvy, Ph.D. “Women may be more cognizant of how gluttonous they appear to their partners.” One way to avoid pigging out on guys’ night: Choose an entrée for yourself and skip communal foods like nachos, wings, and pizza, which encourage you to take eating cues from your porcine pals.
Lose weight the fun way
It’s your choice: Go for a trudging run, or play a game. Playing soccer is just as effective as running for helping you lose weight, say researchers in Switzerland. In the study, men who played in an hour-long soccer session two or three times a week were able to lose, on average, 4.5 pounds of fat and 1.3 inches from their waists in 3 months. That was just as good as the group that ran for the same time period. Playing soccer is similar to interval training, say the scientists. Find a beginners’ league, or (actively) coach kids.
Set the table
Using real dinnerware makes you feel like you’ve eaten a full meal, so you might snack less at other times. In a Cornell study, people who ate from paper plates with plastic utensils tended to consider their food just a snack. Though they took in 116 fewer calories than the “real plate” group did, the scientists said they’d probably eat another meal later. “The environment tremendously influences how much we eat,” says study coauthor Collin Payne, Ph.D.
Go to the pound, lose pounds
We’ve said it before: A dog is a great exercise buddy. And now scientists have proved it. Researchers at the University of Victoria found that people who own dogs walk almost twice as much as those who don’t have dogs. Credit the dog owners’ sense of responsibility and obligation, says study author Ryan Rhodes, Ph.D. One other key reason: Pets are pushy. Doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago discovered that when it comes to exercise, dogs are “consistent initiators.” So adopting a pooch is like hiring a fulltime trainer. Dog owners exercise, on average, 132 minutes more each week than people who don’t own a dog.