6 Daily Habits That Help You Lose Weight
Simple, effective ways to help you get closer to your goal every day.
Photo: Katie Nesling/istockphoto
Habit #1: "Spoiling" Your Dinner
If you eat a small snack, like 100 calories worth of nuts, roughly 30 minutes before your meal, by the time you take your first bite, levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone that tells your brain you should devour everything on your plate) will already be falling, helping you eat less overall. Drink a glass of water too. People who increased their H20 intake by as little as one cup per day began eating 68 to 205 calories less daily, found a recent study that looked at the weight and dietary habits of more than 18,000 Americans.
Habit #2: Taking a Break at the Gym
Consider this the best thing we've heard about lifting weights in a long time: Longer periods of rest between sets can boost muscle growth, according to a recent study in Experimental Physiology, and the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn at rest. Researchers had 16 male subjects do a series of resistance exercises with either 1 minute or 5 minutes of rest in between sets, then measured the protein synthesis in their muscles afterward (a proxy for muscle growth). Those who took the longer break saw a 152 percent increase compared with a 76 percent increase among those who only got 60 seconds of downtime. The same effect likely happens in women, says lead study author Leigh Breen, PhD, a lecturer in exercise physiology and metabolism at the University of Birmingham in the UK. So if you've been going through your weight routine Speedy Gonzalez–style, slow it down—the researchers say the minimum amount of time you should be resting between sets is 2 to 3 minutes.
Habit #3: Eating at the Table (but Not for the Reason You Think)
Bingeing on Veep to the point that you don't realize how much cheese you're eating is a problem. There's another issue though: You can't hear yourself eat when the TV is on. Being able to hear the noises your food makes while you eat it may help you consume less, suggests a small study in Food Quality and Preference. The researchers behind the findings have dubbed it the "crunch effect," reporting that subjects ate fewer pretzels while wearing headphones playing quiet noise versus loud noise. (The effect is strong enough that the mere suggestion of chewing noises was enough to make subjects eat less.)
Habit #4: Skipping the Daily Weigh-In
The bathroom scale might be giving you too much information, from BMI and body-fat percentage to your weight broken all the day down to two decimal places. When dieters in one study were given their "health index score" (a weight range instead of a precise number) or their actual weight, the ones given the more vague information lost more weight than those who knew exactly what they weighed. Since there's no scale out there that'll give you a score like the subjects got, try weighing yourself weekly instead of daily and setting a weight loss range goal (5 to 10 pounds, for example) instead of zeroing in on a specific number. A fuzzier sense of your weight might give you more motivation to stay on track, the researchers said, because you can choose to believe you're on the lower end of the spectrum, while having the cold, hard numbers could be discouraging if yours are higher than you hoped.
Photo: Ross Chandler/istockphoto
Habit #5: Having This on Your Kitchen Counters
Minimal clutter and only healthy options in sight. Women who hung out in a messy kitchen ate twice as many cookies as those who spent time the same kitchen when it was less of a disaster, found a study in Environment and Behavior, possibly because the disorganized environment made them feel stressed or out of control. In another study, in Health Education and Behavior, researchers took photos of the kitchens in more than 200 houses then weighed the women living in them. They found that women in homes with boxes of cereal (a notorious added-sugar bomb) on the counter weighed about 20 pounds more than those in cereal-free or hidden-cereal homes. Having soft drinks out was linked to weighing 24 to 26 pounds more. Meanwhile, women with fruit bowls on display weighed about 13 pounds less than those with no fruit out. (No surprise that both studies come from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, the same eating-behavior think-tank that told us buying in bulk can make us consume 48 percent more and that limiting ourselves to two items at a time will help us eat less at buffets.)
Habit #6: Making a Values List
Women who jotted down their values (from religion to relationships to politics) then wrote about the one that was most important to them lost more weight, and had smaller waist circumferences and lower BMIs four months later than women who were also trying to downsize but didn't spend time focusing on their values, found one study. The study authors speculate that thinking about what matters to us may help us feel more in control of our habits and better about ourselves overall, making it less likely that we'll reach for food when we need an emotional pick-me-up.