1. Keep a food diary.
This is one of the fastest and easiest ways to make yourself more accountable with regards to your weight loss goals. If you commit to write everything you eat down, it’s impossible to forget that you got up in the middle of the night last Tuesday and scarfed down a half-gallon of Rocky Road Chunky Monkey ice cream. A long running study on weight loss by the Center for Health Research found that participants who kept a food journal lost double the weight of those who did not keep records of the food they ate (source).
2. Watch out for weekends and holidays.
A 2009 research study used data collected from over 600 people in a national survey to conclude that people who ate less food overall on the weekend tended to eat less food throughout the week (source). That same study also found that on average, people who over ate on the holidays ate at least 174 more calories per day throughout the entire holiday season – with some eating as much as 900 more calories per day in that same time frame! This is can be attributed to the extra treats, big family dinners, and alcohol consumption throughout the holidays. Weekends can be far more detrimental because there are around 104 weekend days per year, compared to however many days you and your family celebrate Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
3. Add around 200 calories to your daily caloric consumption “guestimate”.
Whether it’s an extra dollop of cream in your coffee, a teaspoon of honey in your oatmeal, or eyeballing how much ketchup or mayo you put on your sandwich; everyone underestimates how much food they consume daily. Add an extra 200 to what you “think” you’re eating and adjust your caloric intake goals for weight loss accordingly. You can lie to your friends and family about how much food you eat in a day, but if you really want to zero in on losing those extra pounds, you do have to eat less food than your daily maintenance needs.
4. Find a weight loss compadre.
Finding someone else who’s truly committed to shedding extra pounds can be a bit of a challenge, since most are weekend warriors who set out on Monday to lose 20 pounds, only to fall off the wagon on Friday afternoon after work when they meet friends for wine and fine dining at their local restaurant, or beer and wings at the pub. It’s never been easier to meet people with similar weight loss goals now though. The Internet offers several sites where you can meet a weight loss buddy or join a challenge and make each other accountable for achieving the results you all desire. Try Weight Loss Buddy, it’s a great community and it’s free.
5. Incantations can help keep you laser-focused.
Most people fail to lose weight because, despite their initial desire to shed those pounds, they just seem to lose focus and fall off track. Use incantations like “I’m not going to eat any junk today”, “Water not juice”, and “Two pounds gone by Friday” to keep your mind on track toward your goal. If you’re the humorous type, make it fun like “No spaaa–get–eeee for meeee!”
6. Start each day off with bacon and eggs.
Sugar is your weight loss enemy, since the body loves to turn whatever you don’t use right away directly into fat! Think Raisin Bran is the way to lose weight instead of your favorite Cap’n Crunch or Cheerios? No, it’s just as bad. A single serving without the milk added has 39 grams of net sugar. Add a half glass of skim milk and that number is close to 50 (source). One egg has one gram of sugar, bacon has none and will fill you up longer.
7. Consume more protein throughout the day.
A few slices of bacon and a couple of eggs prepared just how you like them is a great way to satiate hunger and get more protein. However, you want to keep those protein fires stoked in order to keep food cravings, particularly junk foods, to a minimum. Whey protein is a great way to get more protein if you’re not in love with the idea of eating too much meat or animal products.
8. Water not juice.
This was one of the incantation suggestions listed above for good reason. And you can replace the word “juice” with all the other sugary drinks we all love so much: soda, chocolate milk, fruit smoothies, sports drinks, beer and mixed drinks, etc. Drinking high-sugar beverages is completely counter-intuitive to weight loss because the more sugar you consume the more fat you accumulate and/or maintain, and they’re not filling at all. In fact, drinking sugar leads to insulin spikes which results in even more uncontrollable cravings, usually for processed junk and sweets.
9. Cut back slow and steady.
You might find that most aspects of your life which aren’t good for you, such as bad relationships, bad living conditions and more, are easy to change in an instant if you’re really not happy. When it comes to losing anything more than a couple of nagging holiday pounds, weight loss can be a stubborn animal to get control over. Another reason most people can’t stay the course toward their goals is because they traumatize their mind and body by cutting out all their favorite foods instantly, without giving themselves time to adjust to the hunger pains and cravings. If you normally eat four cookies after supper, have two instead for a while, then continue to cut back week by week until you’re only eating your optimal caloric intake for weight loss (see calorie calculator here).
10. Scale back on your TV time.
This also includes YouTube and other forms of “vegging” entertainment where you just sit and stare at a screen for entertainment. It’s a plain and simple fact that the more people watch television, the more they eat. This is due in part to the advertisements for food, or watching the actors eating delicious tempting foods. A study conducted in the Netherlands showed that when your attention is divided between concentrating on the TV and enjoying your food, the taste buds actually need more sweet, sour and salty flavors in order to feel invigorated (source).
11. Find chores that need doing around your house and/or property.
Simple chores like cleaning (scrubbing, mopping, vacuuming) burn approximately 4 – 7 calories every minute. More labor intensive chores like raking, gardening, carrying heavy bags, rocks, wood, swinging an axe or sledgehammer, etc., will burn double that and even more. The harder the work, the more calories you’ll burn and the biggest advantage here is that you’re doing things that need to be done rather than forcing yourself on a bike or treadmill, or to lift weights at the gym which some people find monotonous and easy to skip out on.
12. Consume 300 – 400 mg of caffeine every day.
This is considered the safe upper limit for most adults and can help burn fat since caffeine is a metabolic stimulant. Use caffeine only if you know you can tolerate it without negative side effects, you don’t have a history of heart trouble, and that you’re not pregnant or breastfeeding. This amount represents approximately 4 – 5 cups of brewed coffee, 5 espressos, 5 – 6 cups of black tea, or 5 sugar-free Red Bulls (obviously the sugary kind would be counter-productive to your weight loss goals). Caffeine pills are an okay alternative but make sure you read labels and never consume more than 200 mg at one time or 400 mg in a given day (source).
13. Understand the difference between cravings and actual hunger.
Most people would consider cravings and hunger to be the same thing, but they’re not. An expecting mother gets cravings for pickles and potato chips because she’s low in sodium, or craves chocolate or ice cream to boost her mood and soothe the baby inside – not because she’s hungry. Most people reach for junk food or over-indulge on healthy foods for psychological reasons like boredom or depression. If you’re truly hungry, it will be because you haven’t eaten for a while and the hunger pains will be almost unbearable – wait for the pain then eat sensibly within your daily caloric goals!
14. Stay away from the fad diet supplements (especially those marketed online).
Just a few short years ago acai berries were all the rage. Many an upstart Internet millionaire was made and supplement companies were raking in billions. Then, almost as soon as it started, the roof fell in on that fad. The FDA stepped in and swiftly started to regulate the diet industry because of all the complaints they received from disappointed overweight people who didn’t get the results they were promised. There is very little evidence that exists to prove that any food or supplement (other than those containing MCT’s, fiber or metabolic stimulants such as caffeine) have anything but negligeable effects on accelerating weight loss. In particular, avoid products claiming “instant results” or “eat whatever you want and still lose weight.” They’re all pure bunk.
15. Consume more medium chain triglyceride-containing foods and/or supplements.
Healthy fats are essential to weight loss, since you need to scale way back on carbohydrate consumption in order to shed fat pounds. When you reduce carbohydrate intake (the body’s preferred energy source) this leads to mental and physical fatigue and often, unbearable sugar and junk cravings. MCT’s are unique among other forms of fat, because they don’t need to be processed and converted to energy by our lymphatic system before being converted to energy in the liver. MCT’s are immediately converted to ketone energy by the liver and send into the bloodstream to be used as energy (learn more). This helps to reduce sugar cravings while also keeping your energy levels high. The best sources of MCT’s are coconut oil or a concentrated MCT supplement.
16. Try smelling food and eating it when you’re hungry and it isn’t mealtime.
This may sound like crackpot advice straight out of a weight loss handbook by some phony guru, but smelling your food appears to have the potential to fool the brain, at least temporarily, into thinking you’re actually eating the food. This study encouraged dieters to smell their food at least ten times when they felt hungry then put it down. Other dieters went about their eating routines as they normally would. After six months, the “sniffers” lost on average 30 pounds, whereas the “non-sniffers” lost only 6 on average.
17. Understand that food addiction is a very real thing and not just a phony label used by health and diet experts.
As many of us know already, food addiction is in fact a thing. Some love the salty satisfaction that comes from eating a bag of chips or an A&W hamburger and/or the sweet stuff like homemade cookies or the yummy contentment that comes from eating a Reese’s peanut butter cup. None of this food is good for anyone, but still we eat them because they cause the release of happy hormones in our brain and make us feel more satiated. Realize you may have an addiction and learn to control it. Seek addiction counseling if you must.
18. Avoid staring at the colors orange, red and yellow.
All are colors that have an appetite-inducing effect on our psychology. In fact, blue is the best color to have in your environment for reducing cravings (ie., your clothes, tablecloth, plates, surrounding decor, and even the light in your refrigerator). The color is associated with poison on an instinctive level in our brain, which is why you’ll rarely see any big chain restaurants with blue inside them (source).
19. Find lots of reasons to climb the stairs throughout the day.
This won’t be for everyone, especially if you work somewhere that doesn’t have them or live in a bungalow. However, according to the CDC, people who spend 10 minutes or more per day walking up and down stairs can lose up to 10 pounds of weight a year over those who do not. This is dependant on how steadfast you are to your diet of course.
20. Stand in the mirror while you mange.
Eating in front of a mirror can help you to reduce your food intake by up to a third. While it’s easy to sit and gorge with your eyes staring at your plate or a TV screen, looking yourself in the eyes will help to reaffirm your weight loss goals and mindset.
21. Eat slowly.
It takes the brain approximately 10 – 20 minutes to feel satiated and full from a meal. Overweight people tend to scarf their food back so fast that by the time their brain has time to curb the hunger response in the body, they’ve gone way above and beyond what the body needs in terms of nourishment. This is particularly true when it comes to eating sugary/salty snacks and desserts. Eat good food and chew your food 30 times before you swallow and your brain will be able to keep up with each mouthful you’re taking in to put the brakes on your hunger before you eat too much.
22. Set your fork/spoon down after every two mouthfuls and take five deep breaths.
This is yet another easy trick to play on yourself to let the brain catch up with the stomach. While taking your breaths, use your favorite affirmations to remind yourself that you’re eating for vitality and nourishment, and not to see how much food you can cram down your throat.
23. Avoid stuck at desk and on-the-couch syndrome.
There’s a big connection between office workers and other professions that involve sitting and standing for long periods and obesity rates (see obesity rates by profession here). The problem here is two-fold: snacks and sugary drinks are rarely far away and provide comfort with stressful jobs; and most of these professionals only move around to get to the bathroom or head to the lunch room or restaurant, then to the car to go home. Get up at minimum, every two hours and go for a 5-minute brisk walk or take a trip up and down the stairs a few times. This can add up to an additional 20 – 30 minutes of calorie burning exercise every day.
24. Shoot for 45 minutes of moderate exercise every day.
An hour is even better. There’s a lot of gimmicky exercise routines out there that suggest you can burn twice the amount of calories working out for 15 minutes at high intensity as you would if working out for an hour. It’s true that the harder you work, the more you burn, but keep in mind that an hour of moderate exercise such as low impact aerobics can burn up 400 calories, whereas 15 minutes of intense circuit training only offers a calorie deficit of around 150 (calorie calculator). Burn 400 calories a day and that’s 2800 calories burned every week. Cut 400 calories a day from your diet and that’s almost 2 pounds a week!
25. Walk before dinner.
Or whatever your favorite exercise is. Do it for 10 minutes before you eat and you’ll trigger the release of happy endorphins into your brain. This endorphin rush is also triggered when we eat over-indulge in our favorite unhealthy foods like processed chocolates and fatty fast foods. Having the endorphin rush ahead of your meals can help curb over-eating.
26. Eat at home as much as possible.
And prepare your lunches at home before you leave. Fast food is convenient, but most are loaded with carbs and have way too many fat calories. When you slap a bunch of ingredients together in between a bun for instance, there’s absolutely no way to ensure 100% accuracy to what the calorie label says. When you eat out, there’s a good chance of an 8 – 18% disparity between what the label says and what you’re actually getting (source).
27. Natural food is best.
Lettuce, tomatoes, celery, spinach, fresh meats, etc. One thing all those foods have in common is that they only have one ingredient. Read the labels on most prepared dinners and snacks you’ll find at the supermarket and they’ll have a minimum of ten; more likely twenty. They’ll also be loaded with sugar, salt and preservatives that make your waistline bigger and your body more acidic and toxic. Natural foods are better for you, are more filling and generally much lower in calories.
28. Learn portion control.
It’s simple: the more food you have on your plate, the more you’ll eat. Weigh or measure the foods you eat for at least six weeks to get an idea of how much of it is really on the plate to learn to control your portion sizes, versus what you’d normally eat if you just guessed. Most people eat at least double and often triple the recommended portion size for many foods, most of which are starchy or contain a lot of sugar.
29. Load your plate with high water-containing foods.
There are tons of them: cucumbers, lettuce, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, low sodium/low carb soups, etc. Watermelon, pineapple and berries in small portions are great low sugar, high water fruits that can be used in place of desserts. The water fills you up faster and leads to less food consumed overall (see list).
30. More veg and less meat.
We need meat in order to get the protein we need. However, meat does contain more fat and calories and most dinner plates are stacked with meat, usually with a handful of vegetables or starchy, fattening side dishes like sauced rice or potatoes slathered with butter and sour cream. Non-starchy veggies like broccoli, lettuce, ochre, zucchini, and cabbage are high in fiber, low in calories, loaded with vitamins and minerals, and will help to fill you up so you’re not so tempted to reach for that dessert or a second portion of dinner.
31. Most fruits are high in sugar and will make you fat.
A medium apple has over 20 grams of sugar. An 8-inch banana has 24 grams. A small orange has 10 grams. Everyone, including Dr. Oz is telling people to load up on these high-sugar fruits because they’re “high in vitamins”. The truth is that salad greens like kale, spinach and lettuce all have much more nutrition than most any fruits we eat, and way fewer calories and sugar. If you simply must eat fruit, watery varieties like watermelon, berries and pineapple are all okay in small amounts.
32. Throw out your serving bowls and platters.
Putting a huge plate or platter on the table for everyone to serve themselves from is a sure-fire path to over-consumption. Instead, try to only prepare what you and the rest of your family will eat. Put the food on individual serving plates and immediately put leftovers away before serving meals.
33. Avoid large groups when eating.
This can be rather unavoidable. However, we do tend to eat more around large groups of people, particularly strangers. Large gatherings tend to have more fattening foods and large portion sizes, in addition to the fact that most people tend to eat more when nervous or shy.
34. Always get the smallest portion size at restaurants and fast food joints.
And stay away from restaurants like Denny’s that are known for large portion sizes! Go for the 6-inch sub instead of the 12, or a chicken salad instead of the Bic Mac with large fries.
35. Eat ¾ of your daily calories by 3pm.
It’s been proven over and over that eating most of your calories for the day by dinnertime will not only curb late night cravings, but actually reduces your daily calorie intake over all (source).
36. Snack on almonds for the win.
Adding two-ounces of almonds to your diet each day for snacking in between meals can help you lose weight. Two-ounces represents about 355 calories, but a 2007 British study showed that participants who ate 1.5 ounces of almonds throughout the day tended to eat less overall. Later studies revealed that 2 ounces a day was doable without gaining extra pounds. Almonds are low in carbohydrates and loaded with healthy fats, protein and calcium too.
37. When meals are done, the kitchen’s off limits!
A calorie is a calorie. If you eat more than you need in a 24-hour period, the excess will be stored as fat. However, people who continue to eat after the last official meal of the day tend to gain more weight.
38. Hit the sack early.
People who stay up past midnight are the most guilty of cramming down too many calorie-dense late night snacks. Late night eating before you go to bed also has a negative impact on your next day hormone levels and overall sleep quality (source).
39. Ditch the big clothes.
As you start losing 10, 20, 30 pounds, etc., and begin to buy smaller clothes to replace your larger ones; throw out the larger clothes and resolve to “never go back”. Keeping your larger clothes is indicative of your lack of confidence to stay the course – essentially keeping them around in case you gain the weight back.
40. Engage in active social outings.
Walking around the local park with a loved one or friend for an hour can burn over 300 calories. An hour of slow pitch baseball can burn over 400 calories. An hour of dancing can also burn up to 400 calories. Instead of sitting around watching movies with friends on Friday, head out and do something active together.
41. Use a pedometer or GPS distance tracker.
Pedometers are an inexpensive way to track the number of steps you take every day. A GPS tracker for your phone is a great way to see just how much mileage you’re racking up on your walks, jogs, or cycling adventures. Aim for 4000 – 5000 steps per day total. More is always better of course.
42. Engage in high intensity training at least 3 days a week in combination with your aerobic routine.
High intensity exercise for at least 15 minutes can cause an “afterburn effect” known as Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption or “EPOC” that keeps your body burning 13% more calories for three hours after your workout and a further 4% more over the following 36 hours.
43. If it’s white, don’t eat/drink it.
Fresh cooked fish and chicken being the exception. You might discover other exceptions to this rule but in general, white foods contain the most sugar and starch. Bread, pasta, rice, table sugar. Sadly, milk fits into this category too, as it has 15 grams of sugar per 8-ounce glass – it can also lead you to an early grave (source).
44. A grain is a grain, don’t eat them and you’ll lose weight.
The old whole wheat is better than white, quinoa is better for you than wheat, etc. It really irks me to hear experts telling people to look for whole grains over refined ones. While whole grains do have a better nutrient profile – and a little more fiber – they’re still loaded with carbohydrates. Consider white and whole wheat Wonder bread side by side. Both have around 26 grams of net carbs (sugar) per two-slice serving. Those fancy 12 grain varieties are even worse, many with up to 50 net carbs per serving or more.
45. Skip the Starbucks.
Or any other over-priced coffee joint that makes billions by selling you 500+ calorie mochaccinos and frappuccinos and the like. Stick to plain old coffee with a dollop of cream or your favorite non-dairy creamer and you’ll instantly see the pounds start to slip off.
46. Brush your teeth more often.
Especially after meals. Brushing your teeth leaves toothpaste residue which is a deterrent to eating, not to mention that those who’re particularly diligent about keeping their mouths minty clean will avoid eating to avoid having to duck into the bathroom and brush (source).
47. Engage in intermittent fasting once a week or more.
This is a great way to help control blood sugar and help to regulate insulin in the body. The main goal is to finish your evening meal one night, then not eat for 18 – 20 hours, where you’ll consume all your calories for the day in one sitting, 4 or more hours before bedtime. After about 8 hours with no food, your body will be in serious fat-burning mode which will continue until you eat later on.
48. Dump traditional condiments.
Ketchup, sweetened mustard, relish, steak sauce, high calorie salad dressings, Miracle Whip. These and many others contain a lot of sugar and most of us put way too much on our food without any clue how many calories we’re adding. Imagine for a second just how little ketchup is in a single teaspoon: most commercial ketchups have at least 4.5 g of sugar per paltry teaspoon. Most people think of condiments as freebies, making them extremely detrimental to weight loss.
49. Reduce stress and you’ll lose belly fat.
When we’re overloaded with constant stress, the body releases more cortisol, the “stress hormone.” When cortisol goes unchecked for long periods, the body is more predisposed to store fat in the midsection, meaning you can be completely toned everywhere else, but still have too much belly fat (source). Beer and alcohol raise cortisol levels too, which is actually what’s responsible for the “beer belly” so many otherwise slim people develop when over-consuming booze.
50. Stop reading about it and start doing it!
There are tons of advice out there, but don’t let yourself fall in love with the idea of getting to your ideal pant size while pouring exhaustively through everything you can find about weight loss and never taking action. Much like watching a rom-com or reading a Danielle Steele novel, reading about weight loss without actually implementing your plan is just a fantasy. “Tomorrow” is the day that never comes most times. “I’ll do it tomorrow” or next week, next month… Everyone has an excuse for why they can’t get going, but cutting calories and getting a few minutes of exercise here and there generally won’t get in the way of even the most hectic life.