Losing weight is hard. And keeping it off? Even harder—almost to the point that shedding pounds for good can feel like a Sisyphean struggle. That’s probably why, according to recent research out of JAMA, that the amount of overweight people in the United States consistently rises while, at the same time, fewer people than ever are embarking on weight loss journeys of their own.
But what these struggling souls may not know is that losing weight doesn’t have to be such an arduous slog. In fact, by deploying the right methods, weight loss can be effortless, entertaining, and, most importantly, effective. The first step, as with all things, is getting started; once you’re on a roll, you won’t be able to stop. To that end, we’ve gathered the 20 easiest lifestyle changes, all thanks to science, that are certain to get you up and at ’em and ready to incinerate any paunch—once and for all. And as far as what not to do, be sure to learn—and avoid—the 40 Weight Loss “Secrets” That Don’t Work At All.
Ask A Friend to Go with You
Starting an exercise routine is a great way to shed pounds, but it can be hard to initiate a new one. Asking a friend to workout with you will turn your gym sessions into commitments and will also keep you working harder when you get there. A study in the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology showed that people work harder at what they are doing when they are part of a group versus when they are alone. So grab a friend to maximize your time at the gym. Plus, this trick will give you someone to grab brunch with after.
Start Each Day With A Motivational Phrase
Yes, seriously. Positive reinforcement is a great way to stay motivated toward your goals. A study in the Frontiers of Psychology tested different motivational practices on 44,000 people to find which was most effective, and, as it turns out, using self-talk had the best results. Saying things like “I can do better today or next time” will keep you more motivated and on-task to meeting your weight loss goals. For ideas on what to say, check out the 50 Inspirational Quotes That Are Certain to Energize Your Days.
Set Smaller Goals
Another roadblock in the journey to lose weight is that people set goals that are too high or simply unrealistic. A wellness expert at the University of Alabama says that setting a high weight loss goal for yourself can discourage you from hitting that goal. A simple change in language can make your goal seem much more attainable. Losing 25 pounds in three months seems like a lofty goal. But losing one to three pounds per week over the course of three months seems achievable. The end result? It’s the same amount of weight.
Write Your Goals Down Somewhere Visible
We all set goals, some of which are far easier to attain than others. But if you want to make sure that you’ll stay motivated with your weight loss benchmarks, you should write them down and put them somewhere you’ll see often—say, on your nightstand or maybe your kitchen counter. A study at the Dominican University found that those who wrote their goals down were significantly more likely to complete them than those who didn’t.
Don’t Compare How You Look to Others
Renowned psychologist Richard Wiseman wrote in his book 59 Seconds: Think a little, change a lot that those who hung up a picture of either a celebrity or an athlete as weight loss motivation didn’t actually end up hitting their weight loss goals. Weight loss is so much more than just body image, so instead of idolizing someone by how they look, pick someone who is a baller at the gym—or maybe a healthy food blogger—to follow instead. And for some different inspiration to lose weight, check out the 10 Craziest Celebrity Weight Loss Stories of 2017.
Yes, it’s quite obvious. But for some people, a post-gym cigarette is relaxing. If you’re one of them, stop—immediately. The Cleveland Clinic says that smoking not only makes it harder for you to exercise but that you also reap less benefits from exercising. So, if you are trying to hit that weight loss goal, put the pack aside. For good.
Hang Out with Likeminded People
A 2016 study found that overweight or obese people tend to hangout with other people who have similar lifestyles as them. What’s more, the study found that these fraternizing tendencies proved a negative influence when it come to losing weight. On the other hand, those who hung out with other people trying to lose weight—or people who were thinner than them—had much better results. It may sound harsh, but stick with those folks.
Reward Yourself When You Stay On Track
Few things are more motivating than a little treat at the end of a hard workout or after a healthy dinner. A 2016 study found that the thought of losing a reward motivated the study subjects to complete their exercise goals more than a control group that did not have a reward. So give yourself a metaphorical pat on the back and maybe have a cupcake after each successful pound drop.
Up Your Fiber Intake
Keeping yourself on track for your weight loss goals can be as easy as simple dietary shift. A 2015 study proved that just increasing the fiber intake in your diet is a simple and effective way to improve your weight loss. Lentils, steel-cut oats, chickpeas—slate all of these foods into your diet.
Ban the Idea of Banned Foods
You may think about cutting out that daily doughnut or pizza slice, because they are high in calories and fat, but cutting out foods you will still have exposure to is actually antithetical for weight loss. A 2008 study showed that people who restricted themselves from certain foods had a hard time controlling impulses around the food when they end up exposed to it. So don’t cut out that doughnut in the morning if it means you’ll eat three when your coworker brings them to the next meeting. Eat everything in moderation.
Don’t Follow A Controlled Diet
Sometimes controlled diets do work effectively at helping you keep weight off—but this comes at the cost of having to stay on them seemingly indefinitely. Not only do they give you a psychologically negative look at food, but many studies show that people who follow a controlled diet usually gain the weight back right after they end it. For instance, research out of JAMA found that, after ending a controlled diet, only 12 percent of the participants managed to keep 75 percent of the weight they lost off. 40 percent ended up gaining back more than they had started with.
Keep A Food Diary
Keeping track of what you eat is a great way to document different healthy recipes that you know you like and should make again. It can also help you meet your weight loss goals. A study published in the American Journal for Preventive Medicine found that people who diligently journaled their food intake lost significantly more weight than those who were inconsistent or didn’t keep one at all.
Drink Two Glasses of Water Before Eating
A study from 2009 studied the effects of drinking 16 ounces of water before each meal and how the practice pertains to weight loss. Researchers found that drinking 16 ounces of water (about two glasses) can help you lose up to 44 percent more weight. Plus, water has so many other health benefits—from promoting smooth skin to keeping you energized—that there is no reason to skip out on this one.
Slow Down Your Eating
A study from 2011 found that those who eat quicker had a higher body mass index than those who eat slower. When you eat slower, you are much more in tune with how full your body feels, so you don’t end up inadvertently overeating. So take your time. You’ll end up eating less—and enjoying your food more.
Eat Your Meals on Time
A 2013 study showed that those who ate lunch later in the day actually lost less weight than those who ate lunch—and their other meals—on time. So don’t hold out on yourself. Eat your meals slowly and on time when you get hungry to stay motivated for your weight loss goals.
Use Smaller Flatware
Portion control is a huge aspect of weight loss, but it isn’t always easy to manage how much you are taking, especially at a buffet or restaurant. The secret is the plate size. At all-you-can-eat events, you’ll naturally want to fill your whole plate. A study from 2013 showed that people at a buffet who were given large plates took 52 percent more food and ate 45 percent more food than those who had smaller plates.The solution? Take a smaller plate.
Eat A High-Protein Breakfast
A recent study out of Tel Aviv University found that eating protein, specifically whey protein, for breakfast helps you feel more full throughout the day, ultimately causing you to eat less overall. This healthy start to the day is a great way to keep you motivated on your weight loss goals; you’ll not only feel less hungry throughout the day, but, due to the energy-boosting benefits of protein, you’ll be prepared for your gym session later.
Weigh Yourself Daily
People always said that getting on the scale everyday was detrimental to weight loss (a larger-than-you-expect number could be a deterrent) but, as it turns out, that’s a myth. A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that those who stepped on the scale every day avoided gaining any weight and the practice ended up contributing to their weight loss. Of course, don’t freak out about the number staring back at you. Allow yourself a 5 pound grace period as your weight fluctuates naturally.
Photograph Your Progress
In addition to weighing yourself daily, be sure to take a picture of yourself every week or month to document your progress. A 2014 study found that participants who took photos of themselves were more likely to reach their weight loss goals; a lot of weight loss is about body image, as opposed to raw numbers.
One of the first steps toward getting to your workout is getting dressed for it. A 2012 study found that we associate certain clothes with the activity they are usually used in and putting them on actually changes our psychological state. So buy yourself some nice workout clothes. And for more ways to get yourself up and moving, learn the 11 Ways Smart People Motivate Themselves to Go to the Gym.
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