Anyone can start a diet. But as the days turn into weeks, cravings turn into full-blown obsessions. The next thing you know, you’ve torn through a bag of potato chips and eviscerated a sleeve of cookies—and that’s just while you were waiting for your takeout to arrive. Yes, it’s no secret that sticking to a diet is hard. In fact, according to research in the New England Journal of Medicine, the majority of dieters regain their lost weight within a year. (Oh, and speaking of potato chips: Research shows they’re the single worst food you can possibly eat for your waistline.)
But one perusal down the #fitinspiration Instagram hashtag rabbit hole will tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way. Staying course on your weight-loss journey doesn’t have to be a Sisyphean slog. In fact, by adopting a few tried-and-true techniques—like the 20 gathered here—you too can stick to your diet like glue. So read on, and become the body you want to see in the world. And as far as what not to do, learn (and avoid!) the 40 Popular Weight Loss “Secrets” That Don’t Work At All.
They take a lot of selfies.
Love it or hate it, the selfie is a proven method for promoting healthy living. According to a study out of the University of Alicante, maintaining a photo diary of your progress is certain to help keep you on track. Over the course of 16 weeks, researchers had nearly 300 participants take weekly photos of their bodies. By the end of the experiment, a staggering 71 percent met their weight-loss goals.
“What patients want is a photo, rather than cold numbers,” Isaac Elías Kuzmar Daza, the study’s lead author, said. And if you want to up your selfie-posting game, bone up on the 20 Ways to Instantly Make Your Instagram More Compelling.
Every night, they get seven hours (or more).
Research in the International Journal of Obesity indicates that missing out on a good night’s sleep causes cortisol levels to spike. Cortisol is the hormone your body uses to store fat. You can do the math. If you need help catching up on some Zs, be sure to brush up on the 65 Tips For Your Best Sleep Ever.
Every morning, they step on the scale.
According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, folks who weigh-in every day are more likely to lose weight—and keep it off. Regularly seeing the number functions as a motivation. For best results, step on the scale in the morning. You’ll weigh less in the morning (even if only a pound or two) than you will later in the day.
They treat soda as poison.
You may love a Pepsi at lunch or a whiskey-ginger at happy hour, but soda is one of the more insidious culprits when it comes to weight gain. Think of it in terms of a math. Your average 12-ounce can has about 150 calories. So, if you have just one soda every single day, you’re consuming 1,050 extra (empty, nutritionally useless) calories each week. Or let’s put it another way: Every month, you’re tacking on two entire days of calorie intake to your diet.
Yes, even the diet stuff.
And if you think diet sodas are any better for you, think again. According to research published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, the artificial sweeteners in diet sodas have been linked to sudden spikes in sugar cravings. As a result, folks who regularly drink diet sodas end up consuming more sugar and even end up gaining weight. And for more nutrition advice, don’t miss these 25 Foods That Prevent Winter Weight Gain.
They play around with wording.
Losing, say, 25 pounds over the course of three months seems like a tall order. But losing two pounds a week for twelve weeks doesn’t sound so bad, right? By altering the language of your diet goals, you can make the target seem that much more attainable.
Fat, believe it or not, isn’t forbidden.
Seriously. In fact, according to research in The Lancet, people who slate fats into their diets are more likely to keep lost weight off. So follow suit—just make sure you’re eating the “right” fats, like avocados, nuts, and salmon. These foods are known to sate appetites and will have you feeling fuller, longer, even if you cut down on calorie intake.
And neither are carbs.
Despite their reputation as belt-tighteners, carbs are an essential part of any effective diet. By eating the right carbs, you get a healthy load of appetite-sating fiber and insulin-incinerating carotenoids. So stay away from potatoes, white bread, semolina pasta, and rice. Instead, start eating sweet potatoes, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, and quinoa. Or any of the 10 Healthiest Carbs That Won’t Derail Your Six-Pack.
They follow the “80 percent rule…”
This rule is a common mandate of most diets. It goes like this: Eat 80 percent of what you normally would, wait 20 minutes, and see if you’re still hungry. Chances are, you won’t be. And just like that, you’ve slashed your total calorie intake by 20 percent.
…by using smaller plates.
By physically limiting how much food you can have at any given time, you’re bound to eat less. If you’re having trouble sticking to the 80 percent rule at home, consider putting all of your flatware in storage and purchasing a newer, smaller (shinier) set.
They take their coffee black.
One cup of black coffee has about 5 calories. Load it up with cream and sugar, however, and that single cup is now 100 calories. If you can’t stand the bitter taste of black coffee, try switching to a lighter roast (like the Veranda blend at Starbucks). Light roast coffee is naturally sweeter—and more caffeinated. Or, you could try adding cinnamon: Swapping sugar for cinnamon in your morning Joe is just one of the 15 Best 60-Second Health Hacks Ever.
They rarely drink.
For the same reason that soda is bad (a lot of calories), alcohol is too. One beer has 150 calories. One glass of wine has 123 calories. An ounce-and-a-half of liquor (the amount in a typical cocktail) has 105 calories. Those add up.
But when they do, it’s tequila
That said, even the most stringent among us has a drink every now and then. Whenever possible, successful dieters opt for tequila over anything else. See, agave (the stuff tequila is distilled from) is full of agavins. And, according to the American Chemical Society, agavins can actually help promote weight loss. There’s a reason it’s one of the Best Ways to Drink Alcohol without Gaining Weight.
They avoid veggie burgers.
It’s true: Veggie burgers don’t have as much as your typical beef patty. But by swapping out meat for chickpeas, you’re missing out on omega-3s, which are known to speed up weight loss. However, good dieters do stick to one rule: They only eat grass-fed beef. This higher-quality meat contains nearly double the omega-3s than “normal” beef.
Just the like rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the fit get fitter. See, every pound of muscle on your body burns about six calories an hour. So, if you’re positively jacked, you can torch calories just by sitting around and doing absolutely nothing. And isn’t that the dream?
They guzzle water.
If you’ve been searching for a magical weight-loss elixir, stop: It’s been in front of you all along. According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, drinking 17 ounces of water (that’s about two cups) can increase metabolic rates up to 30 percent. Plus, water is a known appetite suppressant. And for ideas on what water to drink, consider trying the One Bottled Water Brand That Dwayne Johnson Drinks By the Gallon.
Their biggest meal is lunch.
Most people consume the majority of their daily calories in the evening. But successful dieters consume the lion’s share at lunch. It’s not rocket science: By consuming the bulk of your calories earlier in the day, you have more time throughout the day to burn those calories off.
They cook often.
When you eat out, you have no idea what’s going into your food. By cooking at home, you know exactly what’s going into your meals—and into your body. This is an easy way to steer clear of unwanted belly-building oils, salts, and sugars.
They use olive oil.
Whenever possible, cook with olive oil instead of butter. Butter is loaded with saturated fats (those are the bad ones) while olive oil is high in unsaturated fat, which can help you feeling fuller, longer.
They team up.
Embarking on a weight-loss journey with a buddy works twofold. First, having a partner will motivate you to get started. And second, your buddy will help keep you on track. After all, if you fail in this situation, you’re letting down more than just yourself. And for more ways to stay on track, learn the 20 Science-Backed Way to Motivate Yourself to Lose Weight.
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