Its a perennial question: Can you lose weight without exercise? Lets start with this: Exercise is terrific for your body and mind, in so many ways. It cuts down on your risk for a multitude of diseases and can lower your incidence of depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems, as well as boost your energy, help you sleep, and more. It can also help you get and keep a fitter, slimmer body. So exercise = health, and we should all move our bodies every day.
That said, when it comes to losing weight, what you eat is keyand studies show there are plenty of weight loss strategies that have nothing to do with exercise. Check out these 14 science-backed, slim-down tips.
1. Control your portions.
When youre at home, eat from smaller plates and bowls. Youll likely take in fewer calories, and it tricks your brain into thinking youre chowing down on more than you actually are. (Do the opposite when youre eating healthy foods, like salads or roasted veggiesthen it makes sense to supersize those dishes!). Another important tip: Dont eat from packages of anything, even those healthier chips or crackers. Portion some out into a dish, and put the bag or box away.
When eating out, portion control can be a tougher challenge, given the giganto serving sizes in restaurants, so before you go, think about how youre going to handle that. You can order an appetizer and small salad instead of an appetizer and main dish; you can split a dish with a friend; or you can ask for a to-go box right up front, and put half your meal in there before you dig in. Have a plan and intention ahead of time and youre more likely to stick to it.
2. Eat more fiber.
Fiber helps with weight loss in so many ways, says Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D.N., author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging: Stay Younger, Live Longer. For starters, it expands in your gut like a sponge so its a natural appetite suppressant. Plus, the latest research is finding it has beneficial impacts on good gut bacteria that help produce hormones in the gut that tell your brain youve had enough to eat. Aim for at least 25 grams a day from a variety of foods like whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables.
3. Load up on protein too.
Like fiber, protein naturally helps you feel full by influencing the production of satiety hormones, says Ansel. It takes a long time to digest, so youre unlikely to go scrounging for a snack after a protein-rich meal. And heres a neat trick: Protein also takes more energy to digest than, say, fat or carbs, so you dont store as many of its calories. For maximum impact aim for 20 grams per meal from lean proteins such as fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, and low fat dairy.
4. Get enough sleep.
Its well-established that sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain. It comes down to hormones: Sleep deprived people produce more ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone. And they produce less leptin, the hormone that tells you when youve eaten enough. Theres also evidence that the overly-sleepy eat more calories, and more comfort-food-carbs. And its no surprise that when youre exhausted, its harder to control your impulses (meaning, grabbing cookie after cookie may seem like a fine idea).
5. Weigh yourself.
Im a fan of getting on the scale a few times a week, says Ansel. For a lot of people, weighing yourself can be stressful, but it can provide some really important feedback before things start to snowball. You dont have to weigh yourself every day, but stepping on the scale two to three times a week can help you nip weight gain in the bud, so you dont have to take drastic action with your diet later.
6. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Sometimes when you think youre hungry, youre actually thirstymaybe even slightly dehydrated. So in between meals, before you nosh on a snack try drinking a big glass of water. Its also a good idea to do that before a meal: It leads to greater weight loss, one study showed. And carry a bottle with you throughout the day, to sip as you go.
7. Cut down on sugar.
Its unclear whether sugar in and of itself makes you gain weight, says Ansel. But one thing is for sureit tends to travel in foods that have way too many calories. Whether its soda, sweetened lattes, or dessert, these should be the first foods to go if youre trying to slim down. And remember, the sweet stuff is hidden in all sorts of foodsketchup, bread, salad dressing, and so on.
8. Dont drink your calories.
Its a simple way to take in less calories overall. But theres another important reason to follow this rule: Drinking calories, rather than eating them, is less satisfying and doesnt lead to the same feeling of fullness, research shows. So thats another reason why drinking your caloriesespecially sugary bevscan lead to weight gain.
9. Eat more mindfully.
In other words, slow down. Your brain needs to catch up with your mouth and send the signal that youre full, and thats harder when youre speeding through your meal. Also, studies have shown that when youre distracted, you tend to eat more. So stash your phone, turn off the TV, and pay attention to what youre eating.
10. Chew more.
A small study showed that prolonged chewing at lunch leads to a eating fewer snacks later in the day. Its worth noting, though, that many of the study participants reported that they really didnt enjoy the lunch, with all that chomping. So worth a try, but it may or may not work for you.
11. Stash food out of sight.
One study found that obese people are more likely to keep food around in highly visible locations. So do the opposite, especially with stuff that you dont want to be munching all the time. Meaning, that bowl of apples? Fine to keep it in your eye line. The bags of chips? Nuh uh.
12. Cut out diet sodas.
A recent study found that kids and teens who drink diet beverages eat more calories during the day. This is just one of several studies connecting diet drinks to weight gain. So againwater is a great bet! Want to make it more interesting? Get a water bottle infuser, an easy way to add fruit.
When youre stressed, your levels of the hormone cortisol spike (its that fight-or-flight response). And some older studies have shown that people tend to eat more if theyre high cortisol reactors (you know, those people who particularly tend to lose their chill under stress). So to avoid that nom-nom-nom reaction (and to protect your health in so many other ways), take time each day to do something to lower the stress temperature, whether its meditation, exercise, or sitting quietly with a good book.
14. Write things down.
It may not be sexy, but study after study has shown that writing down what you eat is one of the most effective weight loss tools out there, says Ansel. Whether its in a journal, using the notes app on your phone, or your favorite weight loss app, recording what you eat is the single best way to identify those sneaky little ways you might be overdoing it.
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