Last year, losing weight was the second most popular New Year’s resolution among Americans, with 32 percent vowing to drop pounds in 2015, according to a Nielsen survey. 2016 is sure to be similar. If you’re among the masses hoping to trim your waistline in the new year, before committing to that new restrictive diet or intense exercise program, check out these simple “hacks,” proven effective in recent weight loss studies.
Whether you’re looking to lose those last few pounds or jumpstart a bigger goal, start with these easy changes and you just might see that resolution come to fruition this year.
1. Catch more zzzs
Getting a good night’s sleep may help you lose weight, according to a 2013 study conducted at Brigham Young University. Participants who slept less than 6.5 or more than 8.5 hours had higher levels of body fat. The study demonstrated that a consistent sleep schedule with a regular bedtime and wakeup time resulted in lower body fat. Sleep quality was also found to be a positive contributor to lower body fat. Set yourself up for success by keeping your bedroom cool and dark, and hit the sheets at a decent hour. “People who sleep well tend to weigh less,” says Dr. Rao. “It’s not unusual for people to lose a few pounds simply by practicing better sleep hygiene.”
2. Drink up
According to a recent study published in the journal “Obesity,” participants who drank 16 ounces of water 30 minutes before every meal lost about nine pounds over 12 weeks. Water helps to fill you up so you’ll make better decisions at mealtime. Set a timer to drink two glasses before your meals.
3. Load up on fiber
Increasing your fiber intake might be an easy solution to weight loss for some, according to a 2015 study by UMASS Medical School researchers. Participants who consumed 30 grams of fiber every day lost more weight than those following the American Heart Association’s recommended diet. Fiber satiates and replaces unhealthy choices, which may lead to weight loss. Focusing only on fiber may also make this plan easier to stick to than more complex diets. Get started by incorporating more whole grains, berries, almonds, beans and lentils, and cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage into your diet.
4. Don’t skimp on breakfast
Turns out the old adage “Eat like a king in the morning … a pauper in the evening” is true. A 2013 study published in “Obesity” demonstrated that eating a larger breakfast rather than a larger dinner leads to weight loss, decreased waist circumference and improved blood cholesterol numbers. Participants in the study also reported feeling more satiated and were less likely to snack during the day.
5. Go nuts
Eating nuts might provide a boost not only to your weight loss but your overall health as well. Nuts pack protein, fiber, healthy fat, and a nice crunch, making them a satisfying snack. According to Purdue University’s Dr. Richard D. Mattes, “The strongest literature indicates inclusion of 1-1.5 ounces of nuts in the diet daily provides a number of health benefits (e.g., reduced cardiovascular risk profile, moderated blood sugar) without promoting weight gain.” Pack a snack of mixed nuts for your purse, stave off hunger before dinner by cracking open pistachios, or sprinkle slivered almonds on your oatmeal or salad. Nuts are calorie dense, so serving size is key.
6. Eat less
Contrary to what you see on the “Biggest Loser,” eating less, not exercising more, is the key to losing weight. In a 2015 study, researchers from Loyola University Health System concluded that the only way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories. While they emphasize that exercise is beneficial for overall health, it generally leads to an increase in calorie consumption. So before you sign up for your club’s New Year’s fitness challenge, consider cutting calories first.
7. Downsize your dinnerware
Try eating meals off a smaller plate, 9-10” in diameter, rather than the larger plates that have become standard. The Small Plate Movement references several studies that suggest much of our overeating has to do with bad habits. As portion sizes have grown in recent years, we’ve become accustomed to helping ourselves to larger servings. Eating off of larger plates leads to a greater consumption of calories since we tend to fill the plate. The Small Plate Movement predicts weight loss of 18 pounds a year for an average-size adult who switches to a smaller plate. For more information, visit the Small Plate Movement website and join their challenge.
8. Change your food philosophy
You can retrain your brain to like healthy foods, according to a 2014 study by researchers at Tufts University and Massachusetts General Hospital. Many of us have trained our brains to enjoy sugar-laden, high-fat and calorie-dense foods. Start the shift by eating healthier foods like salmon, kale, cantaloupe and sweet potatoes and change your preferences in as little as two weeks.
More from Make It Better: