In theory, losing weight is easy: You simply burn more calories than you consume. In reality, losing weight is hard. We don’t always feel motivated to hit the gym, we underestimate how many calories are in the foods we eat, or we get stressed out and inhale everything in sight.But with science on your side, shedding excess pounds to reach a healthy weight doesn’t have to be so tough. Try these research-backed tricks to help you make smarter food choices and motivate yourself to work out with minimal effort.
1. Plan your meals. A Penn State study found that people who planned what they ate ahead of time were almost twice as likely to successfully lose weight than those who played meals by ear. “Aim for five small meals a day, and plan everything in advance,” explained nutritionist Kristin Kirkpatrick, Wellness Manager at the Cleveland Clinic. “Prepare your meals on the weekends when you have time, and never go more than 3 ½ hours without putting something in your mouth.” Kirkpatrick suggested keeping low-sugar energy bars, trail mix or apples on-hand so you’re not tempted to buy a high-calorie, high-fat snack from the office vending machine.
2. Place fruits and vegetables within reach. Keeping produce right where you’ll spot it — on the top shelf of your fridge or on the kitchen counter — will influence you to eat three times more fruits and vegetables. If we see it, we grab it. Rather than rely on willpower (not an effective tool!) just reorganize your life to make healthy choices obvious.
READ MORE: Why You Want to Munch on More Fruits and Vegetables
3. Work nuts and yogurt into your regular eating rotation. When researchers at Harvard University analyzed more than 20 years’ worth of nutritional studies, they found that yogurt and nuts were the two foods most closely tied to trimming down. Just be sure to portion out the nuts beforehand (a small handful will do) and opt for yogurt without added sugar or artificial sweeteners.
4. Eat off smaller plates. You’ll consume less with little effort. Even when you know you’re purposely choosing smaller plates to fool yourself into thinking you’re eating more than you actually are, the trick still works. So ditch those huge dinner plates and stick with salad plates, small serving bowls, and shallow wine glasses.
5. Take probiotics. In a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, obese men and women followed a 12-week weight-loss diet, followed by another 12 weeks of supervised but unrestricted weight maintenance. Half of the subjects took probiotics — two capsules of Lactobacillus rhamnosus daily. Though there were no differences among the men in each group, the women in the probiotics group lost significantly more weight than the placebo group (9.7 pounds versus 5.7 pounds, on average). But that’s not all: While women on the placebo gained back weight during the maintenance period, those popping the probiotic kept losing weight, about another 1.8 pounds. Probiotics may work this way by helping reduce leptin, a hunger-regulating hormone produced by fat cells.
READ MORE: Study: Probiotics Key to Losing Weight (And Keeping It Off)
6. Get outside in the morning. People who got the majority of their daily light exposure between 8 a.m. and noon had a significantly lower BMI than those who didn’t get much exposure until later in the day, according to a small April 2014 study. So before heading to work, take your dog for a stroll, go for a morning jog, or if you can, walk to work.
7. Ditch artificial sweeteners. Your body has a natural response to food that regulates your metabolism. When you eat something sweet, your body prepares itself to burn calories. But with zero-calorie artificial sweeteners, like the ones in diet soda, the calories never come. Over time, that natural calorie-burning response breaks down, causing you to burn fewer calories and gain weight.
READ MORE: Artificial Sweeteners Are Messing With Your Metabolism
8. Set text reminders to make healthy choices. Mobile weight-loss interventions, such as text reminders to eat healthfully or hit the gym, helped overweight and obese people lose significantly more weight than those without tech support, according to a 2014 study in the journal Circulation. Try setting up some reminders ahead of time, such as a 2:45 p.m. alarm to grab an apple before that 3 p.m. donut craving hits, or to take a walk around the office after you’ve been sitting for a few hours.
9. Mix up your workouts. Penn State researchers found that subjects who tried out different forms of exercise were more likely to lose weight than those who tried to stick with the same old workout routine. So check out that dance class you’ve been curious about or try a local Pilates or yoga class rather than hopping on the treadmill at the gym every single time.
10. Record your weight online. The more frequently people log onto weight-loss sites the more pounds they shed, according to a 2010 study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. In the study, users who went online and recorded their weight at least once a month for 24 months maintained the highest amount of weight loss — an average of 9 pounds — compared to those who went online at least once a month for 14 months and kept off 5 pounds on average.
READ MORE: Six Apps That Help You Lose Weight Need a little help eating cleaner? As a YouBeauty reader, get 10% off on healthy snacks delivered to your door monthly with the code YB1015 at Bestowed.com!