POPSUGAR Fitness

The Ultimate Guide to Weight Loss: 56 Tips and Tricks to Drop Pounds Now

Jan 1 2014 - 4:19am

Losing weight is not easy, and whoever tells you differently is lying. It takes commitment, hard work, and, for many, a complete lifestyle makeover. But armed with these 56 techniques, losing weight suddenly becomes easier.

If you're looking for quick fixes or a lose-10-pounds-in-10-days kind of promise, then you've come to the wrong place. But if you want an insider's guide on how to lose weight and keep it off for good, keep reading. From basic weight-loss fundamentals to weird tricks proven to melt away that muffin top, you're only 10 pounds away to your new self.

Source: Thinkstock [1]

Limit Your Calorie Intake

Losing weight boils down to simple math. To lose one pound weekly, burn or cut out 3,500 calories in the course of seven days. That breaks down to 500 calories per day. It's difficult to cut out that many by dieting alone, especially for someone who loves to eat. The most effective approach is this combo: each day, cut out 250 calories from your diet and burn 250 through exercise. Choose to either cut out one 250-calorie item such as a serving of ice cream, or omit a few small things that add up to 250 calories a day.

It's also important not to exceed your recommended daily calorie intake. Check out this calorie calculator [2] to figure out how many calories to consume each day, based on your current weight and your weight-loss goal. Don't dip below 1,200 calories to prevent going into starvation mode, which makes your body hold onto the weight.

Don't Be Distracted

It seems like everyone is attached to cell phones these days. Even if you're using one to stream a workout playlist [3], stop texting or chatting with a friend when you're at the gym. Giving full attention to a workout keeps you focused and allows you to maximize results. The payoff is the weight-loss results you are bound to see.

Eat Baskets of Blueberries

Not only are blueberries an antioxidant powerhouse, but also, they've been shown to play a role in reducing belly fat [4] — say goodbye to that muffin top! Blueberries are loaded with anthocyanin, which has been shown to alter the activity of genes found in human fat cells, making it more difficult to put on weight. I bet you can't wait to make one of these healthful blueberry recipes now [5].

Exercise in the Morning

Finding time to exercise no matter what time of day is important, but if you need that little extra push when it comes to burning calories, then try exercising in the morning. Studies have found that people who exercise in the morning work out harder [6] than those who exercise at other times in the day.

Keep a Food Journal

Keeping a tally of all the calories you consume in a day is an effective way to help you stay on track. Studies show that dieters who keep food journals lose more weight. Track your caloric intake on your iPhone with one of these apps [7], or download our printable food journal [8] if you prefer to use pen and paper. Not only will a food journal keep you on top of your calorie intake, but also, it will keep you accountable for the kinds of food you are eating.

Drink Water

Aside from keeping you hydrated, regular water consumption, recent studies show, can aid with weight loss. Filling up on water before a meal helps encourage portion control [9], and simply eating foods that contain a lot of water (like fruits and veggies) will fill you up faster, causing you to eat less. A small study found that drinking cool water can speed up metabolism [10] and discourage cravings for sugary drinks like soda and juice. Now that's a reason to stay hydrated!

Live an Overall Active Life

Physical activity, be it training for a half marathon or hitting the gym, is important for losing weight, but don't skip moving about in your everyday life. Take the stairs, walk your dog, vacuum vigorously, bike to dinner, and garden. All these things will help burn calories and keep you in an active frame of mind.

Get Some Sleep

Life gets hectic, but make sure you're getting enough sleep. Besides strengthening your immune system, proper rest also ensures healthy eating habits. On a daily basis, sleepy people eat more [11], and since the body functions poorly when sleep-deprived, it ends up storing more fat, i.e. inadequate sleep can lead to an extra three pounds a year [12]! Besides, think about all the workouts you skip when you're too tired to get to the gym.

Stop With the Scale

It may be tempting to step on a scale whenever you see one, but if it's making you feel bad, then give it a break. Keep in mind that the number is not going to change overnight. Allow yourself weekly weigh-ins, but also factor in that what you see isn't always the most accurate measure of weight-loss efforts. You could be building fat-burning muscle, which could be pushing the number up.

Always Eat Breakfast

Skipping breakfast is a huge mistake if you want to lose weight. Enjoying a hearty and nutritious meal in the morning can actually jump-start your metabolism and encourage pounds to drop. Choose a breakfast that's high in protein to give you energy and full of fiber to keep you satisfied for hours. Here are some healthful breakfast swaps [13] that ensure your meals are always on point.


Source: Flickr user Average Jane [14]

Don't Keep Treats in Your Cabinets

Chips and chocolate — these two foods are like kryptonite, especially when readily available in your home, so make sure they never cross your doorway. You can't eat something that's not in the cabinets, after all. Host of The Biggest Loser Alison Sweeney has a tortilla chip problem [15], and she keeps herself healthy by never stocking this snack at home. The more healthful food you keep in the home, the more likely you are to snack smarter.

Go Ahead — Skip Your Workout

While this isn't completely true, you can shorten the amount of time you spend working out by maximizing your efforts. Short, intense cardio workouts are just as effective [16] as longer ones, which lets you reap the calorie-burning rewards. Start with one of these 10-minute workout videos [17] that will work your entire body!

Make Life About Fun

Since stress is shown to cause weight gain [18] by triggering the body to eat more — especially foods high in sugar and fat — make sure you give yourself time to relax and unwind. And it's an added bonus that so many fun activities (like dancing, hiking, and shopping) are already natural calorie-burners!

Once the Weight Is Gone, You Can't Go Back to Your Old Ways

You used to devour a big bag of potato chips with your lunch, but when you decided to lose weight, you replaced it with a side salad. Now that the weight is off, don't go back to your chips habit. Losing weight is a lifestyle change, not something you do until you reach your goal. Once you go back to old eating habits, the weight will quickly creep back on. Give yourself room for indulgences, but make sure it's all in moderation.

Pack a Lunch

Taking the time to pack a healthful lunch [19] is one of the best ways to stay committed to a healthy meal plan. Most of the time when you do takeout, the calorie count is a mystery, since many foods aren't labeled. Being able to account for all the ingredients in your food will help you stay committed to your weight-loss goals and not be surprised by what you're actually eating!

Push Your Body

If you don't feel like trying something new in your exercise regimen, there are still ways to step up your current routine [20]. Adding an extra 20 minutes to a workout, sprinting at the end of a run, or choosing heavier weights may make all the difference.

Use Your Friends

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be much easier with the support and motivation of like-minded friends. Having a healthy support group [21] can lead to better choices for yourself; you may end up moving more, cooking healthy dinners together, and making other lifestyle choices that can contribute to weight loss.

Get Up and Out — No Matter How Short

Even when you're swamped, stay active with a 10-minute break to rev up your body. Get outside for a walk at lunchtime as a proactive way to promote weight loss, and get sunshine as an added bonus.

Enjoy the Food You Eat

One of the worst things you can do when you're trying to lose weight is to not give your body enough food. Instead of depriving yourself, make sure to give yourself small indulgences or a cheat day — especially since occasional high-calorie foods won't wreck a healthy diet [22]. In fact, they can do quite the opposite: having a healthy relationship with food may help you from going overboard later.

Keep Up the Bedroom Action

A lot of couples' sex lives can slow down a bit, especially if they've been together for awhile. So here's a little reminder to make time for intimacy. Not only will it keep you emotionally connected, but also, there are many health benefits to getting busy [23], like a decrease in stress, which help benefit weight-loss goals.

Drink Green Tea

Water's not the only metabolism-booster in town. Studies have shown that drinking green tea can give your metabolism a tiny increase — which can add up to over 400 extra calories burned a week [24]! Not only that, but the beverage has got some major antioxidant power, so drink up.

Travel Smart

Just because you're going on vacation doesn't mean you have to halt your exercise routine. Travel smart by packing a few workout-related items that don't take up too much space. Want to know what should make the cut when it comes to your precious suitcase space? Watch our video for our five tried and tested fitness travel faves [25].

Cut Up Your Food

It may seem juvenile to cut food into tiny pieces, but the strategy works. A study found that cutting up food helps trick the brain into thinking there's more on the plate [26], which can translate into eating less while still feeling satisfied.

Get Sweet on Potatoes

Aside from providing ample amounts of vitamin A, sweet potatoes are a weight-loss wunderkind: they help increase levels of adiponectin, the blood-sugar-regulating hormone, in the body, and have a relatively low glycemic index rating, which can help prevent blood-sugar spikes after you eat. This, coupled with their already sweet and fibrous nature, can help keep hunger and sugar cravings away.

Eat Breakfast Within One Hour of Waking

Eating breakfast is essential for weight loss, but what time breakfast is eaten is also important. Make sure to to eat breakfast within an hour of waking [27]. An early breakfast helps maintain circadian rhythm and boost metabolism.

Intense Cardio Is Key

To spike up the body's metabolism, do intense 45-minute cardio sessions a few times a week. A study published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal [28] showed that an intense cardio session can slash an additional 190 calories post-workout. While research is still not solid on what produces this increase in calories burned, most data leans toward the afterburn effect, in which a period of intense activity causes the body's metabolism to spike and burn off more fat than usual.

Some intense cardio workouts to try: running, indoor cycling, or interval training (like this pyramid treadmill workout [29]).

Get Cooking

Dining out occasionally is a nice way to spend an evening, but avoid making it a habit. The secret ingredient at many restaurants is butter and excessive oil — in other words, fat. Studies have repeatedly shown a relationship between number of meals eaten out and greater weight gain. Cooking your own meals helps you control ingredients and also helps manage portion sizes. At a loss for what to do in the kitchen? Here are some healthy recipes [30] to help get you started.

Speed Up Your Metabolism

Burn major calories no matter what you're doing by increasing your metabolism. Simple things like upping your strength-training routine and eating breakfast can make your body burn more calories. Read on for more tips on how to boost your metabolism [31].

Practice Portion Control

Portion control is essential for losing weight and keeping it off. Healthy foods, like nuts and avocado, still pack on the pounds when eaten in excess. Make sure to check the serving size on food labels, and invest in some of these handy products that help keep portions in check [32]. The key is to always strive for balance and moderation on your plate.

Go For Protein, Not Sugar

While pancakes and danishes are appealing for brunch, sweets aren't something to devour regularly at breakfast. High-protein choices, like eggs, yogurt, and whole grains, are lower in calories, provide long-lasting energy, and help to curb midmorning cravings for sugary pick-me-ups.

Here are some breakfasts featuring whole grains [33], and if you love eggs, try YumSugar's recipe for a black bean omelet [34], which will provide a double shot of protein.

Source: Flickr user ccharmon [35]

Stop Skipping Evening Workouts

At the end of a hard day, it's easy to make an excuse and not head to the gym or take that run. Keep yourself committed and know that skipping an evening workout is not an option. And honestly, who couldn't use an extra boost of endorphins after a tough meeting? If it's too dark to head outside to exercise, these at-home workouts will do the trick [36].

Healthy Foods Don't Mean All-You-Can-Eat

Avocados, peanut butter, sweet potatoes, brown rice — these foods are all nutritious, but that doesn't mean they're void of calories. You still need to be aware of serving sizes, even for foods that are good for you. Here's a handy guide for portion sizes of calorie-dense healthy foods [37].

Blue Plate (Not So) Special

The color blue may be beautiful for the eyes, but not when it comes to food. This cool hue is considered a natural appetite suppressant [38]. You don't need to don a pair of blue-lens shades [39] before you eat; just use blue plates. Does the dessert pictured to the left look tasty, or is the blue working?

Invest in New Gear

In the same way you can't wait to wear those new shoes you bought, pick up some cute fitness gear. You'll be surprised how eager you'll be to throw it on and head to the gym! It doesn't have to cost a fortune either: splurge on a single item from Lululemon or Zobha [40], but fill in the blanks with some of our picks for cute but inexpensive gear [41].

Source: Flickr user lululemon athletica [42]

Eat More

It may seem counterintuitive, but eating more and more often can help you lose weight. Frequent meals — about five or six in a day — can boost your metabolism [43], and eating larger volumes of healthy foods that are full of lean protein, fiber, and other nutrients — rather than foods high in refined carbs and processed ingredients — helps give you energy and keep you full without all the calories.

Set New Goals

Even if the first 10 pounds are already off, it's important to redesign fitness goals as you progress. As you do this, remember to always celebrate healthy accomplishments [44] like hitting a new running milestone. The simple act of acknowledgement does wonders for motivation.

Muscle Power

Building muscle through strength training helps give your metabolism an upward bump. While how much is unclear, one thing is known: muscle burns calories at a higher rate than fat. (Depending on which study you read, a pound of muscle burns anywhere from 15-50 calories per day. Compare this to fat, which averages about two calories per day.) Even if you consider yourself an active gal, make sure to incorporate strength training into your fitness routine. Otherwise you run the risk of losing muscle mass. Here are some tips on getting started with strength training [45].

Eat Your Veggies

Eating five to seven servings of fruits and veggies a day is important for everyone, but dieters who go heavy on the produce are more likely to lose and keep the weight off. Fruits and veggies are low-calorie and often loaded with filling fiber. Why not make one of these 40 vegetable-focused recipes [46] for your next meal?

Helpful Eats

Chickpeas and grapefruit may be a dieter's best friends. Chickpeas have been found to help dieters break bad snacking habits [47], and eating half a grapefruit before every meal [48] has been shown to help dieters drop more pounds than forgoing the citrus fruit.

Mix Things Up

It's important to keep things fresh by mixing up your exercise routine [49]. The variety will stop your body from hitting a plateau, and you'll be less likely to get burnt out. If you can't figure out which new activity works, check out these suggestions of fitness switches [50], offering alternatives to everything from yoga to swimming.

Eat 8 Grams of Fiber in the Morning

One key to losing weight is eating foods that keep you full, avoiding later hunger pains that tempt you to eat high-calorie foods. For the first meal of the day, eat at least eight grams of fiber. Try these 10 high-fiber cereals [51] or breakfast meals that contain at least 10 grams [52].

Photo: Jenny Sugar

Visualize Indulgent Treats

Contrary to the "don't think about it" theory of controlling food cravings, visualizing a sweet treat can be a good thing. Study participants who bit into indulgent food after imagining eating it actually consumed less.

Monitor Your Progress

With all your hard work eating right and exercising, find an accurate way to keep track of your progress. Hopping on a scale, although not everyone's favorite thing to do, is one way to monitor how much weight you've lost. But if weighing yourself gives you anxiety, then monitor your progress by looking in the mirror or seeing how your clothes fit.

Watch Your Drink Calories

Between those refreshing margaritas and a hankering for a midday mimosa, a day off can be all the convincing you need to spend it imbibing. But making sure you watch your drink calories is important if you want to lose weight. Stick to one of these low-calorie cocktails [53], or skip the cocktails altogether for flavored water or some of these refreshing, hydrating snacks [54].

Source: Flickr user quinn.anya [55]

Get Your Downward Dog On

Most people think of yoga as relaxing and calm, but there are a ton of poses that make muscles quiver and get the heart rate up, which can make for a big calorie burn. The next time you're breathing in basic poses, try these challenging variations [56].

Photo: Jenny Sugar

Stop Eating Junk Food

It may seem obvious, but junk food is an enemy against weight loss. Foods filled with sugar and fat are a fast ticket to weight gain, irritability, and low energy levels. To get all the junk out of your system, consider doing a two-week elimination diet by cutting out gluten, refined sugars, dairy, caffeine, and alcohol. From energy levels to glowing skin, here are five reasons why an elimination diet can work [57] for you.

Snack Right at the Office

Sugary or sodium-laden snacks seem to always be available at the office. Resist temptation by coming prepped to work with healthful snacks [58] that won't break the calorie bank. In the morning, cut up some fresh fruit or veggies, or make one of these healthful nut snacks [59] for a dose of protein and omega-3s.

Always Pay in Cash

The next time you head to the grocery store, stop at the ATM first. A study showed that individuals buy fewer indulgent foods when paying in cash [60].

Have Dessert For Breakfast

If you're going to have a treat, then you may want to make it a breakfast muffin. A study of overweight people who lost weight on a diet found that those who ate a large breakfast that included a sweet treat kept off more weight [61] than those who ate a smaller breakfast with no treat. The sugary treat they ate at breakfast helped curb sweet cravings later in the day. Just make sure to balance the treat off with lean protein and complex carbs.

Eat Foods That Fight Fat

Since every calorie counts, make sure to eat foods that fight fat [62], like almonds and oatmeal, as well as soy beans and sweet potatoes [63]. Don't fear the MUFAs [64] either; monounsaturated fatty acids fight belly fat, so make sure to add avocado and nuts like almonds to your daily diet.

Head to Boot Camp

If you're trying to lose a couple pounds, stepping up your current workout routine may be all that it takes. And since time is of the essence, nothing gets results like sweat-inducing total-body bootcamp workouts. Check out our list of 11 bootcamp workouts [65] that'll be sure to blast calories fast.

Keep It Fresh

Maybe you don't eat a ton of junk food, but there are still some seemingly healthy — but highly processed — foods out there. Get as close to nature as you can and eat a diet filled with all-natural whole foods. Fresh organic produce and pasture-raised lean proteins are a good place to start. Fresh, whole foods will help you maintain energy levels, promote healthy sleeping habits, and provide ample fuel for all your workouts!

Spice Things Up

Adding an extra dash of spice at any meal may just help you burn a few more calories for the day. That sprinkling of cinnamon on your morning latte can lower cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar, and that turmeric in your spicy dinner can slow down the growth of fat tissue [66] in your body. Capsaicin, the chemical in peppers that makes them hot, also boosts metabolism.

Play the Calorie Game Correctly

Losing weight is about simple math; don't get in the mindset that a workout gives you a free pass to splurge. If this happens, then you'll end up taking in more calories than you burn, which will result in weight gain instead of weght loss.

Join a Fitness or Weight-Loss Community

Whether it's a national program like Weight Watchers [67] or an online website like My Fitness Pal, being part of a weight-loss community is a great way to find support on this sometimes difficult journey. Aside from utilizing the program's tools, many sites allow you leave comments and messages on other members' profiles.

Get Stoned

With your fruit, that is! Stone fruits like nectarines, plums, peaches, and cherries contain natural substances that ward off obesity. Pretty cool, right? Added bonus: they also protect against diabetes and act as an anti-inflammatory. Dietician Cynthia Sass recommends eating the fruit on its own in a raw, natural state.


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