If your goal is to lose weight and exercise more, forget the highly restrictive diet and daily long intensive workouts. Research has shown that taking small steps—not giant leaps—is the best way to achieve long lasting results.
When you focus on just a couple of small changes at a time, you begin to fully adopt some healthy habits that last for a lifetime – rather than trying an all-or-nothing approach that more often than not fails because it’s too hard to keep up.
So, here are 10 simple habits that have proven to make you lose weight for good. These habits will help you move more, eat less, and look sexier than before.
How you should start: Add only one or two of the small changes below a week to your regular routine. Once these healthy habits become second nature, they’ll benefit you for a lifetime.
1. Limit foods that have high fat content
Take note of the high-fat and high-calorie foods that are typically your favorite (my top five: cakes, chocolate bars, ice cream, potato chips, and fries) and gradually decrease the intake. If you’re eating six of these foods a week, try to go down to five. Each week, drop another until you’re at no more than one or two; at the same time, add to your plates more good-for-you choices like carrots, sweet potatoes, oranges, avocados and other fresh fruits and veggies.
2. Walk 5 minutes more a day
A recent research found that women who increased their daily activity levels by just a few minutes at a time were able to lose weight faster than women who just went on a diet . Your goal should be to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day (which can help burn off about 120 extra calories daily, or equivalent to 12½ pounds a year), but take it 5 minutes at a time – it doesn’t have to be all at once.
3. Drink water
One of the most under-appreciated magic fat-burning elixirs is water. As soon as you wake up in the morning, grab a glass. Every time you eat, drink a full glass of water before and during bites. The more water you drink, the fuller you will feel, the easier it is to cut back on unnecessary calories. That’s an essential element of weight and fat loss. Remember, every chemical reaction in your body needs water and even if you’re just mildly dehydrated, that could affect your fat metabolism and your performance in the gym.
4. Bring a packed lunch to work
You’ll not only save thousands of calories over the course of a year but also hundreds of dollars. When you make and eat your own food, you not only control the quality and portion sizes but also reduce the amount of sugar, salt, and fat that you consume – which is guaranteed to be significantly higher in take-out or restaurant food.
5. Skip the fruit juice, eat the whole fruit instead
You’ll not only get more heart-healthy fiber in your diet, you’ll also stay satisfied, longer. When you chew food, you generate more saliva, which in turn carries a message to the brain that your gut needs to get ready for digestion. Drinking doesn’t require such digestion, so the body doesn’t register that it’s full as quickly.
6. Eat a big balanced breakfast
A morning meal made up mostly of carbs and protein with some fat keeps blood-sugar levels steady and hunger pangs away so you’re not susceptible to pigging out come lunch, studies show. Opt for something satisfying for your stomach and taste buds — like egg whites and turkey bacon with whole-wheat toast.
7. Watch your alcohol intake
One innocent-looking margarita or cosmopolitan can rack up hundreds of calories that do nothing to quench your appetite. Treat yourself just on the weekends and cut back somewhere else or stick to a glass of wine, light beer, or vodka and soda — three drinks that each have about 100 calories per serving.
8. Snack with healthy foods
Grazing between meals used to be a faux pas. But nutritionists now know that it’s better to satisfy a craving with healthy grub than ignore it and risk a junk-food binge later. The best picks are filling, protein-packed snacks – a stick of string cheese, a tablespoon of peanut butter on a piece of fruit, or my favourite – a bowl of edamame.
9. Build your muscles
Doing 5 minutes each of push-ups, lunges, and squats (in 30-second intervals) will help build and maintain muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will be, so you’ll torch more calories as you go about your day.
10. Get more sleep
Make a point of turning in earlier and you’ll see weight loss within a week. Even just a few nights of sleep deprivation can lead to almost immediate weight gain.
A recent study asked participants to sleep about 10 hours a night for two days, followed by five nights of sleep restriction and four nights of recovery. After the 11 days, the sleep-deprived group gained almost 3 pounds, compared with a well-rested control group.