By Melanie Haiken, Contributor
It’s almost the end of February, and after two months of self-denial, your New Year’s resolution to lose weight is proving discouragingly difficult. You know what you need to do: Cut calories and up your activity level. And you’re on the right track – but the train seems to have slowed down to a crawl.
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Here are 6 tricks weight loss gurus use to peel off pounds more quickly:
1. Eat More Snacks
That’s right, eat more – just not at mealtimes. It’s more than likely that, in your drive to diet, you’ve begun stretching the time between meals, a common weight loss strategy. (Example: I’ll just wait another half hour to eat lunch, I can make it, and that will mean I’ve gone five hours on only 400 calories…)
Unfortunately, while this strategy makes logical sense, because it feels like fewer meals means less food, the opposite is true. If you wait until you’re super hungry before you eat, you’re bound to eat more before you feel satisfied. (You also tend to eat faster, another no-no.)
Solution: Keep numerous healthy snacks like almonds, sunflower seeds, sliced apples, trail mix, low fat cheese, and whole wheat crackers on hand and eat something light but nutritious every couple of hours.
2. Stop Multitasking
Managers, you’re probably shaking your heads about now. After all, if we don’t multitask, how in the world are we going to get everything done? But when you’re doing five things at once, your mind’s not fully engaged in any one task. That makes you less fully conscious, and more likely to think about food, or dig mindlessly into your snack drawer or that candy jar on a coworker’s desk.
Multitasking also tends to send us into a stressed-out tizzy, a prerequisite for emotional eating. Instead, try giving each task on your to-do list your full attention for a set amount of time. Not only will you get better results much more quickly, you’ll be less likely to obsess about food or engage in mindless emotional eating.
3. Add Strength Training to Your Workout, or Do More of It
I’ve talked about strength training for weight loss before, so I’ll keep it short. Think of it as an equal partner with aerobic exercise, which burns calories but doesn’t have a significant longterm effect on metabolism. While aerobic exercise is best for calorie burning, strength training amps up your metabolism by increasing muscle mass.
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4. Eat Before Eating
Research has highlighted several versions of this concept. One study by noted researcher Barbara Rolls found that when people eat a bowl of hot soup before a meal, they eat less. Another found that eating a spicy hot appetizer before a meal curbed appetite. A likely explanation: you tend to eat soup slowly, waiting for it to cool, and eating anything slowly gives your brain, hormones, and stomach time to coordinate a message of fullness. Spicy food is also hard to eat fast, and chili pepper (particularly cayenne pepper) has been found to speed metabolism.
Then there are the many studies showing that eating a high-fiber snack, such as an apple, half an hour before a meal cuts calorie consumption. That one has a simple explanation: Fiber fills you up, making it harder to overeat later.
5. Sleep More
We have the unfortunate tendency in this culture to associate sleep with being sluggish. Not so: We now know that sleeping revs up the metabolism, so the longer you sleep the more fat you burn. Sleep also regulates hormones that control appetite and energy production. When you skip sleep, your body produces more ghrelin, which triggers cravings, and less leptin, which makes you feel full and satisfied with your food intake.
If those aren’t reason enough to prioritize your eight hours a night, there’s longevity, too. Sleep partners with stress in a vicious cycle that’s been shown by researchers to shorten your life by quadrupling stroke risk and weakening your immune system.
6. Drink Tea, Not Water
Standard advice when you’re losing weight is to drink eight glasses of water a day. Water’s great, don’t get me wrong, but eight glasses a day is a chore unless it’s hot and you’re driven by natural thirst. Tea, on the other hand, is easy to sip all day long. Make a thermos of black, green, or herb tea (whichever you like, all have health benefits) and keep it on your desk so you can refill all day long. Experts used to say tea didn’t “count” towards your daily water intake, but that’s no longer considered true. And tea does double-duty since the antioxidants in tea – particularly green tea – have been shown to have weight loss benefits on their own. (And they help protect against cancer, too.)
As with all weight loss advice, take what you like and leave the rest. No weight loss strategy works if you find it unpleasant, because if you don’t like doing it you won’t keep it up for long. So if you like the taste of tea, that trick’s going to work well for you. If seeing your muscles firm up motivates you, you’ll likely stick with strength training. And most people aren’t going to have much problem with the snacking suggestion.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.