NEW YORK – How would you like to cut about 500 calories from your daily diet without even realizing it? That’s right, you read that correctly. You won’t even know you’re eating less, and you won’t feel hungry. All you have to do is turn the following tips into habits, and you’ll drop 1 pound per week, 26 pounds in 6 months, or 52 pounds by next year!.
1. Eat with your non-dominant hand
According to researchers at the University of Southern California, making this simple switch will help you eat less. “Although we think our eating is driven by hunger, much of it is actually determined by environmental cues,” explains Leslie Heinberg, PhD, director of behavioral services for the Cleveland Clinic’s Bariatric and Metabolic Institute. For example, in this USC study, moviegoers ate the same amount of popcorn whether it was stale or fresh. They ate it simply because that was their movie-watching habit. But when some were asked to switch eating hands, they swallowed less of both, especially the stale stuff. Why? Disrupting their eating pattern made them more mindful. There are many ways to do this like using chopsticks or even having dinner in a different part of the house (or couch). It wakes you up.
2. Hit the mat
Contrary to popular belief, stress makes us fat not skinny. And it’s not just because anxious situations can turn us into comfort-food seekers. According to research from Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, stress may actually change the way our bodies metabolize food. Scientists there fed women a high-fat meal. Those who reported feeling stressed the previous day burned 104 fewer calories in the following 7-hour period than those who weren’t stressed—a difference that could result in a weight gain of 11 pounds in one year. “Stress sets us up to be more efficient with calories, which is the last thing we need to do,” explains Heinberg.
To keep stress in check, commit to doing yoga. Patients at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center who did one-hour yoga sessions 3 days per week for 6 weeks experienced steep declines in the levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared to those doing simple stretching or no yoga. The 10-minute gentle yoga routine in the video above is the perfect place to start.
3. Pop a prune
A University of Liverpool study found that eating 5 to 6 ounces of prunes every day for 12 weeks enabled overweight participants to lose an average of 4.4 pounds and nearly 1 inch from their waistlines. We know what you’re thinking: Those prunes probably caused that weight to come off in the most unpleasant of ways. But the prunes were well tolerated, and no negative side effects were reported. “Prune’s high-fiber content [6 of them contain 5 grams, which is more than 8 ounces of Metamucil] helps you feel full and stay full longer,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD. “Pair them with a protein, like 2% cheese, for a snack, or chop and put them in your morning oatmeal.
4. Snack in the afternoon instead of the morning
If you’re divvying up your total daily calories across 5 or 6 smaller meals in order to control hunger and lose weight, you may be able to get by with one less snack and slim down even more. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, a mid-morning snack is less effective for weight loss than a mid-afternoon one. Researchers speculate the finding may have less to do with when we snack than the simple fact that there’s not as much time between breakfast and lunch for most people as there is between lunch and dinner. Thus, morning snackers may be guilty of mindless eating and probably could forgo that feeding without getting ravenous and overeating at lunch.
5. Ignore the words “low fat”
It may sound counterintuitive but a Cornell study found people eat up to 50% more when a product is labeled “low-fat.” This is known as the ‘halo effect,’ ” says Heinberg, because it makes the product appear healthful, prompts us to feel virtuous and—you guessed it—we end up eating more. Plus, the lower-fat version often contains more sugar than the regular one in order to overcome a lack of mouth-feel and flavor. Here’s the rule: Eat the same amount of the “skinny” version as you normally would the “fat” version and you’ll cut calories.
6. Dine with men (preferably young, handsome ones)
You’ll ingest about 100 less calories eating with guy friends than gal pals, says a study published in the journal Appetite. “When women are out with men they’re more self-conscious and trying to look dainty and pretty,” says Coral Arvon, PhD, of the Pritikin Longevity Center. “When you’re out with women, there’s more comfort and less self-consciousness.” Obviously we’re not saying to trade your gal pals for guys; just be aware of how much food you’re choking down when you’re giggling with the girls.
7. Sniff an apple or a banana
Just as the smell of baking bread or grilling steak can make your mouth water, the scent of certain foods can also suppress appetite. Surprisingly, bananas and green apples are two of them. Although the mechanism for how this works is not fully understood, Alan Hirsch, MD, director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, says, “Smell is 90% of taste.” In fact, it can make you feel like you’ve already eaten. “It’s also why when you’re cooking all day you don’t feel as hungry,” he explains. Based on his research, vanilla and peppermint also appear to be appetite suppressants.
8. Exercise in the morning
Women who work out in the a.m. reduce their appetite and boost their total physical activity throughout the day, according to researchers at Brigham Young University. But here’s the fine-print: The appetite-reducing effect only lasts for a short time, until body temperature returns to normal after exercise. However, since moving in the morning apparently encourages more movement all day, Arvon recommends 4 to 5 short bursts of activity (you know the drill: take the stairs, park in the outer reaches of the parking lot, do some crunches…) for best results.
9. Pump up the protein
Including a bit of protein with every snack and meal will help you eat less in a couple of ways. “Protein takes the longest to digest in comparison to carbohydrate and fat,” explains Goodson. “Metabolism rises approximately 20% to digest protein. Thus, it gets you full faster and keeps you full longer.” She suggests adding an egg to oatmeal, low-fat Greek yogurt to fruit, salmon or chicken to salad, string cheese to half your normal amount of crackers, and a palm-size piece of lean beef to your veggies. Doesn’t sound like a diet, does it?
10. Keep cool
Keeping your home or office between 62 and 77° will help you burn more calories, according to a study published in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism. A cooler environment makes your body work harder to maintain it’s 98.6-degree average temperature. “This also works when you drink chilled water,” adds Arvon. “You burn 25% more calories when you drink cold water before a workout.”