Hate diets, but still want to lose weight? We feel ya. This New Year, say “sayonara” to extreme fad diets and try these easy but effective strategies for eating less and cutting excess calories. Of course, there is no “magic bullet” for weight loss. But when combined with a sensible diet and a regular exercise plan, these no-nonsense weight loss tricks might just help you shed those stubborn last few pounds.
1. Drink more water. What if we told you that one of the most effective diet aids out there comes straight from your kitchen faucet? According to a new review of several prior studies, dieters who drink more water throughout the day experienced greater weight loss success than their less-hydrated counterparts. Because our bodies often confuse dehydration with hunger, guzzling H20 regularly will ward off thirst-induced food cravings. Additionally, sipping ice-cold water has been shown to increase an individual’s metabolic rate, a measure of how quickly the body burns calories.
2. Chew peppermint. Peppermint, which is a natural appetite suppressant, can promote weight loss by combating cravings. After dinner, pop a piece of peppermint gum or sip on warm peppermint tea—it may halt you from grabbing seconds.
3. Take a walk. Tempted to dig into that bag of potato chips in the pantry? To dampen food cravings, try taking a brisk ten-minute walk around the block—or doing any other non-food related activity (painting your nails, calling a friend, checking your email). By the time you get back, chances are good that your urge for food has subsided.
4. Eat with your non-dominant hand. Or use chopsticks: It’ll force you to eat more slowly and mindfully, leading you to consume less.
5. Write it down. In a 2008 study published by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, dieters who consistently tracked their food intake lost twice as much weight after six months as dieters who kept less-thorough food records. Jotting down your daily nibbles—everything from your morning latte to that handful of peanuts—can increase awareness of where your extra calories are coming from and keep you on track.
6. Nosh on an apple before dinner. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, yes, but the crispy fruit may also help keep the pounds away, researchers say. According to one study published by Pennsylvania State University, subjects who munched on an apple before a meal ate almost 200 calories less than those who didn’t eat the fruit. Here’s why: The high fiber content found in apples (5 grams per piece) will fill you up, so you’ll consume fewer calories.
7. Spice it up. Sprinkle cayenne pepper onto your favorite foods to pump up the flavor and curb hunger. An ingredient found in the spicy-hot pepper—a compound called “capsaicin”—may promote weight loss by reducing hunger and upping energy expenditure, a study from Purdue University found.
8. Sit down while you eat. If you regularly scarf down your lunch while on-the-go, you may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts. According to a Canadian study, individuals who ate a midday meal while standing later downed 30% more calories than individuals who ate a sit-down meal. No matter how crunched for time you are, make an effort to sit down, serve food on a plate and savor every bite. Slow, mindful eating may translate to fewer calories, nutritionist Joy Bauer suggests.
9. Get more shut-eye. Losing weight might be as easy as hitting the hay. Numerous studies have documented the fascinating link between sleep and weight. Failing to get sufficient levels of sleep can disrupt two hormones, ghrelin and leptin, that regulate appetite and keep hunger at bay. If you skimp on sleep, you’re setting the stage for overeating and increased food cravings. As if you needed another excuse to get more ZZZs!
10. Wear something tight. It sounds silly, but wearing tight clothing or a secure belt around your waist may prompt you to eat less. The slight constriction on your belly will provide a gentle reminder you when you’ve had enough to eat. Plus, you’ll be less likely to wolf down a plate of French fries when you’re wearing something form-fitting than if you’re wearing, say, a forgiving pair of sweatpants.
11. Downsize your dishware. Switching to a smaller dinner plate can trick your mind into eating less—it acts like built-in portion control, preventing you from over-serving. According to the Small Plate Movement, by adopting this strategy, you can drop up to 18 pounds this year. Chew on that!