“I just can’t seem to lose weight,” my friend Cassie told me one morning over breakfast. She was drinking a cup of coffee and eating a bowl of granola, rushing to get to work after pressing the snooze button three times.
“Here’s your problem,” I said, “and your solution: Swap that coffee for tea, replace the granola with eggs and wake up 10 minutes earlier. Boom: You just lost 10 pounds this week alone.”
“That’s all I have to do?” she asked.
That’s all. How do I know it works? Because research from the new book Zero Belly Breakfasts shows that of people who’ve lost 30 pounds or more, 80% kept the weight off by eating a high-protein breakfast every day, according to a study done by The National Weight Control Registry, who concluded that “eating breakfast is a characteristic common to successful weight loss maintainers.” Here are 30 more fat-melting tips from the editors of Zero Belly Breakfasts. And don’t miss our essential list of the 50 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet.
Prepare Breakfast the Night Before
“Something like overnight oats are a great choice and prepping the night before decreases the chance that you will skip breakfast or opt for the unhealthy and easy options,” says Jim White RD, ACSM Health Owner, Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios. Whether or not you heat it up on the morning is up to you…but hot or cold, you can enjoy it with fruit, nuts or fat-busting cinnamon! Oats are high in fiber, which will help you feel satiated—and less likely to snack on those donuts that a coworker brought to work. Ready to prep? Try one of these 25 Overnight Oats That Boost Your Metabolism in the Morning!
Melt Fat With Delicious Tea
Tea and weight loss are a natural pair. What makes green tea especially so waist friendly are compounds called catechins, belly-fat crusaders that blast adipose tissue by revving the metabolism, increasing the release of fat from fat cells (particularly in the belly), and then speeding up the liver’s fat burning capacity. In a recent study, participants who combined a daily habit of 4-5 cups of green tea with a 25-minute sweat session (or 180 minutes a week), lost two more pounds than the non tea-drinking exercisers. Meanwhile, a research team in Washington found that the same amount of coffee (5+ cups/day) doubled visceral belly fat.
Catch the Worm
The early bird may catch the worms, but he also doesn’t overeat them. A recent study from Northwestern Medicine found that late sleepers—those who woke at about 10:45 a.m.—consumed 248 more calories a day, ate half as many fruits and vegetables and twice the fast food of those who set the alarm clock earlier. A second study by researchers from the Roehampton University found that ‘morning people’—those who lept out of bed at 6:58 am—were generally healthier, thinner and happier than the night owls who start their day at 8:54 am. Coax yourself into waking up early by gradually setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier every week.
Give Your Alarm a Label
A recent study published online in Health Promotion Practice found that people who received regular text reminders of their daily “calorie budget” made the healthier eating choices. Smartphone users can customize morning alarms with labels, but a good old-fashioned sticky note could do the trick! Post motivating reminders of your health and fitness goals in places where you’ll see them in the morning, like your bathroom mirror.
Let the Sunshine In
After you roll out of bed, immediately open all the blinds. According to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, people who had most of their daily exposure to bright light in the morning had significantly lower body mass index (BMI) than those who had most of their light exposure late in the day…regardless of how much they ate. Researchers say 20 to 30 minutes of morning light is enough to affect BMI, and even dim light with just half the intensity of sunlight on a cloudy day will do. According to study authors, morning rays help to synchronize the body’s internal clock that regulates circadian rhythms and metabolism. Just put your clothes on first.
Drink a Glass of Water
Simply drinking more water may increase the rate at which healthy people burn calories, according to a study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. After drinking approximately 17 ounces of water (about 2 tall glasses), participants’ metabolic rates increased by 30 percent. The researchers estimate that increasing water intake by 1.5 liters a day (about 6 cups) would burn an extra 17,400 calories over the course of the year. That’s a weight loss of approximately 5 pounds! “Staying hydrated is essential to your health and weight loss goals, but sometimes it can get lost in the shuffle of a busy day,” says Amy Shapiro MS, RD, CDN of RealNutritionNYC. She suggests that you make it a habit to drink at least one glass before you leave for work.
Use the Scale
Weighing yourself regularly can actually help you stay slim, say scientists at the University of Minnesota. They discovered that people who got on the scale every day lost twice as much weight as those who weighed themselves less often. The assumption: Monitoring your weight keeps your mind on your health and prevents weight denial. In fact, stepping off the scale for too long might be one of the 8 Reasons You’re Gaining Back the Weight.
Beginning your day with 20 minutes of focused breathing and contemplation has some proven health benefits, including reduced levels of fat-promoting stress hormones in the body. Stick with it for two months, and you can actually rewire your brain! A research team led by Massachusetts General Hospital found that eight weeks of daily meditation resulted in notable changes in brain structure, including decreased grey-matter density in the stress-regulating amygdala.
Do a Fast Workout
According to holistic health coach Seth Santoro, the best strategy for lowering body fat percentage is to work out fairly soon after waking up. “Hit the gym and do some treadmill sprints on an empty stomach to burn fat,” he says. “Your body is already in a calorie deficit, and it will ignite your body’s fat-burning ability.” Glycogen levels are depleted during sleep, so your body will utilize body fat as an energy source.
Get Dressed for Breakfast
Clinical psychologist Katie Rickel told Grandparents.com that dressing the part can serve as a good reminder of your goals. “Wearing stylish clothing that makes you feel attractive—as opposed to comfy sweats and loungewear that hides your body—will encourage you to eat in a way that shows you care about your appearance and your body,” she’s said.
Not eating breakfast has shown to increase overeating later in the day because you are hungrier. “Kickstart your hunger in the morning by not eating anything two hours before bed,” says Jim White. “And shop smart at the grocery store; know yourself and know what you are capable of in the mornings.”
But Sit Down First
Mornings can be so hectic that we’re loathe to actually sit down or stop moving while scarfing down some breakfast. That’s bad because eating while not seated is associated with mindless eating, according to research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Take a load off and you’ll be more likely to eat at a slower pace.
Change Things Up
“Change it up a little so you won’t get bored and stop eating breakfast,” says Leah Kaufman MS, RD, CDN founder of Leah Kaufman Nutrition. Try a breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, avocado, tomato, shredded chicken, and fruit on the side one day and oatmeal the next for some variety.
Chuck Out Your Sugary Cereals
There’s no sugar-coating it: Sugar wreaks havoc on the body. Consuming too much of the white stuff can lead to obesity, which often causes other health problems like diabetes and heart disease. And many cereals pack more sugar into one bowl than you’ll find in a Boston Kreme Donut! To make matters worse, many popular varieties like Frosted Flakes and Fruity Pebbles are also laced with Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) or BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole), ingredients that are banned in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and much of Europe because they are thought to be carcinogenic. Speaking of scary ingredients, check out these 40 Most Horrifying Things Found in Food.
After fasting all night and burning some calories in that state, it is important to feed your muscles protein to prevent any breakdown. Shapiro reminds us that protein is filling and may help fend off mid-morning hunger pangs, even if you have a small something while on the go.
But Pick the Right Protein
Sure, bacon and sausage make your tastebuds sing, but they should be a tasty cheat, not starring in your regular A.M. rotation. The reason: Many brands of cured meats are loaded with potentially harmful nitrites and saturated fat—bad news for your heart and waistline alike. To stay safe and start slimming down, opt for Applegate Naturals’ Natural Classic Pork Breakfast Sausage. Made with humanely raised animals and minimal ingredients, Applegate’s version of the classic breakfast side delivers a solid protein-to-fat ratio. Or better yet, get your morning protein from a source like eggs, canned wild salmon (one of the Best Fish for Fat Loss) or Greek yogurt.
Balance That Protein with Good Carbs and Fiber
“The protein and fiber are what’s going to fill you up, and fats help with satiety,” says Kaufman. She adds that both fats and protein break down slower in the body, keeping you full for longer. The carbohydrates are what is going to give you the energy to get through your day as they are stored as glycogen, our first line of energy. “You can find them in foods like bananas or whole grains,” she says.
Head to YouTube
While watching two hyperkinetic baby goats wearing pajamas jump around for five minutes can be easily thought of as a waste of time, anything that tickles your funny bone can pack a bona fide metabolism boost. Think we’re kidding? It’s no joke: Genuine laughter may cause a 10–20 percent increase in basal energy expenditure and resting heart-rate, according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity. That means a 10-15 minute giggle fest could burn up 40 to 170 calories. Pairing your breakfast with something that makes you LOL could pay dividends.
Sprinkle on the Pepper
What do avocado toast, omelets, egg sandwiches and frittatas have in common? They all taste great with a sprinkle of pepper. Piperine, the compound that gives black pepper its characteristic taste, has been shown to stop adipogenesis, the formation of new fat cells. This can help shrink your waistline, lower your cholesterol levels and give you that flat belly look your crave.
Have Protein Bars Nearby
“Sometimes (or maybe all the time), all you need is that five extra minutes of sleep, and breakfast no longer fit into your morning routine,” says Shapiro. She suggests putting out a snack that you can take with you on your way out the door. This way, you won’t skip breakfast entirely; or if you had breakfast, you have a snack for later in the day in case you need something healthy to munch on.
And Keep Plenty of Apples Around
Eating an apple as part of your breakfast can help prevent metabolic syndrome, a disorder associated with abdominal fat, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. They’ll keep the doctor away and your muffin tops at bay because apples are a low-calorie, nutrient dense source of fiber, which studies have proven to be integral to reducing visceral fat. A recent study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber eaten per day, visceral fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years! That’s just one reason that apples are one of the Best Fruits for Fat Loss!
Toss Out Bagels
Bagels are a beloved breakfast staple, but these starchy grains are anything but healthy. Made with enriched flour instead of healthy whole grains, they are void of the belly-filling fiber that boosts satiety and keeps blood sugar stable. What’s worse, refined white-flour foods like these are linked to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and weight gain. For more ways to get the slim body you crave, check out these 50 Ways to Lose 10 Pounds—Fast.
Dust on the Cinnamon
The latest news about this spice is that cinnamon improves the body’s sensitivity to insulin. According to findings in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cinnamon helps ensure incoming calories are converted to energy, not fat. And earlier research has shown that cinnamon heightens cognitive processing and brain function. (No wonder it’s one of the Healthiest Spices on the Planet). Dust a spoonful of it oats and Greek yogurt, or stir it into a protein shake.
If you have at least five minutes to cook yourself breakfast, add some vegetables as a side or part of the main dish. That’s the advice from Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN of RealNutritionNYC: “All too often we think of orange juice with eggs and bacon, pancakes with syrup, or oatmeal with fruit as a complete breakfast, but in reality, it’s important to increase our veggie intake whenever possible, including at breakfast.” Shapiro adds that veggies add a slew of nutrients including fiber and will lower the excessive carb or fat content, if replacing something else like white potatoes or bacon.
Don’t Forgo the Yolk
Although it’s true that egg whites are low in calories, fat-free and contain most of the protein found in an egg, eating the entire egg is beneficial to your metabolism. The yolk contains many metabolism-stoking nutrients, including fat-soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids and — most significantly — choline, a powerful compound that attacks the gene mechanism that triggers your body to store fat around your liver. Worried about cholesterol? New studies have found that moderate consumption of two whole eggs per day has no negative effect of a person’s lipid (fat) profile and may actually improve it.
Chase it with a Glass of Whole Milk
Studies conducted at The Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee suggest that consuming calcium — which milk has plenty of — may help your body metabolize fat more efficiently. Other studies have shown that increased calcium intake from dairy products (though not from supplemental calcium carbonate) caused study participants to poop out more fat as opposed to it sticking around on the body.
One reason slim people stay slender is that they avoid the “Frappuccino,” an exotic way of saying you’re drinking two ice cream cones worth of calories while catching a caffeine buzz. If you absolutely must have your morning buzz, perk yourself up with a nonfat, unsweetened coffee instead. And if your sweet tooth is raging, ask your barista to add in two pumps of your favorite flavored syrup to your cup instead of the Frap’s four. (We like caramel.) This simple swap will save you more than 400 calories and a whopping 53 grams of the sweet stuff.
But Don’t Drink Too Much
Plenty of studies indicate that caffeine can boost your metabolism in the morning. But Shapiro says that guzzling coffee and other caffeinated drinks all day could work against you. Caffeine is a natural appetite suppressant. If you’re constantly consuming it, you may not eat much (or not realize how hungry you really are) until you get home for dinner. “Not eating enough throughout the day can make your metabolism sluggish,” she says. “By the time you eat dinner, instead of immediately using that food for energy, your body is aggressively storing it as fat, just in case it will be deprived again.”
And then Get a Good Night’s Sleep
If you’re chronically sleep deprived, don’t be surprised if you gain a few pounds without eating a morsel of extra food. “A lack of sleep can cause several problems with your metabolism,” says nutritionist Seth Santoro. “It can cause you to burn fewer calories, lack appetite control and experience an increase in cortisol levels, which stores fat.” Lack of sufficient sleep — which experts say is 7 to 9 hours a night for most people — also leads to impaired glucose tolerance, a.k.a. your body’s ability to utilize sugar for fuel. “We all have those less-than-adequate nights of sleep,” says nutritionist Lisa Jubilee. “But if it’s a regular thing, you’re better off lengthening your night’s sleep than working out.”
Get it on Before You Get Up
A little sexy time before rush-hour can trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone that research shows can minimize stress hormones and suppress the appetite. Other research suggests oxytocin and cortisol—the major stress hormone—are inversely related. As one goes up, the other goes down. That’s good news for your waistline, as elevated cortisol can increase your appetite and cause weight gain. If you’re a mom or dad, there’s even more reason to get the oxytocin while you can: A study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology showed parents’ stress levels are 30 percent higher with the early-morning breakfast-before-the-school-bus rush.