Because we make over 200 choices when it comes to food every day, it's easy to see why we often feel like we need a comprehensive, minute-by-minute guide and meal-by-meal plan to dropping some LBs. But what if we told you that there are some choices you can make that get your diet started, even if you didn't mean to do so? Yep—ready or not, you're doing yourself a favor if you choose to do any of the following below!
These are some of the most effective, science-backed strategies for rattling your waistline-destroying habits and starting to eat smarter. And if you're pleasantly surprised to learn that you're already getting it right, then amp things up by avoiding these 50 Little Things Making You Fatter and Fatter!
How to Accidentally Eat Less
Skip the TV Time Tonight
When you get home after a long day, it's natural to want to unwind. But just because you're tired, it doesn't mean your first instinct should be to click on the TV—especially if you're feeling hungry. A University of Houston study found that the more TV people watched in a setting, the worse their food choices became. If you're definitely going to watch a show when you get home, keep it to a 30-minute limit.
Turned Off the ITunes
You need to hear the food you're eating. Yes, seriously! A study published in the journal Food Quality and Preference proved that our perception of the sound of eating food affects our eating habits. It's not enough to just eat crunchy foods; the researchers showed that those who listened to music with headphones actually ate more of the exact same food! Turn off the TV and lower the music during your meals.
Change Your Plate Size
This one's pretty simple: Smaller plates make food servings appear significantly larger, tricking your mind into thinking you're about to consume more calories than you really are. In one study, campers who were given larger bowls served themselves and consumed 16 percent more cereal than those given smaller bowls. Swapping dinner plates for salad plates will help you eat more reasonable portions, which can help the pounds fly off your frame! Eating on smaller plates is #5 on the 50 Best Weight Loss Tips Ever.
Clean Your Kitchen
According to a study published in the journal Environment and Behavior, people eat a shocking 40 percent more food when they have a messy kitchen. Plus, the researchers found that those in the messy kitchens consumed nearly twice as many calories from cookies as women in the tidy kitchen. As if that's not enough motivation to make your kitchen space cleaner, then we dare you to take a look at these 17 Dirtiest, Grossest Things in Your Kitchen!
Use Snack Bags
"Munching mindlessly straight out of a bag or box while you're standing at the pantry deciding what you want to eat leads to overeating," advise The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT. "Planning what you're going to eat and sitting down to a predetermined portion on a plate eliminates this problem." It's even scientifically proven! In a recent experiment at the Cornell University food and brand lab, researchers gave study participants either a single bag containing 100 Wheat Thins or four smaller bags holding 25 each, waited for the munching to subside, then did a cracker count. The tally: Those given the jumbo bag consumed about 20 percent more.
<strong>Eat This! Tip:</strong>
Individually portion out the foods you tend to overeat (and even the ones you don't!) to the recommended serving size. You can even write a reminder of how many calories are in each by using a sharpie to write directly on the bag! Want more portion control tips? Check out our exclusive report, 18 Easy Ways to Control Portion Sizes.
Here's some crazy food for thought: Even if we're not hungry, just seeing decadent pictures online can make us want to eat because our hunger hormone (ghrelin) gets woken up. A review published in the journal Brain and Cognition found that viewing "food porn" sparks our desire for food through a physical response called "visual hunger" and that simply scrolling through our Instagram feed can set us up for failure.
Hide Your Vices
We know snacking is important to maintain a revving metabolism, but that doesn't mean once-in-awhile treats should have permanent spaces on your desk or coffee table. We all know it's a little too easy to reach for whatever is in the line of your sight. And this goes for beverages, too! A study by Eat This, Not That! magazine advisor Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, analyzed photos of 200 kitchens and found that women who had soda sitting on their countertops weigh an average of 26 pounds more. Yikes!
Here's How to Accidentally Eat Better
Start a Hobby
Bad eating habits and choices can be caused by something as simple as boredom. When you're bored you actually lose your ability to make smart food choices. Instead, you become an "emotional eater:" making the wrong food choices and eating much more of those fattening foods than you normally would, according to a new study in the Journal of Health Psychology. In fact, "Because I'm Bored" (as opposed to "I'm Hungry") is one of the top reasons people give when they're asked about their emotions before they eat. "Adults will reach for 'guilty' pleasures that they think will give them a boost," Rebecca Lewis, RD, explains. If you develop a go-to hobby you can enjoy whenever those "boredom" feelings come on, you're more likely to forget your urge to eat your emotions. The best way to beat boredom is to find something to do that is purposeful and challenging,such as gardening, drawing, scrapbooking, knitting, writing, reading, or hiking.
Start an Eating Ritual
If you aren't the kind of person who has a routine schedule or patterned way of life, it's easy for temptations and unhealthy eating habits to influence you more than if you were, you know, a robot. When your job requires you to fly to another state every couple of weeks or your kids' sports schedules are always up in the air, it can be hard to keep a consistent diet. That's why experts believe it's important to establish eating rituals. Research suggests these rituals are a form of "mindful eating," which have the power to make food more pleasurable and may help prevent overeating. In one study, participants who were assigned to eat a chocolate bar in accordance with a particular breaking and unwrapping ritual found the candy much more enjoyable—and even more flavorful—than a group who ate the bar informally.
Prioritize Your Produce
Simply reorganizing the most accessible foods in your pantry or which sit on your counter could translate into serious calorie savings. So, after you remove the junk from the precious space in plain view, replace it with a fruit bowl. You're 70 percent more likely to grab fruits and veggies over less healthy options if they're readily available, according to more of Wansink's research. You can even keep washed and prepared veggies like carrots, cucumbers, peppers, and snap peas with a tub of hummus in the front of the fridge so they aren't overlooked. Speaking of hummus, find out the 22 Best and Worst Supermarket Hummus Options!
Make a Meal Plan
We know that planning out what you're going to make every night can be a pain—but it's far worse to do every single day than to do all at once on, say, Sunday nights. Set yourself up an easier dinner plan by making a meal plan. "Because we make approximately 200 food choices each day, we get fatigued towards the end of the day," comments Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT. "Meal planning is optimal to help you gain control of your overall food intake." About one in five people claim that if they haven't planned anything in advance they are more inclined to fall back on a frozen pizza, chips, or takeout. Skip the sabotage and check out our Realistic Flat-Belly Meal Plan for a Healthy Week to get started!
Keep a Stocked Pantry…
You can't eat the things you don't have. And when you're in a pinch on a busy night, it's all too easy to order take-out or heat up a frozen pizza—that is, if that's all you have in your kitchen. Instead, read up on these 35 Healthy Foods Busy People Always Keep in Their Pantry so you can have the right building blocks to craft healthy, slimming snacks and dishes that get you closer to your body goals.
…But Not Too Stocked
While it's important you actually have food in your house so you don't just order delivery, experts recommend keeping a smaller variety of foods in your house because they say that keeping your options limited helps ward off overeating or eating the wrong stuff. The reason? Too many options zap your willpower. Speaking of, don't miss these 22 Truths About Willpower!
Pack Your Lunch
In a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, women who went out to lunch once a week or more lost five pounds less than those who brought lunches from home. Eating in restaurants usually means less individual control over ingredients and cooking methods, as well as larger portion sizes. On the other hand, Johns Hopkins researchers found that people who frequently cook meals at home consume nearly 200 fewer calories than those who cook less. To help you get started, here are the 51 Most Popular Lunch Items—Ranked!
Go to Sleep
Many of us who are constantly craving those sugar-, fat-, and carb-laden treats can blame those late nights at the office. A simple switch from a desk to your comfy bed can give you the energy and enhance proper mental functioning so you can exert your willpower when necessary and stop cravings. To make it easier on yourself, turn off the lights earlier in the night. According to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, exposure to light at night doesn't just interrupt your chances of a great night's sleep, it may also result in weight gain. Study subjects who slept in the darkest rooms were 21 percent less likely to be obese than those sleeping in the lightest rooms.
Only Drink Water for Awhile
Booze, caffeine, and sugary drinks can all cause dehydration, which can increase hunger and cause poor circulation. In turn, you'll likely feel bloated and unmotivated to do much more than eat, sleep, work, repeat. Plus, what happens to your body when you don't drink enough water is scary! So, aim to consume half of your body weight in ounces throughout the course of the day. And FYI: The easiest way to hydrate is by drinking a cup of water upon waking. New research from the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics showed that people who increased their water by a mere cup a day ate up to 205 fewer calories and 200 fewer milligrams of sodium daily.
Seriously, Ditch The Booze
Alcohol, which packs seven calories per gram, can provide an excess of at least 100 calories in your daily intake. "Cutting out these calories will naturally accelerate weight loss," explains Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN, "Plus, drinking dehydrates you and can decrease your inhibitions, which may lead to eating foods that aren't so diet-friendly (think, pizza, burgers, and fries) and derail your efforts." In fact, this is the cause behind why drinking alcohol often is one of the 20 Reasons Why You're Always Hungry. No matter how you look at it, saying sayonara to the bottle for a bit is a win-win.
Opt for Sushi
Sushi has a justified rep for being a healthy option when it comes to eating out or ordering in: Fish is high in muscle-building protein and inflammation-quelling omega-3 fatty acids—two nutrients which will further your weight-loss efforts. Make sure to skip the tempuras and creamy sauces and instead order a piece of sockeye or pink salmon, halibut, or striped bass. Each of these is one of the most nutrient-dense fish for weight loss because they're high in protein and omega-3s while being low in mercury. Studies have found that replacing a high-omega-6, inflammatory diet with more omega-3-rich fish can help prevent weight gain and may even assist with weight loss.
Getting a massage, taking a hot bubble bath, or getting your nails done all might seem like indulgences, but it also means that you value taking care of your mind and body. In fact, women who are considered to be more accepting of their bodies are far more likely to stick to a healthy diet, according to Ohio State University researchers. Those with high levels of stress also have high levels of the belly-fat-storing hormone cortisol, but taking the time to relax and treat yourself can help mitigate daily stressors.
Here's How to Accidentally Burn Calories
Treat Your Pup to a Longer Walk
Walking for weight loss is one of the easiest forms of exercise you can do to drop some pounds. And guess what? You're already doing it with your furry friend! But don't just go for a walk around the block. Amp up your and your pup's walking time to at least 15 minutes at a brisk walking pace twice a day and you'll burn nearly 200 extra calories.
Deal with Your Yard Work
Whether you love gardening because it helps liven up your yard and relieve stress or can't really stand to rake and rake and rake all those crunchy leaves, yard work is a win-win for your home and weight loss. You'll burn anywhere from 200 to 400 calories per hour—and if it's gardening you're up to, you'll even have some fresh produce to ramp up the nutrition in your next meal.
Do Something with Friends Other Than Drink
A glass of vino while catching up with a girlfriend is great. A barre class or even a walk around the park is better. P.S. A recent study published in the journal Obesity discovered that overweight people who spend more time with thinner people over the course of the year were more successful at losing weight compared to those who hung around people of similar weights.
According to University of Milan researchers, vitamin D helps to accelerate weight loss for those who are deficient and on a low-calorie diet. It also reduces bloat! But between the fresh air, space to play with your kiddos or get some quiet time to yourself, do you really need to be convinced to go get some green scenery?