We get it: You want to lose the jiggle but don’t want to blacklist your favorite eats, count every single calorie, or overdose on gym hours. The great news is, you can drop weight without dieting: Experts say making small change-ups to your day is one of the best ways to lose.
We grilled health and fitness pros for the tweaks that will help your shape the most. Road test a few, and you could shed five (this week!), 10 or even 20-plus pounds without a whole lot of effort.
1. Power up PB
"Buy natural varieties of peanut butter and pour off the oil sitting on top. Each serving will have 20 fewer calories and 2 to 3 fewer grams of fat. It’s a small difference that’ll add up to a couple of pounds per year."
—Amelia Winslow, personal chef in Los Angeles and founder of the healthy food blog Eating Made Easy
2. Pop to it
"Skimping on fiber will make you gain weight. Forget the pretzels and go for a bag of low-fat popcorn. It has five times the fiber and only 90 calories for six cups, so it’s filling and satisfying.
A recent study found that when women doubled their daily fiber intake from 12 to 24 grams, their bodies absorbed 90 calories less per day. You could lose almost 10 pounds in a year!"
—Tanya Zuckerbrot, RD, author of The F-Factor Diet: Discover the Secret to Permanent Weight Loss
3. Dance your butt off
"Kick up your heels and go dancing with your girlfriends—or have a solo dance session at home. Fast-tempo dances are not only a blast to do, but in an hour you’ll torch 400 to 500 calories. That’s equivalent to light jogging on the treadmill, but it’s way more fun!"
—Christine Avanti, author of Skinny Chicks Eat Real Food: Lose the Fake Food and Kickstart Your Weight Loss
4. Switch things up
"At the gym, lift one set of heavier weights than you’re used to. And on your walk or run, add backward walking and sideways shuffling in one-minute bursts.
You’ll challenge your muscles in new ways, work them at a variety of angles, and improve your balance. These things will tone you up and burn extra calories."
—Gunnar Peterson, celebrity trainer to A-listers (including our December cover star Sofia Vergara!) in Beverly Hills, California
5. Nix nighttime eating
"Cutting out after-dinner snacking is a quick way to help you shed 5 pounds in a week. At night, we’re usually scarfing down junky foods in front of the TV—and it’s easy to consume a meal’s worth of calories, plus belly-bloating sodium.
If you’re typically hungry before bed, it might mean you’re eating dinner too early, so push it back. Snack on fruit at 3 p.m. Then at 5 p.m., have a snack bar. At 7:30, you’ll be ready for dinner, and you’ll be eating late enough to stay full for the rest of the evening."
—Heather Bauer, RD, author of Bread Is the Devil: Win the Weight Loss Battle by Taking Control of Your Diet Demons
6. Be a crunch monster
"Fill your plate with crunchy, chewy foods like carrots, apples, and whole grains. They take more time to chew, and their fiber makes your body work harder to digest them—so you’ll burn more calories during your meal.
Eating this way can increase your total calorie burn by 5 percent throughout the day!"
—Leslie Bonci, RD, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Center for Sports Medicine
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7. Keep it simple
"Just focus on cooking wholesome food; you’ll eat well and could even lose 5 pounds in a week. For breakfast, have yogurt and some fruit; for lunch, eat a soup and a winter salad with tuna and walnuts; at dinner, fill your plate with 3 to 4 ounces of fish or chicken, a couple of veggies, and a piece of fruit. And feel free to use a bit of butter or olive oil—you don’t have to deprive yourself."
—Mireille Guiliano, author of The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook
8. Beat booze bloat
"Downsize your wine glass to cut calories. Wine glasses today are giant goblets, so it’s easy to pour 6 ounces, or one-and-a-half servings, without noticing. That means those two glasses a night might actually be closer to three (almost half a bottle!), adding up to 300 calories.
Instead of drinking this way every day, have a regular-size 4-ounce glass a couple of times a week. You could drop more than 20 pounds this year."
—Dr. Tim Church, director of preventive medicine research at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La.
9. Play hard
"Slip exercise into everyday life, and make it fun. Head outside and go ice skating with friends or shape a snowman with your kids. You can even stage a pillow fight in your living room.
That burns 82 calories in 20 minutes, plus you’ll laugh the entire time!"
—Missy Chase Lapine, author of The Speedy Sneaky Chef
10. Try upside-down
"Season and butter the bottom of foods. For example, butter the bottom of toast, and salt the bottom of potato rounds. This sounds weird, but it really helps with weight loss. When you eat foods this way, the flavor hits your tongue right away, and you actually taste more of it. Ultimately, that means you can cut out at least half the belly-bloating salt or butter."
—Devin Alexander, chef and host of FitTV’s Healthy Decadence and author of The Biggest Loser Quick & Easy Cookbook
11. Dine in slow-mo
"Make sure you’re the last one to start eating and also the last person to finish. I do this, and it helps me slow down and chew my food properly instead of inhaling what’s on my plate—and more. Eat this way and you’ll take in fewer calories at your meals."
—JJ Virgin, author of Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy: The 5-Step Plan to Sleek, Strong, and Sculpted Arms
12. Dress the part
"Make a few changes to your party outfit, and you’ll beat the temptation to overindulge. At a cocktail party, carry a clutch instead of a purse. With a cocktail in one hand and your handbag in the other, you won’t be able to reach for too many hors d’oeuvres.
And wear a form-fitting dress—it’ll be your biggest reminder to not revisit the food table for seconds."
—Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet: 10 Steps to a Thinner, Healthier You
13. Go by the numbers
"Stop eating when you’re at a five or six on a scale of one to 10 (where one is famished and 10 is Thanksgiving full). When you stop at five or six, chances are 20 minutes later, you’ll feel like a seven or eight.
This tactic is great for parties and vacations—and could save you lots of calories per meal."
—Ellie Krieger, RD, host of Cooking Channel’s Healthy Appetite and author of Comfort Food Fix