Bad news: The average person gains one to two pounds a year.
Good news: Consuming just 100 fewer calories each day is enough to avert that weight gain.
If you’re finding this out a little too late―and you want to actually lose some of that weight―you have to downsize by 500 calories a day. But you don’t have to slash them all from your plate.
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“You can eat 250 calories less and then burn 250 by walking for 30 to 45 minutes. Over a week, that will produce about a pound of weight loss,” Dr. Holly Wyatt, a clinical researcher at the Center for Human Nutrition in Denver, said.
You won’t see dramatic changes immediately, but small tweaks like those that follow will pay off over time.
Tweak Your Diet
1. Start with salad...and eat less during the rest of the meal, a study from Pennsylvania State University shows. When salads were topped with low-fat mozzarella and low-calorie Italian dressing instead of high-fat alternatives, women ate 10 percent fewer calories over the course of the day.
2. Stick a fork in it. If you prefer your salad dressing on the side, dip your fork into it before stabbing your greens. That little maneuver could cut hundreds of calories.
3. Order two appetizers. According to a study at the University of North Carolina, the average hamburger is 23 percent larger today than it was in 1977. Choose a pasta dish and salad or soup from the appetizer column, instead.
4. Visit the vending machine. Nibbling on single servings is better than digging your way to the bottom of a mega-bag of chips.
5. Walk and talk. When your cell phone rings, slip on your walking shoes and stroll the halls at work or hoof it outside. If you did this for 10 minutes every workday at a moderate 3 mph pace, you’d burn about 1,000 calories a month and lose 3 pounds a year.
6. Watch coffee calories. The fancy concoctions that are now the javas of choice for many people can contain as many calories as an entire lunch.
7. Crack a nut. Dieters in a Harvard University study who ate a handful of peanuts or mixed nuts daily were more likely to keep weight off than a group whose regimen didn’t include the high-fat snacks.
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8. Don’t just sit there. The average person burns 100 calories per hour sitting and 140 per hour standing. Get on your feet 2 hours a day while you work, and you could drop an extra 6 pounds over the year.
Adjust Your Habits
9. Sleep well, lose more. Insufficient shut-eye appears to increase production of the stress hormone cortisol, which regulates appetite. High levels seem to worsen bingeing and hunger; moreover, too little sleep could keep your body from burning carbohydrates, which translates to more stored body fat.
10. Double your protein. The high-protein, low-carb approach may help keep you from losing muscle along with fat, according to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition. According to study author Donald K. Layman, of the University of Illinois, the amino acid leucine―found in beef, dairy, poultry, fish, and eggs―may help preserve muscle tissue.
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11. Keep an exercise journal. Writing down your fitness achievements is a great way to track your progress, give yourself positive feedback, and maintain focus on your goals.
12. Eat dairy daily. A piece of cheese or a cup of milk or yogurt can rev up your metabolism, a University of Tennessee study found. People who cut 500 calories a day from their diets while eating yogurt three times a day lost 13 pounds over 12 weeks, more weight and more body fat than a control group who only cut calories.
13. Drink water. Your body often mistakes thirst for hunger, so staying hydrated means you’ll probably also stay satiated.
14. Be wary of white foods. That’s the color of most high-calorie carbs―bagels, potatoes, breads, rice, creamed corn, and the like.
15. Have an apple before dinner. How did 346 people in small-town Washington State lose an average of 17 pounds each in 3 months? With regular exercise, balanced eating, and an apple with every meal. The typical apple has 5 grams of fiber, which makes you feel fuller.
16. Act like a kid. Expand your definition of physical activity to include shaking your booty with your kids. It’s a welcome break from the StairMaster and can burn just as many calories (about 120 every 20 minutes).
Breakfast Like a Champion
17. Eat breakfast. A Harvard study found that people who did so every day cut their chances of becoming obese and developing diabetes by 35 to 50 percent, compared with those who ate breakfast only twice a week.
18. Be picky about bread. Select loaves with whole grain listed as the first ingredient, and make sure each slice contains at least 2 grams of fiber.
19. Munch a handful of M&M’s. Just under half a pack of plain candies adds only 100 calories to your daily tally and can satisfy a sweet tooth.
20. Brush your teeth after every meal. It doesn’t just fight cavities: Brushing serves as a physical and psychological cue to stop eating. When you’re on the go, a few Altoids or a breath strip can have the same effect.