Think shedding extra pounds has to mean hard work and deprivation? Think again! Losing weight can be simple, with these nine surprising study-backed tweaks that help you reach your ‘happy weight’—without the struggle!
Eat a big breakfast — including dessert.
You don’t have to dial back breakfast and pass on dessert to shed weight. In fact, you can have both! A Virginia Commonwealth University study found that when women ate a large, 600-calorie breakfast with protein and carbs (like eggs and toast) plus a small dessert (like a cookie), followed by a smaller lunch and dinner, they lost four times more weight — about 48 pounds in eight months — than those who followed a low-carb diet and didn’t have a morning sweet. Why? A hearty meal with some sugar reins in the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin.
Ditch the diet foods.
Forget about fat-free versions of your favorite snacks, and indulge in a small portion of what you really want. A study in Psychological Science proves diet foods are so much less satisfying that you overeat in an attempt to fulfill cravings.
Give yourself a mini-massage.
Try this spa trick to outsmart diet-sabotaging cravings: Firmly rub your fingertips along your hairline and the area behind your ears. Enjoying this soothing mini massage quashes cravings in two minutes flat and has the power to cut up to 120 calories from your daily diet, Chinese investigators report. Why? A short scalp massage activates sensitive nerve endings that prompt the release of appetite-taming, willpower-boosting hormones called endorphins.
Light a candle.
Filling your home with the sweet aroma of a vanilla-scented candle tricks your brain into thinking you’ve already satisfied your food cravings, British researchers report, helping you drop up to 41⁄2 pounds in four weeks. One to try: Yankee Candle French Vanilla, $22.49, Amazon.
Soak up some sun.
That midday break you took lounging in your yard has already put you on the path toward keeping your blood sugar steady and snack attacks at bay. Cornell scientists say getting 20 minutes of sun (without sunscreen) a day cuts your risk of blood-sugar swings and pre-diabetes in half. Why? UV exposure stimulates a branch of nerves that produces appetite-suppressing serotonin, while steadying insulin output to prevent blood-sugar dips that trigger hunger. Rainy day? Take a catnap instead! A study in PLOS ONE found that when you’re well-rested, your insulin sensitivity and blood-sugar control improve by 41 percent, warding off hunger pangs.
Listen to an audiobook.
Love getting lost in a good book? Trade paperbacks for audiobooks, and you’ll automatically be more active. Research in Management Science found that when you download an audiobook you’ve been excited to read and resolve to listen to it only when exercising, it motivates you to work out 56 percent more often. That’s because engaging books grip your attention and make you want to go for a walk or do a few arm curls.
Work out with a weighted hula hoop.
A study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that using a weighted Hula-Hoop for 2 minutes a day, five days a week, helps trim 1.3″ off your waist in six weeks. One to try: Dynamis Fat Burning Weighted Hoola Hoop, $34.99, Amazon.
Shake some salt on your veggies.
Salt enhances the flavor of savory dishes, and a British study found it’s so effective at tickling your taste buds that when sprinkled onto vegetables, it ups your intake of the healthy gems by 71 percent. The enticing flavor of salt trains your brain to crave healthy fare in three days, which is key since a separate Harvard study found dieters who eat the most produce shed more weight than those who eat the least.
Reminisce about the good old days.
Recalling vacations, celebrations, and good times from the past switches your mind from craving the instant gratification of junk food to wanting to achieve long-term goals like staying healthy. That makes it easier to reach for more nutritious fare, say Cornell researchers.
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This story originally appeared in our print magazine.