Here are a few weight loss tips from Men’s Health that can help you start the new year off a little thinner.
In a 16-year study at Harvard, scientists found that people who slept for 5 hours or less a night were 32 percent more likely to pack on major pounds than those who dozed a full 7 hours. Although “major” was defined as 33 pounds, the average increase was 2 pounds a year, a gain that’s easy to miss from month to month. “Due to accumulating fatigue, those who get the least shuteye may also move around the least during the day,” says study author Sanjay Patel, M.D.
Don’t believe your eyes
Warning: Your breakfast may be larger than it appears. Cornell University scientists found that people ate more cereal from bigger bowls than from smaller ones, even though they thought the opposite to be true. “It’s called the sizecontrast illusion,” says researcher Brian Wansink, Ph.D. “Because food takes up a smaller percentage of space in larger dishes, it seems like you’re eating less.” Use a measuring cup to portion out your cereal; in a few days, you’ll be able to eyeball servings accurately.
Make time for a quickie
An 11-minute workout can help you burn more fat all day long, say researchers from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. In the study, people who lifted weights for that duration three times a week increased their metabolic rate even as they slept. “The process of breaking down and repairing your muscles increases your metabolism,” says study author Erik Kirk, Ph. D. What’s more, the participants were able to fit their workouts into their schedules 96 percent of the time.
Don’t neglect your legs
To take inches off your waist, work the muscles below your belt. In a new Syracuse University study, people burned more calories the day after they did lowerbody resistance training than the day after they worked their upper body. “Leg muscles like your quads and glutes generally have more mass than the muscles in your chest and arms,” says study author Kyle Hackney, Ph. D.(c). “Work more muscle, and your body uses more energy to repair and upgrade it later.” The best approach? Hit every muscle each workout.
Clock in at the gym
A stressful job may make you fat, suggest Harvard researchers who followed 1,355 Americans for 9 years. They found that overweight men with little authority at work gained more weight than men with more authority did. Not being able to make decisions is linked to stress. Eating can be calming because it releases mood-improving endorphins, says study author Jason Block, M.D. The best stress-busting fat burner? Exercise.
Whey to lose
To drop weight, you need to cut back on certain foods—but not dairy. Milk and other dairy products can help dieters slim down and beef up, say Canadian researchers. Their study found that heavy people who exercised every day and followed a high-protein, high-dairy (and calorie-restricted) diet for 16 weeks lost about 10 pounds of fat and gained 1 1/2 pounds of muscle. (Those who ate less dairy and protein still lost weight, but they also lost muscle.) The reasons: Milk may help regulate appetite, and whey protein can activate muscle growth.
Go ahead. Live a little.
Eating frequent, low-sugar desserts can help keep the weight off. Dieters in a Greek study who ate a low-sugar dessert four times a week lost 9 more pounds after 12 weeks than those who ate any dessert they wanted just once a week. Eating dessert more frequently can keep you from feeling deprived, the researchers say. But limit desserts to around 10 percent of your daily calories.
Cut the carbs
A worldwide consensus has formed: Eating a diet that’s low in carbs, not fats, is the best way to lose weight. In a recent United Arab Emirates study, people who followed a low-carb diet had lower body weights, insulin levels, and triglyceride levels than those who went with a low-fat diet. And a European study that tracked nearly 90,000 people for several years found that participants with a low fat intake had the same risk of being overweight as those who ate higher amounts of fat. Still, if you boost your fat intake, make sure you adjust your calories and physical activity accordingly.
Don’t go soft
Turns out, soft drinks really are just empty calories. Penn State University researchers fed men lunch once a week for 6 weeks, along with either a 12 or 18-ounce regular soda, diet soda, or water. The result: The men ate the same amount of food no matter the size or type of beverage served. Which means they consumed far fewer total calories when they drank water or diet soda compared with the sugar-laden stuff. What’s more, the participants’ ratings of satiety and hunger were identical after each lunch, showing that the extra calories in the regular soda had no benefit.
Planning your responses to hunger may help you shed fat faster, according to Dutch researchers. Dieters who wrote a list of “if, then” statements (“If I’m hungry at 4 p.m., then I’ll have a few almonds.”) lost more weight and stuck to their diets better than those who didn’t put pen to paper. A specific plan may help you avoid poor choices when hunger strikes, the scientists say. Schedule safe snacks for your weakest times, and switch them up every few weeks.
Crunch on these
Turkish scientists recently discovered that eating hazelnuts lowers your risk of heart disease. When men with high cholesterol ate about 1 ounce of the sweet nuts daily for 8 weeks, their LDL (bad) cholesterol dropped 30 percent, while their HDL (good) cholesterol rose 12 percent. As with almonds and walnuts, the researchers credit the upgrade in blood lipids to the hazelnuts’ high content of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
Bowl yourself over
Eating a soup appetizer will cut your calorie intake by 20 percent, according to a Penn State study. After serving men pasta lunches for a month, the researchers found that the participants ate an average of 135 fewer calories when they started their meals with a 150-calorie serving (1 1/2 cups) of a broth-based vegetable soup. “Eating soup forces you to slow down, allowing your body to recognize that it’s becoming full before moving to the second course,” say the researchers. What’s more, the same held true in a University of Texas study of fatty soups like chowder—men consumed 227 fewer calories when a pizza meal was preceded by the soup.
Come up for air
Fast eating may lead to diabetes and weight gain. In a recent study, Japanese scientists found that people who wolfed down their food were more likely to be overweight and insulin resistant both early signs of future diabetes than those who ate at a slower pace. The researchers are planning more studies to determine the connection. Do you need to slow down at the dinner table? Be your own judge. The study participants were classified as fast or slow eaters based on how they rated their eating speed. Fifty-five percent of young men say they’re “fast eaters,” according to a university of Rhode Island survey.
Choose your partner wisely
Researchers from Eastern Illinois University have discovered that people consume 65 percent more calories when they eat with a person who opts for seconds than when they dine with a companion who doesn’t. But you don’t have to eat alone for the rest of your life. “This is a subconscious behavior,” says Men’s Health nutrition advisor Jonny Bowden, Ph.D. “So being aware of it can help you avoid becoming a victim.” Instead of taking seconds or ordering dessert, opt for a cup of herbal tea after you finish your main course. It will keep your mouth busy while providing a refreshing, no-calorie end to your meal.
Stock up on pistachios
An old trick is now backed up by research: Eating in-shell pistachios can help you lose weight, say Eastern Illinois University researchers. In the study, people who ate already-shelled nuts consumed about 100 calories more than those who had to pry off the shells. One reason: Opening nuts slows you down, giving you more time to realize you’re full, say the scientists.
Skip the cold cereal
Eating eggs and bacon in the morning can help you control your hunger later in the day. Indiana University scientists determined that dieters who consumed their biggest dose of daily protein at breakfast felt full longer than those who ate more of the nutrient at lunch or dinner. The upshot: “They were less likely to overeat the rest of the day,” says study author Heather Leidy, Ph.D. To fend off hunger, shoot for at least 20 to 30 grams of protein at breakfast.
That “medium” soda may actually be a large. Duke University researchers have discovered that some fast-food chains are encouraging customers to buy larger soft drinks, which justifies higher prices by increasing the number of ounces in all sizes of drinks. They know what you may not: Most people subconsciously pick the middle option without considering the actual amount, says study author Richard Staelin, Ph.D. Remember, 8 ounces is one serving. In the past 30 years, portion sizes of sweetened beverages have increased by 62 percent.
Chew the fat…away
Lose your gut while you freshen your breath. British researchers found that chewing gum may help curb your cravings. When people chomped on sugarless gum for at least 15 minutes 1 hour after eating and then again at the 2hour mark, their desire for sweets decreased by 11 percent compared with that of study participants who didn’t work their jaws. The gum chewers also downed, on average, 36 fewer calories when they were turned loose on a buffet of sweet and salty snacks 3 hours after lunch. Although the researchers aren’t sure why chewing sugarless gum helps, they suggest that because it exposes your tastebuds to sweetness, it could send a hunger-reducing signal to your brain. Interestingly, those who were the most calorie-conscious experienced an even greater effect from the gum, says study author Marion Hetherington, Ph.D.
Don’t forget your lunch
This study could cause you to lose your appetite. British researchers discovered that thinking about what you had for lunch keeps you from bingeing on afternoon snacks. During a sham taste test, scientists asked men to rate three types of salted popcorn and encouraged them to eat as much as they wanted. Interestingly, those who were first asked to recall exactly what they’d eaten for lunch downed 30 percent less popcorn than those who were allowed to skip the review session. “Remembering recent eating might enhance awareness of how satiating the food was, which then has an effect on subsequent consumption,” says study author Suzanne Higgs, Ph.D.
Drink yourself thin
Unlock the liquor cabinet: Regularly drinking small amounts of alcohol may help deflate a beer belly. In a recent study of 8,000 people, Texas Tech University researchers determined that those who downed a daily drink were 54 percent less likely to have a weight problem than teetotalers. Two drinks a day resulted in a 41 percent risk reduction. But that’s where the trend ends. Consumption of three or more daily drinks increases your risk of obesity, says study author Ahmed A. Arif, M.D., Ph.D. The scientists aren’t sure why moderate alcohol intake has a gut-busting effect, but they point out that it appears any type of drink will work, as long as you stick to these amounts for each serving: 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1 ounce of liquor.
Eat off your feet
Before scarfing a quick bite, grab a chair. People who snack while sitting at a set table eat fewer calories at their next meal than people who snack on the go, according to a Canadian study. Researchers served identical portions of soup and crackers, a sandwich, and fruit and yogurt to 64 adults, who ate either at a cloth-covered table or while standing at a counter. Those who were seated consumed a third less when they returned for dinner. “All the trappings of a formal meal make you think you’re eating more than you actually are, increasing your satiety levels,” says study author Patricia Pliner, Ph.D.
Go heavy to get light
When researchers at the University of Southern Maine used an advanced method to estimate energy expenditure during exercise, they found that weight training burns as many as 71 percent more calories than originally thought. In fact, the researchers calculated that performing just one circuit of eight exercises can expend up to 231 calories. The more muscle you work, the more calories you’ll burn, says study author Christopher Scott, Ph.D.
Maximize the number of muscle fibers you activate in each set by performing a circuit in which you alternate upper-body movements with lower-body and abdominal exercises. This allows your upper-body muscles to rest while your lower body muscles work, and vice versa—ensuring your best effort each set. Complete three full circuits of eight exercises and it’s likely you’ll burn as many calories as you would by jogging for 30 minutes.
Just say no—to the TV dinner
Stop eating in front of your television. University of Massachusetts scientists found that people who watch TV during a meal consume, on average, 288 more calories than those who don’t chew while changing channels. In the study, researchers had groups of people eat pizza or macaroni and cheese while either watching Seinfeld or listening to music. When intakes were tallied, the scientists determined that the television viewers downed 36 percent more calories from the pizza and 71 percent more from the mac and cheese. “When you’re distracted by a TV show, your brain may not recognize that you’re full as fast,” says study author Elliott Blass, Ph.D.
Reserve a table for two
Dinner dates can make you thin. In a recent study, researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo observed that men downed 35 percent fewer calories when eating with their significant others, compared with eating with their buddies. “People tend to match their own intake to the amount their dining partners eat,” says study author Sarah Jeanne Salvy, Ph.D. “Women may be more cognizant of how gluttonous they appear to their partners.” One way to avoid pigging out on guys’ night: Choose an entrée for yourself and skip communal foods like nachos, wings, and pizza, which encourage you to take eating cues from your porcine pals.
Lose weight the fun way
It’s your choice: Go for a trudging run, or play a game. Playing soccer is just as effective as running for helping you lose weight, say researchers in Switzerland. In the study, men who played in an hour-long soccer session two or three times a week were able to lose, on average, 4.5 pounds of fat and 1.3 inches from their waists in 3 months. That was just as good as the group that ran for the same time period. Playing soccer is similar to interval training, say the scientists. Find a beginners’ league, or (actively) coach kids.
Don’t dare call it spam. Signing up for emails that contain weight-loss advice can help you drop pounds, a new study reveals. When researchers from Canada sent diet and exercise advice to more than 1,000 working adults weekly, they discovered that the recipients boosted their physical activity and ate smarter. People who didn’t receive the reminders didn’t change. Because email is so convenient, people are more likely to read the tips, the scientists say.
Set the table
Using real dinnerware makes you feel like you’ve eaten a full meal, so you might snack less at other times. In a Cornell study, people who ate from paper plates with plastic utensils tended to consider their food just a snack. Though they took in 116 fewer calories than the “real plate” group did, the scientists said they’d probably eat another meal later. “The environment tremendously influences how much we eat,” says study coauthor Collin Payne, Ph.D.
Jared has made it very clear that Subway sandwiches are diet friendly. But don’t twist it around: When eating at restaurants with so-called healthy menus, people underestimate a meal’s calories by about 35 percent, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. And compared with diners at McDonald’s, Subway customers were significantly more likely to choose a large drink, a non-diet soda, or a high-calorie side dish, the researchers found. “It’s a ‘health halo,’ where we assume everything on the menu at a healthy restaurant is good for us,” says the study’s author, Brian Wansink, Ph.D. “If people eating at Subway think they’ve earned some kind of calorie credit, it can lead to substantial weight gain.” So avoid this trap and order accordingly.
Go to the pound, lose pounds
We’ve said it before: A dog is a great exercise buddy. And now scientists have proved it. Researchers at the University of Victoria found that people who own dogs walk almost twice as much as those who don’t have dogs. Credit the dog owners’ sense of responsibility and obligation, says study author Ryan Rhodes, Ph.D. One other key reason: Pets are pushy. Doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago discovered that when it comes to exercise, dogs are “consistent initiators.” So adopting a pooch is like hiring a fulltime trainer. Dog owners exercise, on average, 132 minutes more each week than people who don’t own a dog.
Take a stand
Your La-Z-Boy may make you look like one. That’s because sitting shuts down your fat burners, say scientists at the University of Missouri. After examining the muscle tissue of people being active and of those kicking back, the researchers concluded that parking your butt switches off an enzyme that prevents fat storage. “The enzyme is mostly found in the muscles that keep you standing up, so if they aren’t active, the enzyme doesn’t function,” says study author Marc Hamilton, Ph.D. One way to spend more time on your feet: Stand at your desk for part of the day, by installing a computer monitor arm, like one of those at lcdarms.com. It anchors to your desk or wall, allowing you to raise and lower your screen easily. As for the keyboard, give it a boost by placing a few heavy books under it. Your spine should remain tall while typing, keeping your arms extended.