You’ve heard the popular slim-down suggestions—from eating smaller portions to adding more veggies to every meal—but there are factors beyond what you put on your plate that may help you lose weight. From strolling after dinner to waking up early on the weekends, here are nine new tips you need to know.
1. Eating Less Often
Have you been eating six small meals a day because you’ve heard it helps regulate your metabolism? Now, preliminary research presented at an American Diabetes Association meeting suggests fewer meals may be the sweet spot. Adults with type 2 diabetes who ate two meals a day lost more weight than those who ate six with the same total calories, possibly because it led to improved insulin sensitivity. The takeaway? Don’t feel pressured to eat many times a day. The best option—whether six meals or two with snacks in between—is the one that works for your lifestyle, says registered dietitian Corinne Dobbas.
2. Majorly Reducing Your Caloric Intake Twice a Week
One study in the British Journal of Diabetics & Vascular Disease found that intermittent fasting can help overweight and obese adults lose weight. What works best for women, says study co-author James Brown, PhD, is eating normally for five days and consuming fewer than 500 calories for two days. Fasting improves insulin sensitivity and may help regulate your metabolism, he notes. Still, you may find it hard to deal with side effects, like hunger on fasting days, he says. But consider it if you have a family history of heart disease or type 2 diabetes. Just talk to your doctor first before trying this, urges Caroline Cederquist, MD, medical director of the Cederquist Medical Wellness Center in Naples, FL. You need to be sure you’re getting enough protein to maintain muscle mass, and your doctor may need to adjust dosages of blood pressure or diabetes medications you may take.
3. Walking After Meals
Fitting in a stroll any time of day is a good thing. But you could get more out of it if you hit the pavement after eating, according to a study in Diabetes Care. Adults at risk for type 2 diabetes who walked for 15 minutes after each of three daily meals saw better blood sugar levels than those who took a 45-minute morning walk. Exercise helps muscles use glucose more efficiently, and stable blood sugar keeps your metabolism and hunger levels steady. So instead of settling into your couch right after supper, take a walk around the block.
4. Paying Attention While You’re Eating
There’s a reason you shouldn’t eat while watching TV or working: Not focusing on your food makes it easy to forget what you’ve eaten. You not only scarf more at that meal but also later, suggests a meta-analysis of 24 studies published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. How to be more mindful? Dobbas suggests chewing your food 20 times per bite, putting your utensils down in between nibbles and listening to music and talking during dinner. These strategies engage you more in what you’re eating and make the experience more memorable.
5. Not Depriving Yourself
Resisting sweet treats every time can backfire, according to 2014 research in PLoS ONE. Dieters who deprived themselves of chocolate craved the treat more than those who weren’t so restrictive. “Depriving yourself of foods you love is setting yourself up for failure because you give them power over you,” says Dobbas. If you really want something fattening, have a small portion and move on. Indulging wisely takes the power away from the food, so you’ll crave it less over time.
6. Dining Out with Healthy Friends
You know how it feels easier to order cheese fries when your friend does, too? Well, peer pressure can work the opposite way: Going out to eat with a healthy pal can help you make smarter choices, suggests new research from the University of Illinois. “If your friend orders grilled salmon and steamed veggies, you’ll be more likely to give your order a second thought,” says Dobbas. Team up with a buddy who’s also looking to lose weight and commit to making healthy decisions together.