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Diet & Weight Loss

With these insider tricks, weight loss can be simple, easy to understand, and cheap or even free. Who’s ready to snap an after picture?

Hang out with friends of all sizes

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Forget opposites attract. Researchers have long noted that people tend to gravitate toward those who are the most like them. We prefer people who share our political and religious views, who are of a similar heritage or geographic location and, it turns out, who have similar weights as we do. But if you’re overweight and trying to drop a few pounds this could work against you, according to a study published in Obesity. Researchers found that dieters lost more weight when they hung out with thinner friends, possibly because of social pressure and because they followed their friends’ examples. This doesn’t mean you should only hang out with people skinnier than you; just make sure your friend group includes plenty of people who are different than you and can challenge you to improve—in all areas of your life.

Change one single word

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If you think of eating veggies and hitting the gym as unbearable hardships, then they will always feel that way and you’ll never do them. But if you can change your mindset to a more positive one, you can increase your chances of success. How? It’s as easy as swapping out one little word, according to Susan David, PhD, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School, co-founder of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, and CEO of Evidence Based Psychology. All it takes is reframing your thoughts from “I have to” to “I want to,” she told Business Insider. That expression puts you in the driver’s seat. It makes being healthy your choice, not your burden.

Turn up the lights

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Dim, sultry lighting may be ideal for a romantic dinner—there’s nothing more flattering than candlelight!—but if you’re watching your waistline you’re going to want to brighten the place up, according to a study published in the Journal of Marketing Research. Diners who ate in well-lit dining areas were 16 to 24 percent more likely to order healthy fare, the researchers found. There are plenty more simple, non-food-related tips like this in our list of 42 easy tips to slim down—fast. 

Ditch the diet drinks

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Ordering a diet soda may seem like a good compromise between sticking to your diet and still having a beverage you love. But the artificial sweeteners used in most calorie-free drinks don’t lead to weight loss and can even cause weight gain, according to research published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism. The artificial chemicals interfere with important enzymes and hormones in your body, leading to increased waist size, they report.

Outsource portion control

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Portion control is one way to lose weight without exercise. But while that makes sense in theory, when you’re faced with the reality of a gallon of ice cream and a bowl, how exactly are you supposed to know how much a half-cup serving really is? Fortunately, taking the guesswork out of portion control is as easy as buying a set of dishes or containers that are calibrated to measure out a single serving of different types of foods. Another option is to buy food prepackaged into single-servings, like frozen entrees. People who used outside measures of portion control lost considerably more weight than those who tried to figure it out on their own in a study published in Obesity. To become one of those people, try the best portion control tricks for weight loss.

Dine in your dining room

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Eat-in kitchens are great for convenience but may be not so great for your waistline, according to a study published in Environment and Behavior. Researchers found that people who ate in open concept areas—like the kitchen/great room in most new homes today—ate more food than those who ate in a separate room. Being able to see the extra food and having such easy access to it encourages people to eat more, even if they’d already eaten until they were full. Even better, load your plate with these fat-burning foods for more weight loss benefits!

Dab a little vanilla on your wrists

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Vanilla, one of the key smells in homemade cookies, may be a key to effortless weight loss, according to a study done by St. George’s hospital in London. Participants who wore a vanilla-scented patch reported fewer cravings, especially those for desserts and sweets.

Clean your kitchen

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Cluttered, messy kitchens take a toll on your sanity and your waistline, according to a study published in Environment and Behavior. People who ate in a cluttered kitchen ate twice as many snacks as those who had cleaned up their space. And the effect was even worse for people who reported being under a lot of stress. When you’re having a hard day, doing chores may be last on your list, but if you’re trying to lose weight without exercise, it may be worth it to suck it up and do it. Bonus: Clean spoons for breakfast tomorrow!

Eat lunch with your boss

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Women who ate with someone they considered “high status,” ate significantly less than people who dined with those they saw as equals, according to research done by Vanderbilt University. “Arguably people with higher status are more weight-conscious, they’re more concerned about their own body image, and they’re more likely to practice weight-related lifestyle such as dietary habits and physical activities and control their weight,” says Lijun Song, PhD, lead author and professor of sociology. “And if you are surrounded by people like that, you’re exposed to a stronger network norm of weight control. You’re more likely to become more conscious of your body weight, more likely to receive assistance with weight management, and are more likely to observe and imitate weight-control behaviors.”

Vacation in the mountains

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There’s a reason why Colorado is the both the slimmest and the steepest state in the nation. The higher up you live, the lower your weight, according to a study done by the U.S. Air Force. But don’t sell your beach-front property and head for the hills just yet—the altitude effect can be balanced out by cultivating other good weight-related habits that can taken up anywhere, like walking outdoors and managing your stress. Case in point: Hawaii is the third thinnest state, and they’re the definition of sea level. Steal a weight loss trick or two from these inspiring people who lost more than 50 pounds and kept it off.

Avoid pollution as much as possible

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People who live close to roadways with a high level of air pollution are also more likely to gain weight, according to a study from the University of Southern California. Unfortunately, air pollution is likely not under your direct control, but you can make an effort to avoid hanging out in areas with very polluted air, like smoke-filled bars. And consider buying a filter to increase the air quality in your home.

Turn down the thermostat

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Our climate-controlled homes may be one factor in the obesity epidemic, according to a study published in the journal Cell. The scientists found that regular exposure to mildly cold weather—as would have been normal in the days before programmable thermostats—helps the human body regulate a healthy weight. Chilly air may increase your metabolism by forcing your body to work harder to cope with the changing conditions. And you don’t have to do a polar plunge or sleep in a snow cave to see results, say the researchers. Just lowering your thermostat by a few degrees or turning the shower briefly to cold can help. Here are other scientifically proven ways to boost your metabolism to help your weight loss regime.

Water, on the rocks

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Drinking more water can help you feel full and eat less food, but if you’re really trying to lose weight without exercise, make sure yours is on ice. People who drank six cups of chilled water a day raised their resting metabolism by 12 percent, burning an extra 50 calories, according to a study published in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. The body has to work harder to bring the water to a warmer temperature before digesting it, therefore burning more calories. Fifty calories may not seem like much but over time it can help you lose about five pounds a year, the researchers say.

Take a good multivitamin

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Vitamins have come under fire recently for being a waste of money but if you’re trying to lose weight, they might be worth your cash. In a Chinese study of obese women, researchers found that those who took a daily multivitamin lost significantly more body fat than those who took a placebo pill. Why? It’s possible to be overweight yet undernourished, a state that could cause the body to crave more food as a way to get necessary nutrients, the authors note.

Buy blackout curtains

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If you fall asleep to the gentle glow of your phone’s screen, the television, or even a nightlight, it’s time to find a new bedtime routine, as an Ohio State University study found that blue light during slumber can cause you to gain weight. The light can alter your circadian rhythm, causing you to get less deep sleep and to eat more during the daytime. In the study, mice who slept with a light on gained 50 percent more weight than their furry friends who slept in pitch black. And even though this study was done on mice, the researchers say the results still apply to humans. People who sleep with the light on experience hormonal disruptions just like the mice, and previous studies on shift workers have found those whose schedules require them to sleep when it’s light out tend to gain weight.

Skip the antibiotics unless you really need them

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The more antibiotics a person takes during their lifetime, particularly as a child, the higher their risk of obesity, according to a Johns Hopkins study. Researchers speculate that the antibiotics wipe out good bacteria along with the bad bacteria, leading to weight gain, as good bacteria have been shown to help prevent weight gain. If you have to take an antibiotic, just be sure to take care of your microbiome, that community of gut bugs, by taking a probiotic and eating plenty of fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Don’t miss how to avoid making these nine common mistakes that actually pack the pounds back on.

Eat a serving of beans every day

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Beans, beans the magical fruit. The more you eat the more you… lose weight? It’s true, according to research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In the study, people who ate just 3/4 cup of beans, peas, chickpeas, or lentils a day lost half a pound a week without changing their diet or exercise habits. Legumes are full of fiber and protein, a combo that can keep you satisfied for hours.

Get a pet

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Pets, and dogs in particular, help reduce their human companion’s risk of obesity, according to the American Heart Association. Why? Dogs need to be walked daily and are often quite persistent in getting their owners to accompany them. But it’s not just the extra exercise, especially since 40 percent of dog owners confess to not walking their dog on a regular basis. Their soft, silky fur and unconditional love also play a part as petting an animal greatly reduces stress and depression, two other known risk factors for weight gain, the researchers added.

Buy organic

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Organic food may not have more vitamins than conventionally grown food, but it does offer a significant health advantage: No pesticides. Many popular pesticides are known “endocrine disruptors,” meaning they interfere with your body’s metabolism by mimicking, blocking, or otherwise interfering with the body’s natural hormones, according to a report issued by The Endocrine Society. The researchers found that regular exposure to pesticides through food was correlated with an increased risk of both obesity and diabetes. If you can’t afford all organic food, just go organic for the “dirty dozen,” the most contaminated types of produce. Or you can always try growing some of your own fruits and vegetables.

Swap out sweats for a cute outfit

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“Elastic waistbands, oversized sweaters, and other loose clothing practically invite you to overeat,” says JJ Virgin, CNS, CHFS, author of the Sugar Impact Diet. Putting on your favorite fitted dress, tailored jacket, or skinny jeans will remind you of your goals. When you look hot, you feel hot, so you’ll think twice before grabbing seconds at dinner.

Get a good night’s sleep

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In our busy world, sleep is often the first thing to go, but skimping on even an hour of sleep can take a serious toll on your waistline. Getting less than seven hours of sleep made people eat an average of 500 extra calories the next day, according to research done by the National Institutes of Health. Plus exhaustion messes with your hormones, which can also lead to weight gain. Hit the sack early and make consistent sleep your top priority to lose weight without exercise.

Enjoy nature

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Taking a hike through the mountains is certainly good exercise but you don’t have to break a sweat to take advantage of Mother Nature’s health package. Simply being outside in “green areas” has been linked to having a lower body weight, according to research done by the American Diabetes Association. And good news: The National Recreation and Park Association says the vast majority of Americans already live within walking distance of some type of park. Get out there and explore your neighborhood.

Watch food additives

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Junk food isn’t great for your weight or your health, but it turns out it’s not just the empty calories and trans fats doing the damage. Some of the most popular food additives are linked with weight gain and obesity, according to a study done by Georgia State University. Emulsifiers, which are added to most processed foods for texture and to extend shelf life, are one of the worst offenders as they interfere with good gut bacteria. And some artificial flavorings, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and even food packaging have also been linked in research to obesity. No one is saying you can’t indulge in your favorite treat but try to pick one without extra additives—it’ll taste just as great. Follow these 15 weight-loss mantras to stay inspired!

Say Om

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Sometimes we eat because we’re hungry. And sometimes we eat because we’re bored, procrastinating, tired, sad, stressed, or thirsty. Knowing the difference between real hunger and, well, everything else, is a major key to losing weight. Fortunately there’s a simple tool to help you hear what your body’s really telling you. Meditation can teach you to tune in to your body’s subtle signals, including hunger cues, according to a study done by UC San Francisco. So the next time you’re tempted to down a glazed doughnut or a giant Coke, try doing a minute or two of meditation and you may just realize you’re actually dehydrated and go for a water instead. A separate study done by Vanderbilt University School of Medicine found that meditation helped people lose weight, specifically by reducing activity in the part of the brain linked to impulsiveness.

Look before you eat

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Do you eat healthfully at home but get distracted from your weight-loss goal by delicious food at parties? Try this simple trick from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab the next time you go out: Browse all the available food first before taking a bite. Just the act of looking at the food will help you slow down and allow you to prioritize which ones you enjoy the most and which ones you don’t like as much. Planning out your meal will teach you how to eat more mindfully, which will help you successfully lose weight without exercise.

Tie a ribbon on it

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The “femmes françaises” are famously svelte despite being surrounded by French bread, French pastries, and delicious French food in general. But according to health guru and native of France Valerie Orsoni, French women have “le petit secret” or a little secret to help them lose weight. “We wear a ribbon around the waist and underneath the clothes when we go out for dinner,” she said. “It keeps us conscious of the tummy—particularly if the ribbon starts to feel tighter as the evening goes on!” Simple, elegant, and chic? Oui! In addition to France, take a look at these weight loss secrets from around the world.

Relax with a glass of vino

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People who unwind every day with a glass of red wine or juice made from red grapes burned more fat than they did without the drink, according to a study done by Oregon State University. The fat-loss effect is courtesy of the ellagic acid in grapes, which “dramatically slowed the growth of existing fat cells and formation of new ones, and boosted metabolism of fatty acids in liver cells,” the research team reported. Best weight-loss prescription ever? Just make sure to have only one small glass per day.

Here comes the sun

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Starting the day with a few minutes of bright sunlight reduced appetite all day long, according to a study published in PLoS ONE. The researchers had people wear a device that recorded their sun exposure, and sun worshippers who spent just 15 to 20 minutes in the morning sunshine, sans sunscreen, had lower BMIs than people who got less or no sunlight. Even better? They also reported being in a better mood all day as well.

Get the early bird special

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Timing your lunch break to happen earlier in the day may help you lose weight, according to a study published in Obesity. The researchers found that obese women who ate their lunch after 3 p.m. lost 25 percent less weight than those who ate their lunch earlier in the day. Here’s the kicker: Even though both groups ate the same foods and the same amount of calories, the early bird diners lost 5 pounds more. Waiting to eat until you’re starving may trigger cravings for junk food at night, the researchers said.

Weigh yourself daily

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You may think that daily weigh-ins can make you feel terrible, especially if you’re the type to obsess over every ounce. But a recent study from the American Heart Association found that people who weighed themselves six to seven times each week had significant weight loss in 12 months compared to those who only weighed themselves once a week or never at all. In fact, the ones who never weighed themselves did not lose any weight. Here are more  easy tips for preventing weight gain on the day-to-day at the office.

Talk about your favorite meal

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Sharing your favorite dinner recipe on Facebook, chatting with a friend about what you had for dinner, or even snapping pics of your meals and posting them to Instagram can help you shed weight. Why? It isn’t the act of sharing what you ate that makes this so effective—so no worries if you’re one of those who hates food pictures on social media—but rather it is the act of remembering what you ate, according to a study from Oxford. The researchers found that recalling the details of recent meals caused people to eat less at their next meal. So feel free to rhapsodize about that amazing brunch you made; your waistline will thank you.

An apple a day keeps the tummy pooch away

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The next time you’re staring into the fridge waiting for the perfect snack to jump out at you, try going for an apple first. Fruits in general are high in fiber and nutrients, and eating a few servings every day can help you lose weight, according to a study done by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Researchers found that people who ate at least one apple a day lost more weight than those who skipped fruit.

Get busy in the bedroom

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And we don’t mean cleaning or organizing. Having sex can be a great way to lose weight, and not just because of the extra calories burned. The endorphins released during orgasm have been shown to improve mood, reduce stress, and suppress appetite—all things critical for weight loss. Need more reasons to get it on?

Lose the forbidden fruit mentality

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Craving a special treat? Eat it, love it, and move on with your day says Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN, CEO of NY Nutrition Group. “Feeling guilty after eating foods you don’t usually allow yourself to eat can breed more unhealthy eating behaviors,” she explains. “So abandon those negative voices in your head, give yourself permission to enjoy the indulgence guilt-free, and just remember to get back on track with your normal eating routine right after.”

Socialize at social events

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You go to social events like family reunions, office parties, dinner parties, and summer barbecues to see your friends and loved ones, so keep the focus on them and not on the food table says, Ana Goldseker, CNE, Director of Nutrition for Nava Health and Vitality Centers. Worried you won’t be able to resist the allure of grandma’s potatoes or those catered cupcakes? “A good idea is to ‘pre-eat’ something with protein and vegetables to stabilize your blood sugar so you don’t arrive starving,” she advises.

Eat in silence

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Taste, smell, and sight are all considered hugely important when it comes to eating, but another sense could be making a difference in whether or not you overeat, according to a study done by Brigham Young University. “Sound is typically labeled as the forgotten food sense,” explained Ryan Elder, PhD, an assistant professor of marketing at BYU’s Marriott School of Management and co-author of the paper. “When you mask the sound of consumption, like when you watch TV while eating, you take away one of those senses, and it may cause you to eat more than you would normally. The effects many not seem huge but over the course of a week, month, or year, it could really add up.” His advice? Turn off the TV, radio, music, and other noise, and focus on the melodic tones of crunching, slurping, and satisfied sighs.

Eat breakfast

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Eating a hearty breakfast high in protein has been linked in numerous studies to weight loss and a lower BMI, yet so many dieters try to cut out the “most important meal of the day” to save calories. This strategy can backfire later in the day when extreme hunger prompts you to eat everything in sight. It’s no accident that nearly 100 percent of people on the National Weight Loss Registry—a database of people who’ve lost at least 40 pounds and kept it off for a year or more—report eating breakfast every day.

Cook at home

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Food prepared at home is not only likely to be cheaper and more nutritious, but it may also be more likely to help you lose weight, even if you’re not cooking “diet” recipes, according to a study done by researchers in England. Home cooks have more control over portion sizes and ingredients, and don’t feel compelled to finish everything on their plate because they paid someone else to make it and serve it to them. Plus leftovers make healthy eating a cinch the next day as well. Make sure you know the truth about these biggest weight loss myths.

Water, water, water

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“It’s easy to confuse thirst with hunger, leading to mindless snacking that never satiates,” says Ashley Pettit, certified holistic nutritionist, fitness chef, and personal trainer. To make sure you’re not confusing hydration for hunger, try to drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day. So if you weight 140 pounds, aim for 70 ounces of water over the course of the day, she advises.

Sit far away from the office treat bowl

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Many offices put out dishes of treats or plates of snacks, open for the taking. If you’re in one of those offices you likely have to see those bagels, cookies, and candies every day, so how to resist the allure? Move your desk. According to a study published in Appetite, people who sat closest to the treat bowl ate far more than those who were positioned the farthest away. If moving your desk isn’t an option, try asking to move the bowl or plate farther away from you or at the very least turn your chair so you’re not facing it.

Jot down what you eat

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Keeping a food journal doubled the amount of weight people lost in a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. “The more food records people kept, the more weight they lost,” said lead author Jack Hollis PhD, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore. “It seems that the simple act of writing down what you eat encourages people to consume fewer calories.”

Take a probiotic supplement

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Your microbiome, the balance of bacteria in your gut, affects everything from your mood to how many colds you get. And now you can add your weight to that list, says a study published in International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. People who took a daily probiotic supplement had lower weights and BMIs than people who didn’t. They lost even more weight when they took more than one type of probiotic and took the supplements for longer than eight weeks.

Practice mindfulness

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“I lost over 200 pounds and have kept it off for over a decade, so I can tell you from experience that of everything I’ve ever tried, there is nothing as powerful as using your mind to change your body,” says Jon Gabriel, the author of The Gabriel Method, a book in which he shares his weight-loss journey and the mindfulness strategies he used along the way. “I don’t care how well you eat, how much you exercise, or how many books you read; if you’re not dealing with the mental and emotional stresses in your life and integrating your mind into your healing process, you’ll never achieve your weight-loss goals long term.” At the very least, it can’t hurt to try being more mindful. What’s the worst that can happen—you’ll spend ten minutes of your day in quiet reflection? For more proof that you don’t need a crazy diet to shed pounds, check out these non-diet foods that can actually help you lose weight.

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