- Have a plan.
Without a plan, you’re at risk of making poor diet decisions (like ordering take-out after a long day at work). Plus, figuring out what you want to make for dinner is a surefire way to drain willpower and make you want to reach for a cookie once dinner is finished. Planning your meals is one of the easiest ways to help you cut unnecessary calories and regain control of your food intake—it’s the reason we came up with this Realistic Flat-Belly Meal Plan for a Healthy Week. Start with just a few go-to meals you can eat on a consistent basis, and change it up every month or so.
- Cook your own meals.
Frequently preparing your own food means you put the calorie-cutting power in your own hands—not in the hands of the restaurateurs who have no stake in your weight-loss journey. Prepare any of the dishes listed in the link above from our meal plan and you’ll save 600 calories a meal compared to if you ate at a standard sit-down restaurant whose plate can climb over 1,100 calories. On average, frequent home cooks consume 137 fewer calories and 16 fewer grams of sugar every day compared to those who regularly eat at restaurants!
- Limit added sugar.
One of the simplest ways to cut calories is by limiting products with absurd amounts of added sugar. These simple carbs are nearly void of nutrients (making them the definition of “empty calories”), can cause you to always be hungry (which means you’re likely to overeat), and can mess up your insulin response, leading to type II diabetes, insulin resistance, and obesity. Replace cookies with fresh fruit, try taking your coffee black, and swap out your soda with any one of these healthy soda alternatives.
- Start the day with 2.
Glasses of water that is. “Every process in your body takes place in water—from helping to flush waste from your colon to the efficient functioning of your metabolism,” explain The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT. “Also, inadequate water intake quickly leads to dehydration, and even being slightly dehydrated immediately impacts energy levels.” So jumpstart your metabolism and boost your energy by downing a solid 16 ounces in the a.m. Ensuring your body is functioning at its best will make it easier to keep active without feeling groggy, and in turn, allow you to burn more calories.
- Nourish your metabolism.
When you try to lose a significant amount of weight by cutting too many calories at once, you put your metabolism at risk. And that’s exactly what happened to thirteen of the fourteen contestants from The Biggest Loser Season 8, who all gained back weight after the finale. When researchers probed into the why, they found their metabolisms had decreased significantly—so they were burning fewer calories than the average person at their weight—and their levels of the “I’m hungry” hormone, leptin, were higher than normal.
Through a mechanism known as “metabolic adaptation,” your body will actually slow down during a severe calorie deficit because it thinks you’re in survival mode. If you’re starving yourself, you make it harder for your body to sustain long-term weight loss. Instead, switch your diet to healthier foods and follow the rest of the tips below. Speaking of metabolism, here are fifty-five ways you can boost your metabolism during your weight-loss journey.
- Eat slowly and without distractions.
The simple solution to keep from overeating during a meal? Eat with intention! When we eat, your stomach’s stretch receptors signal your brain that you’re full when there’s enough food in it. But there are two key factors to allow that to work: (1) spending time eating—it takes around 20 minutes for the “I’m full” signal to reach your brain—and (2) minimizing distractions—if your brain is busy doing something else, it can be distracted from receiving your satiety signals.
- Feel free to snack.
Contrary to what you may have heard, munching on the right snacks throughout the day is one of the best ways to shrink your waistline. In fact, researchers found that participants lost significantly more body weight when they incorporated low-sugar, high-protein snacks into their daily food routine, according to a recent study. So how do these mini-meals contribute to your slim-down? Fitting in healthy, high protein snacks helps to maintain blood sugar levels—which keeps your brain from triggering hunger pangs—and prevents your body from indulging in high-energy foods after what feels like a long day of starvation.
- Listen to your body.
Do you always feel bloated after eating grains? Are you a dairy-lover but constantly feel congested? Many of us try to work through these problems, brushing them off our shoulders like they’re not an issue. But in reality, they might be signs of a food intolerance or allergy, which could be contributing to extra inflammation, a weakened immune system, and weight gain. Learn to listen to what your body tells you by keeping note of any discomforts in a food journal. Or call in the pros
- Know that fats aren’t the enemy.
One of the nutrients that used to get a bad rap, the right kinds of healthy fats—like fish, nuts, avocados, and olive oil—can fill you up, ensure your body can absorb essential, fat-soluble vitamins, and may actually help you burn fat by increasing levels of fat-burning, metabolism-boosting hormones like adiponectin.
- Make your meals ‘gram-worthy.
Spending the time to make your plate of food look gorgeous will pay off in the long run—and we’re not just talking about the fact that you’ll rack up extra likes on Instagram. This tactic can help encourage you to load your plate up with more colorful, fresh veggies, and can even make your food taste better! A study published in the journal Health Psychology found that when participants spend time preparing the food they make—which you’ll end up doing to make sure you have a picture-perfect dish—they actually found the food to be significantly more satisfying than those who had the food prepared for them, even if the food was “healthy.”