Three ways to drop a dress size and not stress over a single bite
By Hallie Levine Sklar
Great news! You can ditch your diet for good and still hit your happy weight. Science has finally proven what you've probably suspected for years--that following a restrictive food plan can make you more likely to overeat. Researchers at the University of Toronto tempted a group of women who were cutting their calorie intake with a plate of cookies and then put the same treats in front of women who weren't trying to lose. Not only did the dieters dig in, but they ate 66 percent more goodies than their nondieting peers. "Women end up feeling so deprived on weight loss plans that they break down and binge," says Tracy Tylka, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Ohio State University at Marion. We at SELF have a better way to slim down: nine simple lifestyle switches that will help you shrink your waist effortlessly!
1. Eat more good stuff
Instead of obsessing about tasty bites you want to banish, focus on healthy foods you can feast on. Women who do so tend to lose more weight than those who ruminate on restricting calories. Fill up with fiber-rich fruit, vegetables and whole grains. "High-fiber foods expand in your stomach, so you're less likely to overeat," says Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Weight Management Center. Fiber also inhibits your body's absorption of fat, says Dave Grotto, R.D., author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life (Bantam Books). There are easy ways to sneak in more fiber: Stir 1 tablespoon of flaxseed into oatmeal, add 1/2 cup of beans to a green salad or snack on small portions of dried fruit and nuts. (Find more healthy foods: 10 simple foods with super powers)
2. Go to the dogs
Volunteering at the pound could help you lose pounds. People who signed up to walk shelter dogs for an hour a week lost about a pound in four weeks, early research from the University of Missouri at Columbia showed. That's 12 pounds a year you could shed without skipping a single dessert! In fact, other research by study author Rebecca Johnson, Ph.D., revealed that people who walked a dog (either their own or a loaner hound) 20 minutes a day for five days a week lost on average 14 pounds after a year. Best of all, dog walking turns out to be an easy commitment to keep. "We had a 72 percent adherence rate, which is unheard of in most exercise programs," Johnson says. "Some volunteers enjoyed it so much, they stayed longer to walk more animals." Find a shelter near you at PetFinder.com. (Turn your typical walking workout into supercharged steps by adding a few smart strength moves. Walk your way slim!)
3. Sleep it off
Getting enough shut-eye can keep your body from storing fat, scientists at Laval University in Quebec note. Night owls who log fewer than six hours of sleep are 35 percent more likely to gain weight-on average, 11 pounds over six years-than those who get seven to eight. "Sleep deprivation increases cravings for sweets and starches," says James Gangwisch, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. "It also causes your body to produce more of the stress hormone cortisol, which is linked to belly fat." To snag more sack time, set a radio alarm to sound 30 minutes before you want to go to bed, suggests Michael Breus, Ph.D., author of Beauty Sleep (Plume). When it goes off, head to your room and relax with stretches or light reading (avoid anything agitating, such as the news). After a half hour, it's time to dream of a slimmer you.Read the rest of SELF's nine ways to lose weight without couting calories!
MORE FROM SELF:
2008 Women's Cancer Handbook
Don't miss medical advice that can save your life
Banish bad hair days!
Pro tips to get shiny, bouncy hair in just ten days
SELF asked top chefs to create filling low-calorie sandwiches you can munch for under $5 a serving
- Subscribe to SELF for just $1.00 an issue. Free Pink Striped Tote!