Even though you're waist deep in holiday fun, there's no reason to wait until January 1 to put healthy habits in place-especially if you don't want all that food and drink to go to your waist (or butt, hips, or belly). In fact, smart everyday moves rather than big lifestyle overhauls are what add up to real results. "When you focus on just a couple of small changes at a time, you begin to ingrain some healthy habits that last for a lifetime, rather than trying an all-or-nothing approach that more often than not fails because it's too hard to follow," says Lesley Lutes, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of psychology at East Carolina University. Here are 6 simple steps (with proven results) to get started. Add just one or two a week to your regular routine and you can lose nearly 3 inches off your waistline and be about 10 pounds lighter come spring.
Fight off excess holiday pounds in 3 days
1) Take 10 minutes to eat a treat
Try this strategy to permanently reduce cravings: Portion out one serving of your favorite
treat, taking a minute to smell it, look at it, and think about it. Take one small bite. Chew slowly, moving it around your mouth and focusing on the texture and taste, then swallow. Ask yourself whether you want another bite or if that satisfied you. If you still want more, repeat, this time chewing the food 20 times. Continue this eating exercise for as long as you want or until you finish the serving (it should take about 10 minutes). "When you take the time to slow down and be more mindful of what something really tastes like, you'll feel more satisfied," says Lutes.
Guilt-free ready-to-eat finger foods
2) Obey the 1-mile rule during errands
Americans use their cars for two-thirds of all trips that are less than 1 mile and 89% of all trips that are 1 to 2 miles, yet each additional hour you spend driving is associated with a 6% increase in obesity. Burn calories instead of gas by following this rule: If your errands are less than 1 mile away, vow to walk them at a brisk pace instead of driving. Or park where you can run several errands within a mile instead of moving your car each time. Walk every day and you'll be 13 to 17 pounds lighter next year.
Walking workouts that blast fat
3) Eat fruit-don't drink it
Skip juice and eat the whole fruit instead. You'll not only get more heart-healthy fiber in your diet (3.5 g for a small apple versus 0.5 g in a glass of juice), but you'll also stay satisfied longer. Research shows that fiber aside, liquid carbohydrates just aren't as filling as solids. When you chew a food, you generate more saliva, which in turn carries a message to the brain that your gut needs to get ready for digestion, That mechanism is turned off when you drink, so the body doesn't register that it's full as quickly. Plus there are the extra calories-45% more if you're drinking that juice rather than eating the whole apple, which can add 4 more pounds to your weight by year's end.
Take this fun portion control quiz
4) Drink your coffee the old-school way
A regular cup with a dash of milk and even a little sugar has hundreds of fewer calories than the blended drinks, which are practically dessert in a cup. One recent study of about 3,000 purchases from 115 restaurant chains in New York City found that while servings of brewed coffee or tea averaged about 63 calories (including milk and sugar), the fancier drinks averaged nearly 4 times more, with 239 calories, which can translate to an 18-pound gain over a year.
10 slim down strategies you can count on
5) Sign up for health e-newsletters
One recent study from Kaiser Permanente found that people who received weekly e-mails about diet and fitness for 16 weeks substantially increased their levels of physical activity and intake of healthy foods like fruits and vegetables while cutting back on trans and saturated fats.
Create a routine you can stick to
6) Skip through the commercials
Literally. Get off your butt and move during your favorite TV shows. Skip, dance, go up and down some stairs, run in place-anything that gets your heart rate up so you feel somewhat breathless, says Geralyn Coopersmith, senior national manager at Equinox Fitness. Do it for each 2-minute break (forget the TiVo) during a typical 2-hour TV night and you'll burn an extra 270 calories a day-which can translate to a 28-pound weight loss in a year.
Try the couch potato workout
More Weight Loss Tips from Prevention
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