Each year, 45 million Americans go on diet, and half of them rely on a specific program to lose weight, be it juice cleaning, Keto, Paleo, low-carb or low-fat. Eating this way is not cheap; weight loss is a $66 billion industry.
If you’re one of these folks you may feel restricted by the foods you can and can’t eat. And while these diets often lead to short-term weight loss, they also leave people feeling deprived which result in food binges or giving up on the diet altogether. In fact, about 90 percent of people who have lost a lot of weight end up regaining it.
It doesn’t have to be this way, if you incorporate a few smart strategies into your every day. Read on for smart tips on how to lose weight without dieting.
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Focus on strength-training.
If your exercise regimen consists mainly of cardio, it’s time to rethink that. “Strength training helps build muscle which is a calorie-burning tissue,” says Brenda Rea, MD, DrPH, PT, RD, family and preventive medicine physician at Loma Linda University Health. “More muscle equals more calories burned all day every day by raising your resting metabolic rate.” Opt for 2-3 strength training sessions a week to increase muscle mass.
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Get enough sleep.
Waking up sleepy and spending the day fighting off exhaustion isn’t good for your waistline. That’s because getting too little sleep — four hours or less — has been found to increase appetite and feelings of hunger. What’s more, when you’re tired you may be less apt to be physically active.
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At 7 calories per gram, as opposed to 4 per gram for protein and carbs, those after-work glasses of wine can add up. But it’s not just the number of calories you may be consuming. “Alcohol does tend to get paired with other not-so-ideal behaviors for weight loss,” says Alix Turoff, MS, RD, CDN, CPT. “When inhibitions are down, it's more likely that you may snack on foods that you wouldn't otherwise. It can also lead to skipping workouts, due to a hangover, or getting lower quality sleep.”
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Drink enough water.
“Thirst can often be confused with hunger," says Turoff. "So by staying properly hydrated you're making it less likely that you'll confuse the two signals.” The amount needed per day varies by person, and how much daily activity is performed, but a good rule of thumb is to consume eight, eight-ounce glasses of water a day.
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Explore intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting involves eating within a certain window of time, typically eight hours. Depending on your schedule that might mean breakfast at 11 a.m., lunch at 2 and dinner at 7. For some it can be an effective way to manage their weight since. “It is simply a way to achieve a calorie deficit by creating a smaller window of time to eat which ultimately leads to eating fewer calories,” says Turoff.
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Make smart swaps.
Many registered dieticians suggest trading high-fat, high-calorie foods for healthier options, especially when it comes to salad dressings and condiments. This includes using mustard instead of mayo on your sandwiches, skim or almond milk in your coffee instead of cream, salsa as a dip instead of sour cream and onion and vinaigrettes instead of creamy ranches
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Get enough produce.
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is not only good for you, it could help with your weight loss efforts. A plate full of produce is low-calorie and high-volume, meaning it fills you up more than more calorically dense foods. You can start by adding to what you are already eating, such as cutting your filet from eight ounces to four and doubling the number of vegetables in place of that extra meat. Or, when you go out to eat, start with a salad so you aren’t ravenous when your meal comes. If you’re an afternoon snacker, skip the empty-calorie pretzels and choose an apple with some low-fat cheddar instead. You’ll get the crunch and salt and stay full until dinnertime.
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Don’t forget protein.
Whether you’re a meat-eater or a vegan, adequate protein at each meal is important for both health and weight loss. “Protein slows the metabolism and absorption of foods so as to keep one satiated for much longer than an equivalent meal without protein,” says Dr. Rea. Just how much should you be eating? “The standard answer is 0.8 grams/kilogram of bodyweight for the average woman, or .36 grams per pound” she says.
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Practice portion control.
While you may know what four ounces of chicken breast looks like, it’s easy to overdo it on calorie-rich foods that are trickier to measure without utensils, such as salad dressings, peanut butter and that dollop of half-n-half in your morning coffee. When preparing your meals, make your measuring spoons and cups your friend.
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Get enough fiber.
Found primarily in plants, fiber is a carbohydrate that can’t be broken down into sugar molecules. It travels through the body essentially undigested. This means it keeps us full without contributing calories to our diets. Women should get “upwards of 30-45 grams per day,” says Dr. Rea. “Most women are deficient in fiber. Therefore, eating more plant-based, whole foods gives adequate protein without disease risk and provides sufficient fiber for health.”