Tweak your lifestyle
It’s a familiar story: You pledge to honor a daily elliptical routine and count every last calorie. But soon, you’re eating cupcakes at the office and grabbing happy hour mojitos, thinking, Oops, diet over.
There is a better way: Swap the all-or-nothing approach for one or two healthy switch-ups in your daily routine. “Doing this can lead to more weight loss than you ever imagined,” says Marissa Lippert, RD, author of The Cheater’s Diet.
In fact, we talked to readers who knocked off 10, 25, even 60 pounds with some easy tweaks. Borrow their slim-down secrets to transform your body the real-world way.
Get fit in five
“I try to fit in small bouts of exercise whenever possible, like doing jumping jacks or crunches during television commercials or dancing while washing dishes. This burns extra calories and keeps me from mindlessly munching in front of the TV. Now my clothes fit way better, and I’m more toned than ever.” —Megan Tiscareno, Hammond, IN
Skip the salty aisle
“I reached my goal weight after I stopped routinely buying snacks at the grocery store. If I wanted a bag of chips or a candy bar, I had to walk to the store to get it. That inconvenience usually made me ignore my cravings.” —Heather Del Baso, Worcester, MA
Have a 300-calorie breakfast
“I used to skip breakfast, but now I never go without. I always eat about 300 calories of a healthy mix of protein and whole grains. My go-to meal: a sandwich with natural peanut butter and apple butter. It keeps my hunger down so I snack less throughout the day. In a little over a year, I’ve shed 65 pounds.”—Bo Hale, Tulsa, OK
Kick the habit
“I quit smoking, and right away joined a gym and started working out with a personal trainer. There was no way I could exercise and feel healthy if I kept lighting up. I’ve already dropped 37 pounds in three months!” —Leila Fathi, Memphis, TN
Find the best fitness friend
A workout buddy is hugely helpful for keeping motivated, but it’s important to find someone who will inspire—not discourage. So make a list of all your exercise-loving friends, then see who fits this criteria, says Andrew Kastor, an ASICS running coach: Can your pal meet to exercise on a regular basis? Is she supportive (not disparaging) of your goals? And last, will your bud be able to keep up with you or even push your limits in key workouts? If you’ve got someone that fits all three, make that phone call.
Relieve those achy muscles
After a grueling workout, there’s a good chance you’re going to be feeling it (we’re talking sore thighs, tight calves). Relieve post-fitness aches by submerging your lower body in a cold bath (50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit; you may have to throw some ice cubes in to get it cold enough) for 10 to 15 minutes. “Many top athletes use this trick to help reduce soreness after training sessions,” says Andrew Kastor. And advice we love: “An athlete training for an important race should consider getting one to two massages per month to help aid in training recovery,” adds Kastor. Now that’s speaking our language!
Buy comfy sneakers
You shouldn’t buy kicks that hurt, bottom line! “Your shoes should feel comfortable from the first step,” says Andrew Kastor. So shop in the evening—your feet swell during the day and stop in the late afternoon, so you want to shop when they’re at their biggest. Also make sure the sneaks are a little roomy—enough so that you can wiggle your toes, but no more than that. They should be comfy from the get-go, but Kastor says they’ll be even more so once you have a good 20 to 40 miles on ’em.
A little here, a little there
The most basic way to lose weight is to slash calories. That’s Diet 101. But how many do you really have to cut or burn to see results? It’s simple: You can drop a pound a week by trimming 500 calories each day. (Calories burned are based on a 150-pound woman.)
In fact, do a couple of swaps a day and you can drop 10 pounds in 5 weeks! So try these 25 easy tweaks—and get the slim body you want in no time.
Step away from the nuts
Especially if they’re in a big bowl. The bigger the serving bowl, the more you’ll eat, Cornell University researchers say.
Nuts have heart-healthy fats, but they’re also high in calories: 1 handful (about 1 ounce) of oil-roasted mixed nuts has 175 calories; 3 handfuls have 525. Cut out nuts altogether and save more than 500 calories.
Can’t resist ’em? Eat pistachios: 2 handfuls are just 159 calories, and the shelling will slow down your munching.
Don’t eat in front of the TV
You’ll eat up to 288 calories more, according to research from the University of Massachusetts.
Instead, eat at the table, and trade 1 hour of TV for a casual walk. Together, that’s 527 calories burned.
Focus on just one healthy habit
“I try not to give myself too many rules when at a party. Instead, I zero in on a single healthy practice,” says trainer Gunnar Peterson, whose clients include Khloe Kardashian and Sofia Vergara. “It can be anything from not drinking alcohol to skipping the passed appetizers or desserts. If you give yourself one thing, you’ll likely stick to it.”
Create a workout willpower playlist
Getting psyched to exercise when there’s so much fun to be had isn’t easy. So make a new playlist with this fresh spin: “Limit the total time of all the songs to the number of minutes you want to exercise,” says SoulCycle instructor Charlee Atkins. “Then make a promise to yourself that all you have to do is listen to the songs to get through your workout.”
Handle a buffet like skinny people do
Slim types are more likely than their pudgy peers to scout out a buffet before grabbing a plate, finds research by Brian Wansink, PhD, published in his new book Slim by Design. They also choose a small plate, sit 16 feet farther from the buffet and are more apt to face away from the food. So grab the bread plate instead of the dinner-size one, and once you’ve filled it, sit down somewhere a good distance from the spread.
Make water work a lot harder for you
Carry your clutch or your smartphone in one hand and a glass of water in the other, advises celebrity nutritionist JJ Virgin, author of The Sugar Impact Diet: “With both your hands full, you’ll be much less likely to grab whatever sugary concoction or fattening appetizer is being passed around.” Also, make seltzer with a twist of lemon or lime your go-to drink between cocktails. It slows down consumption of alcohol and helps fill you up so you don’t eat as much later, explains Brett Hoebel, who has been a trainer on The Biggest Loser.