So you think losing weight is a matter of spending hours at the gym and religiously counting every calorie, but perhaps there is more – here’s 10 shortcuts that savvy slim people use to keep themselves slim – no mess, no fuss, no complications at all.
Stop at 15 sit ups: While stars like Victoria Beckham claim to do 200 a day, they’re wasting endless time. ‘You shouldn’t be able to do more than four sets of 15 sit ups easily – if you can you’re not working hard enough to get any results,’ says personal trainer Kristoph Thompson (www.kristoph.co.uk). Power things up by taking 3 seconds to go up, 3 down, pausing at the top, or working with a dumbbell on your chest.
Use small plates: When US diet experts asked staff to an ice cream party, those with the biggest bowls served themselves with 31% more food than those with a bowl half the size. ‘We eat an average of 92% of what we put on our plate so if you want to lose weight, use smaller china,’ says Professor Koert Van Ittersum who worked in the study at Georgia Institute of Technology. The ideal plate is 9 inches across and 50% full of fruit and vegetables.
Buy a big water glass: German researchers have found that drinking 500ml of water increases the amount of calories you burn by 30%, but if you find it hard to guzzle that much buy a new glass. According to Dr Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think (Bantam Press), we pour 76% more liquid into a short wide glass than a tall thin one which immediately boosts your intake.
Slim people exercise when and where they can: When US experts studied how people who’ve lost weight keep it off, they found they do 60-90 minutes of exercise a day but often in 10-15 minutes bursts. Aim for fifteen 10 minute workouts a week - in a University of Virginia study, people doing this ended up as fit as people 10-15 years younger than them – in just 21 days. ‘To get best results, work as intensely as you can to really make the most of the time,’ says trainer Dean Hodgkin who specialises in exercise for busy people (www.deanhodgkin.com).
Use ready meals: In a trial at the University of Illinois, dieters eating two diet ready meals a day (plus a few healthy extras) lost 50% more weight than those simply sticking to a healthy eating plan. The researchers say the small portions and controlled calories reduce risk of slip ups. ‘Ready meals can be high in salt, sugar and fat though so read labels carefully,’ says nutritionist Kate Arnold (www.katearnoldnutrition.co.uk). Or use the traffic light system and choose meals marked ‘green’ for fat, salt and sugar. And don’t forget those healthy extras. In the trial people also ate two portions each of vegetables, fruit and low fat dairy and three portions of wholegrains.
Swap high GI carbs for low ones: People who do, have tummies three- quarters of an inch smaller than high GI eaters. They also have faster metabolisms burning 80 calories a day more and feel less hungry. ‘Low GI foods cause you to produce lower levels of the fat storing, hunger promoting hormone insulin which aids weight loss,’ says Joanna McMillan Price, co author of The Low-Gi Diet (Hodder Mobius). Easy GI swaps to make: White bread for wholegrain, pasta over rice and sweet potatoes over normal ones.
Eat eggs for breakfast: New research has found dieters who start the day with an egg breakfast lose 65% more weight than other slimmers, and they feel more energised on their plan. ‘Eggs increase satiety and reduce food intake for at least a day after you eat them,’ says Dr Nikhil Dhurandhar from Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana. In fact, listen to your appetite after an egg breakfast and you’ll eat an average of 400 calories less for the rest of that day – that’s nearly a pound lost a week.
Make your 3pm snack healthy: If you’re snacking on a Mars Bar (281 calories) and your diet buddy has a 25g small handful of nuts (150 calories), she’ll weigh 14lb less than you by the end of the year simply by this swap alone. ‘The perfect afternoon snack is a handful of nuts or seeds and some dried fruit,’ says medical nutritionist Naomi Beinart (www.beinart-nutrition.co.uk).‘It’s high in nutrients, the fruit satisfies your sugar cravings, but the nuts provide protein that balances blood sugar and energy.’
Eat just 2-3 foods at each meal. Not only will this save you preparation time, according to Yale University’s Dr David Katz if we eat too many foods in one go, the part of our brain that tells us we’re full doesn’t work as well – so we overeat. In trials, people limiting flavors lost around 16lb in 12 weeks.
Weigh yourself daily: This might seem more time consuming not less, but according to the experts that compile the National Weight Registry (which looks at the habits successful slimmers use to keep the weight off) it helps you spot weight gain early so you’ll only have1-2lb to lose not half a stone. ‘Weight can fluctuate daily, but if you see a gain 3-4 days running, cut back on treats for a few weeks to rebalance things,’ says nutritionist Liz Tucker.