Anyone who has tried to lose weight knows it isn’t an easy process. And those who have defeated the scale will attest that success is usually a matter of, well, mind over matter.
“If you ever want to make a real change in your life, make a plan and follow through with it,” says Jason Machowsky, a registered dietician and personal trainer at Equinox in New York City. That’s easy enough to say, but sometimes you need a little push along the way. The following mental strategies will help you trick yourself into slimming down anywhere you go. Try these 14 tips and you may find that losing weight can be mind-numbingly easy.
LOSE WEIGHT AT HOME
Put down your fork between bites
It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to send a signal to the brain that you’re satiated, which means you are more likely to overeat if you inhale your food. “You can tell people to spend more time chewing, but they forget,” says Erin Palinski, RD, CPT. “If you physically put your utensil down between bites, it slows you down.”
Downgrade your dishes
Cornell researchers found that people who eat soup from bowls that they didn’t know continuously refilled consumed 73 percent more than those who used regular bowls. But they neither felt fuller nor thought they ate more than the control group. Switch to smaller glasses, bowls, plates, and spoons to reduce portion sizes and help you naturally eat less.
Turn off the TV
People who dined in a loud setting rated their food as less appetizing than those who ate in silence, according to a study inFood Quality and Preference. Researchers found that noisy environments may interfere with a person’s ability to appreciate subtle flavors. And experts agree that you tend to eat more if you aren’t satisfied. So shut off “The Big Bang Theory” during dinner and you might save yourself a few calories.
LOSE WEIGHT AT THE OFFICE
Creating a game plan to combat hunger may help you slim down, according to Dutch researchers. Dieters who wrote “if, then” statements (“If I’m hungry at 3 p.m., then I’ll eat Greek yogurt.”) lost more weight than those who did not. Toss the candy jar and stock up on healthy snacks to get you over the afternoon slump.
Don’t eat at your desk
Avoid eating in front of your computer. Distracted eaters — those who engage in activity such as surfing the web — have a hard time recalling what they ate, according to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Participants were also less likely to feel satiated and more likely to consume extra calories throughout the day.
LOSE WEIGHT AT THE MARKET
Eat first, shop later
Munch on a snack before you step foot into a grocery store. “You’ll be much less susceptible to impulse purchases if you aren’t starving,” Machowsky says.
Make a healthy list
Jot down the items you need and stick to the list. Shopping without purpose can tempt you to spend more money and buy things you don’t need, Machowsky says. He also suggests leaving the “cheat foods” at the market. “Have chocolate cake, but have it outside of your house so the rest of it isn’t staring you in the face later.”
Not having to stroll down physical grocery aisles may help you eat healthier. Shopping online gives you the opportunity to pause and decide I need this. No more thoughtlessly tossing food into your cart, Palinski says.
LOSE WEIGHT AT A RESTAURANT
Research the menu
Look at a restaurant’s menu online before going there to eat. “Don’t subject yourself to surprises,” says Michael Bronco, a personal trainer and creator of the DVD “Simple Cooking Methods for Guys (and Gals!).” He suggests looking for a venue with options for lean protein and green vegetables. So decide in advance what you will order and don’t stray from the plan.
Picture yourself eating
Visualizing yourself eating a specific meal might help you consume less of it, according to Carnegie Mellon University researchers. Their study found that repeatedly thinking about having a certain food may decrease your desire to actually eat it. Next time you’re waiting for the server to bring your order, imagine yourself savoring each bite of your entrée.
Ask for a to-go box
Bag half your dinner as soon as it arrives at the table. “This way, you’re not faced with sitting and chatting and picking at the second half of the meal you didn’t want to eat,” Machowsky says. And then you won’t have to figure out what to pack for lunch the next day.
LOSE WEIGHT ANYWHERE
Keep a journal
Record what you eat or how you feel before and after a workout. A weight loss journal will help hold you accountable and illuminate problem areas or healthy patterns in your diet or exercise plans. “Writing things down even for a small period of time can make a pink elephant stand out in the room,” Machowsky says.
Focus on short-term benefits
Ignore the number on the scale and concentrate on immediate health benefits of weight loss, such as reduced pain in your back or hips. Focusing on short-term results may be the most effective motivator for losing weight, according to University of Cincinnati researchers.
Don’t deny yourself
Let yourself indulge on occasion, or else you may crash and burn. Researchers at Florida State University found that exhibiting restraint has its limits; once you activate self-control your willpower starts to fade. This is why it’s difficult to resist cravings seven days a week. To avoid bingeing, Bronco suggests that you “allow yourself some treats here and there so you don’t build up so much mental pressure.”