Forget what you’ve been told! The latest research reveals that some things commonly considered “bad” habits when it comes to dieting, actually make dropping pounds easier. Read on to find out what you may have been doing right along — or what you can do to make trying to lose weight not such a pain.
Supercharge weight loss by taking “cheat weeks.”
Wish you could ditch your diet and still lose weight? You can! A surprising study in the International Journal of Obesity revealed that folks who take regular breaks from calorie-cutting diets lost 58 percent more weight than those who followed a low-calorie diet without any breaks. The reason: Continuous dieting stalls weight loss because, over time, the metabolism slows to conserve calories. But by dieting for two weeks then taking two weeks off, you’ll keep the number on the scale ticking steadily downward and you’ll never feel deprived.
And order a big lunch: You can eat a large meal and still lose weight... as long as you eat it before 3 p.m. Spanish scientists found that dieters who did just this lost 5 more pounds after 20 weeks than those who ate a big meal later in the day. One theory why: A big midday meal followed by a lighter evening meal synchronizes the body clock, which regulates the hormones that impact weight.
Curb cravings by having pasta for dinner.
Love pasta, potatoes, and bread? No need to give them up! Simply save your favorite carbs for dinner. This trick raises daytime levels of leptin, a hormone that makes you feel full. And when you’re satiated, it’s easier to resist diet-sabotaging cravings. In fact, research in the journal Obesity found that enjoying carbs in the evening helps you lose nearly six more pounds in six months than if you ate them earlier in the day.
And spend more time in bed: Go ahead and hit that snooze button a second time tomorrow. Research in The Journal of Neuroscience found that logging seven to eight hours of sleep reduces food cravings by curbing the “gotta have it!” reaction in the brain when you see junk food.
Shrink your waist with creamy avocado.
The secret to trimming your middle isn’t swearing off rich foods in favor of low-fat dishes — it’s opting for healthy fats, like those in avocado. A study in Nutrition Journal found that those who regularly enjoy this creamy fruit weigh nearly 8 pounds less and have a smaller waist. Credit goes to the monounsaturated fats in avocado, which trigger the release of satiety hormones and speed fat burn.
Or eat an omelet: Louisiana State University researchers found that people who enjoyed two eggs five days a week lost 83 percent more from their waistlines than those who didn’t. Protein in eggs keeps you full while nutrients like zinc and iron fire up belly-fat burn.
Speed metabolism with a late-night snack.
If your stomach is grumbling before bed, you don’t have to go hungry: Having a nighttime yogurt or glass of milk improves muscle size and strength, so your body can burn more calories all day, reveals new research from the Netherlands. That’s because as much as 80 percent of dairy’s protein is slow-digesting casein, which feeds muscles the amino acids that help them grow while you sleep, boosting your metabolism.
And enjoy some vino: Pour a glass of wine with dinner. Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers say that sipping one to two glasses of red wine daily raises your metabolism, making you less likely to gain weight.
Cut calories by ordering dessert first.
While out to eat, decide which sweet treat you’d like before ordering your main meal. In a new study, diners who did so chose lowercalorie main dishes and ate about 30 percent fewer calories than those who picked dessert later. Experts at the University of Arizona explain that knowing you’ll be tucking into a high-calorie sweet makes you more careful about how much you eat.
And squeeze on condiments: Topping a taco with sour cream or a burger with ketchup? Opt for a squeeze bottle and you’ll use 30 percent less. Belgian scientists say squeezing makes you more aware of how much you’re adding, so you don’t pile on more than you need.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.