The slacker’s guide to weight loss: 34 super-easy ways to lose weight sans diet or exercise

The most commonly known ways to lose weight:

1. Cut the calories
2. Eat nutritious food and ditch the processed junk
3. Exercise

But what if you’ve done all that and still can’t budge as many pounds as you would like? Or, like me, you’re way too busy/lazy/unmotivated to stick to a diet and exercise plan? Or you have medical issues that don’t allow you to do as much as you would like? Or maybe (and let’s be honest, it happens to all of us at some point) you just want an easier way out?

For these, and a million other reasons, health and weight loss experts have a host of hidden tricks up their sleeve that are not so common knowledge. These are the hacks that are used every single day by those svelte models and celebs who can afford to spend the big bucks on weight loss advice. And they go a long way in melting that excessive bulge – without giving up on those Kettle Salt & Vinegar chips (my personal nemesis!). Try them out for size (pun intended)?

Stare at the screen

Those annoying Candy Crush requests? Turns out they may serve a greater purpose. Vegging out with Candy Crush or FarmVille has its benefits… and I don’t just mean the adrenaline rush of hitting the next level. According to Appetite, playing a fast paced video game distracts you from that sinful red velvet cake, thereby cutting down on calorie-packed cravings.

Sleep!

See, I told you this was a slacker’s guide to weight loss. And how much more painless could it be than to just sleep? Truth is most of us don’t get enough sleep, which raises cortisol, leptin and ghrelin levels, making you crave high calorie foods. Plus, poor sleep literally changes your fat cells, making it near-impossible to lose weight. Statistics from the American Health Association prove that the sleep-deprived average a 55% lesser reduction in fat loss compared to their well rested counterparts. More statistics: According to the University of Michigan, sleeping an extra hour every night could lead to a loss of 14 pounds in a year. And according to the American Journal of Epidemiology, those who slept seven hours every night gained 30% less weight on average than those who got five hours. That’s major.

But also don’t over-sleep as that will be counterproductive and make you pile on the pounds. Optimal duration? 7-9 hours everyday.

Black it out

Is your room dark enough at night? By that, I refer to all natural and artificial sources of light, including the glow from your cell phone, street lights and yes, even a super-moon. Which means you need to knock off that falling-asleep-while-reading-your-digital-gadget habit and maybe even get some blackout curtains if the light from outside is too bright. Because the light – especially blue light (think iPads and such) – disrupts your circadian rhythm, disturbing your sleep and making you eat more during the daytime.

Cut the clutter

Blame those visual cues again: Clutter makes you hog more. According to Environment and Behavior, people eating in messy spaces consumed twice as many snacks as those who ate in a clean space. Time to clean up?

Turn down the thermostat

Yay for people like me, who love chilly rooms! Seems cool temperatures don’t just make you feel good, they actually help you lose weight. Scientists say cold climes force your body to work harder, thereby boosting metabolism. So, think a cold after blast of a shower and a thermostat that’s set a few notches below your usual.

Vanilla-perfect

A good quality vanilla aroma cuts down on sweet cravings, says the St. George’s hospital in London. My favourite trick? To just dab a bit of vanilla extract on the wrists.

Make time for nature…

The American Diabetes Association holds that spending time amidst greenery leads to lower body weight. Even a short weekend escape or a morning stroll in the park looks good at this point, doesn’t it?

…but avoid pollution

This one’s easier said than done but the scientific fact is that pollution makes our metabolism sluggish, causing you to gain weight.

And get enough sun

Repeat after me: The. Sun. Is. Not. Our. Enemy. Yes, the sun is NOT our enemy. In fact, it’s the single most life sustaining element of our planet. The health risks associated with sun exposure come more from humans depleting the ozone layer and laying ourselves open to skin-damaging rays than the big orb in the sky itself. In the absence of adequate sunlight, the hypothalamus gland gets imbalanced, making you crave more carbs. And sunlight lowers Vitamin D levels, which makes you pack on the pounds (according to Boston University, Vitamin D3 helps burn fats for energy, rather than storing them around your waist). So grab some protection and head out into the sunlight – we need to let our bodies bask in the sun for at least 20 minutes every day.

Step up the protein

Egg whites, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese… eating about 30 grams of protein at breakfast makes you feel fuller for longer and cuts down on unhealthy snacking between meals. It’s a also a power-fuelled way to start the day!

In fact, pack on more proteins in general. Protein boosts your metabolism and keeps you feeling fuller for longer. Plus, your body actually burns a lot more calories while digesting protein-rich foods than it does with other nutrients.

Get more fiber

And then there is fiber… the cornerstone of every great weight loss story. Fiber both fills you up and keeps you regular, helping flush out fats and toxins from the body. Without enough fiber, most of us would be just a bloated mess!

Skip the antibiotics

No, we can’t avoid antibiotics all the time. But some of us end up taking them a bit more often than is necessary. Antibiotics basically kill off the good bacteria in our gut, which helps boost digestion and makes us lose weight. When you do have to take an antibiotic – or any other strong medicine for that matter – make sure to supplement your gut with loads of probiotic supplements and fermented foods such as kimchi and kefir.

Bring out the probiotics

The good bacteria in our gut are super-essential to weight loss. However, our over-polluted, over-stressed environments, coupled with some not-so-healthy foods, means our body finds it increasingly difficult to maintain the micro biomes. Enter probiotic supplements, which are an easy way to maintain the gut balance. And according to the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, people who pop a daily probiotic supplement for more than 8 weeks, have lower BMIs and weight than those who don’t. Time to work in a new habit, then!

Pop a multivitamin

A simple multivitamin pill may make you lose weight systematically. That’s because our body craves all kinds of food when it’s undernourished – sometimes, food that seems to have no connect to any kind of nutrient at all. Like chocolate when you are short on magnesium, or calcium when you are jonesing for a soft drink. Seriously.

Ditch the diet soda

All those zero-calorie promises make it oh so easy to fall into the diet-soda-for-weight-loss trap. But what nobody tells you is that the artificial sweeteners and other chemicals totally mess up your hormones and enzymes, leading to weight gain. How much difference does it make? According to the University of Texas, Austin, people who drank diet soda had a 70% greater increase in waist circumferences than those who abstained. Convinced yet?

Instead… load up on water

Often, what we think of as hunger is only the body’s way of signalling dehydration. So reach out for a glass of water first and see if that helps the pangs subside. Plus, drinking more water can help you feel full and eat less food. And water is crucial for every body function, right from metabolising fat and regulating temperature to facilitating important bio-chemical reactions, aiding digestion, hydrating the skin and helping the body flush out waste and toxins. So, the simplest way to lose weight? DRINK MORE WATER!

Added bonus: Drink it on ice. According to the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, drinking six cups of chilled water can raise your resting metabolism by 12%.

… and green tea

Is there any truth to the claim that green tea helps you lose weight? Yes. Several actually: Green tea has been shown to inhibit lipolysis, the process by which dietary fats (triglycerides) are broken down in the body. Inhibition of the breakdown of triglycerides prevents absorption of the fat, thereby ensuring you don’t gain much weight. Besides this, the catechins in green tea inhibit an important enzyme – catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT) – that speeds up the metabolism, thereby stepping up the calorie burn.

Then there is red wine

According to the University of Alberta, Canada, the weight reducing benefits of red wine are similar to that of exercise (this one’s my favourite study!). How? Among other things, red wine is loaded with resveratrol – an antioxidant that helps convert ‘white fat’ into ‘beige fat’. Beige fat makes you lose weight by actively burning calories. Red wine also creates thermogenesis, which raises body temperature by burning more calories. And the tipple significantly increases levels of the appetite-regulating hormone leptin, while saturating the body with piceatannol, which actually blocks the growth of fat cells. Cheers!

… and tomato juice

Still looking for more options? According to Institute of Biostatistics, China Medical University, tomato juice is another great beverage that helps lose weight, while also regulating cholesterol. Hola, Bloody Mary!

Make your glass tall and thin

Of course, we get that you can’t always be limited to water, green tea, red wine or tomato juice. There’s, for instance, Champagne. But there’s still a slacker’s way out of sinful sipping: Simply swap those short, wide tumblers for a tall, skinny glass and you’ll automatically end up drinking up to 30% less liquid calories due to the simple psychology of visual cues.

Change your dishes

Eating out of a smaller plate or bowl creates an illusion of a larger portion and we end up serving ourselves less food. Perfect way to painlessly shave off 200-300 calories every day, all of which adds up to a pretty big deal!

Create a contrast

In a phenomenon called the Delboeuf illusion, when the colour of your plate blends with the surface beneath it (think red plate on red table cloth, or a brown plate on a bare wooden table), you will end up serving yourself 10% more food. Strange but true, according to research by Cornell University.

But don’t match your dishes to your dinner

Another finding by Cornell University: When the main colours of your food match the colour of your plate (red spaghetti on red plates!) you will end up serving yourself 30% more food. Better, instead, to serve up contrasting tones, so you can clearly visualise your portion size.

Have an early lunch

Talking of lunch, having it early is another way to effortlessly lose weight without even trying. According to Obesity, women who ate their lunch before 3 pm dropped 25% more weight than those who had it later, even though both groups ate the same things!

Surround yourself with good food

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Surround yourself with chips, cakes and chocolates and that’s what you will reach out for when the hunger/cravings hit. On the other hand, if your pantry is stocked with healthy options, like carrots and cucumbers, it’s going to be so much easier to make a better choice for your waistline. So, keep the good stuff in plain sight and make the junk food difficult to access.

An apple a day…

Best option to carry out the above? Apples. Plain and simple apples. Because they come loaded with fiber and nutrients to help you lose weight. Not too fond of apples? Basically anything raw – fruit or vegetables – make for a good snack as they are full of fibre, nutrients and hydration. Plus, no cooking = no cleaning = no effort. Triple bonus!

… and some berries

Then there are those juicy little berries… according to the British Journal of Nutrition, three cups of berries in a week – fresh or frozen – can help you drop up to four pounds in a month. That’s because berries contain polyphenols that help burn off excessive blood sugar.  Not. Kidding.

Ditch the white stuff

As a top notch nutritionist once told me: Avoid anything “white”. Instead, get your bread, pasta, pizza, waffles, cookies and just about everything else in a whole grain version, like buckwheat, oats, barley and brown rice. You will cut down on calories, cholesterol and bloating without even noticing a marked difference in taste.

Go beans!

Lentils, beans, peas, chickpeas… according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, having just 3/4 cup of these can help you drop half a pound. Without any other change in your diet or exercise. Reason? Beans and lentils are chock full of fiber and protein, two of the top ingredients needed for sustained weight loss.

Spice it up

The spice lover in me simply loves this one: chili-pepper-laced foods help you feel satiated with smaller portions and thereby cuts down the calories. My favourite is a sprinkling of cayenne pepper over salads, grills, roasts and just about everything else.

Cut out the additives

Artificial flavouring, chemical sweeteners, preservatives, plastic packaging, trans fats… all these have been linked to weight gain and a host of other health problems to boot. So swap that ultra-processed, pre-packaged food for fresh, farm-to-table type of sustenance and the pounds will start dropping away almost automatically.

Up the flavour quotient

Chewing a strongly-flavoured sugarless gum, having a cup of strong black coffee or even rinsing your mouth with Listerine is a good way to defeat food cravings. The strong flavours will overpower your taste buds, making those chocolates and crisps just feel blah, saving you from a gazillion calories!

Get busy in the bedroom

Sounds too good to be true but sex does make you thinner. It burns 200-300 calories in an hour, says my personal trainer. Yoga will torch approximately 230 calories in that time, dancing will do 260 and walking 310. Do the maths. And it’s not just the cardio quotient: Nookie releases testosterone, which goes a long way in building and maintaining bone and lean muscle tissue. Thin and toned? Bring it on!

Stop stressing

Easier said than done but stress increases levels of cortisol, which piles on the belly fat. If you live or work in high stress environments, as many of us unfortunately do, try to meditate, do yoga or find some other activity that relaxes you on a regular level.

The essential guide to prepping for yoga

My recent quest for a healthier existence took me to a yoga school yesterday morning. Where I realised (much to my horror) that it’s quite different from simply strolling into a gym, water bottle and towel in hand. Yoga requires a certain amount of prep-work even before you step into the class and starting a new program can be intimidating. So, I spent the days frantically phoning yoga experts to put together a checklist that will ensure one gets the best out of every session.

1. Don’t eat right before class: Refrain from eating at least two hours prior and 30 minutes after your practice.

2. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during and after class. Better yet, drink plenty of warm water with fresh squeezed lemon juice, which is a terrific detoxifier!

3. Dress correctly: Wear whatever feels comfortable, preferably in soft cotton and Lycra spandex blends, with soothing colours and dry-fast weaves. That said, big baggy clothing does a disservice because you can’t see what’s going on with the body. Tighter fitting clothes, with the ankles showing, let the teachers see your true alignment and make it easier for them to help you with adjustments. Also avoid pockets, zippers, buckles or buttons on the back or abdomen.

4. Do not wear shoes: You could try yoga socks that help prevent slipping, but practicing barefoot is highly encouraged.

5. Bring water, a hand towel and a mat: While you can rent or borrow them at most studios, it’s more hygienic to have your own. Your mat = your germs. Simple!

6. Bring a large towel: Sweat + yoga mats = slip and slide. Draping a large towel over your mat will help you gain traction in poses like downward dog.

7. Avoid “noise”: Go easy on perfumes and don’t be loud or chatty. The yoga space is intended to be a sanctuary where one may go to decompress from the day and as such it’s best to keep it in a neutral, relaxed state.

8. Be on time: You don’t want to miss the warm-up. This is not just a matter of respect but also of safety.

9. Practice common sense: Know your limits and listen to your body. Ask questions if you’re unsure about a pose or movement. Beginners should start slowly and learn the basics (like proper breathing) rather than how far you can stretch. If you have any medical conditions or injuries, talk to your doctor – poses can be modified once the instructor knows your problem areas. And always remember – pain is not good. Don’t push into it, don’t hold your breath. Just get out of the pose.

10. Accept your feelings: It’s normal (and healthy) to sometimes feel emotionally upset during or after a yoga session… releasing tension in the body releases emotions as well.

Finally, don’t give up too quickly. There are many styles of yoga, not to mention different studios and instructors you might prefer if one doesn’t work out.

Namaste.

The (surprising!) beauty benefits of green tea

In my recent quest to nullify months years of junk food, ultra-late nights, fizzy drinks and buckets-full of coffee, I recently came across some surprising information on green tea. Seems that you don’t always have to actually drink the stuff to reap its benefits. Green tea also works superbly as a topical beauty ingredient, with skincare benefits that range from busting hormonal acne to warding off wrinkles and saggy skin.

No wonder then that every major beauty brand, right from Estee Lauder to L’Occitane, is rushing to include this potent plant in their formulations. But what if we can just get the benefits straight from the source? After all, green tea is one of the most easily accessible products almost anywhere in the world. I have been trying these ancient beauty recipes (most come from 2,000-years-old Chinese and Japanese books of medicine, where green tea is known as “green jade”) for a fortnight now and can personally vouch for their effectiveness. My skin has never recovered so fast before and is thriving in an anti-ageing, zero-acne, pollution-free sanctuary. 

green tea beauty benefits 2Green tea: Anti-acne face mask

What it does: Flushes out toxins from the skin, helps heal blemishes and soothes the complexion.

The science: Green tea contains catechins, which are anti-bacterial agents that suppress acne-causing bacteria and help regulate hormonal imbalances. It also possesses potent anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce the redness and inflammation brought about by zits, thereby helping them heal sans the scars.

How to: Mix 1 tablespoon of powdered green tea with an egg white and 1 teaspoon of pure honey; whip everything together with a fork. Apply the mixture to your face and leave for about 30 minutes. Then rinse it off and apply a moisturizer.

Green tea: Anti-aging face mask

What it does: Stops the signs of premature aging – like loose skin, wrinkles, age spots and fine lines – while making the complexion more moist and supple.

The science: The EGCG compounds in green tea can actually reactivate skin cells that are dying due to poor lifestyle habits, exposure to sunlight and pollution. Plus, it contains high level of oligomeric proanthocyanidins – OPCs – some of the most powerful antioxidants known to scientists. These antioxidants help ward off premature aging by fighting free radicals and healing damaged cells. And that’s not all: OPCs also inhibit the enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, which are essential for skin’s strength and suppleness.

How to: Combine 3 tablespoons of full fat yogurt with 1 tablespoon of ground green tea leaves. Apply on the face for 20 minutes, then rinse well.

Green tea: Facial scrub

What it does: Removes dirt and impurities from your pores.

The science: The slightly abrasive texture of dry green tea leaves acts as a great exfoliator to banish dead skin cells and purge pollutants.

How to: Mix 1 tablespoon of dry ground green tea leaves with enough honey to make a thick paste. Apply this paste all over your face and leave it on the skin for 10-15 minutes. Then rub it off in circular motions with your fingertips, rinsing away the excess with warm water.

green-tea-beauty-2

Green tea: Facial steam

What it does: Moisturizes, relaxes muscles, plumps wrinkles, eliminates toxins, dislodges dirt from pores and boosts circulation.

The science: Green tea is rich in antioxidants and catechins, which are propelled into your pores by the action of steam, thereby detoxifying, cleansing, refreshing and hydrating the skin.

How to: Put 1/8 cup green tea, 1/4 cup dried organic lemon balm and 2 tablespoons dried organic peppermint (double the quantities if using fresh herbs) in a bowl. Pour boiling water over the mixture, immediately placing a towel or lid over the bowl so that the oils don’t escape. Place the bowl on a table and hold your face over it, covering your head and the bowl with a large towel to make sure that no steam can escape. Keep your eyes closed and breathe deeply to inhale the therapeutic properties of the herbs. Steam for 5-10 minutes, depending on your comfort factor.

Green tea: Toner

What it does: Soothes and calms the skin, reduces itching and inflammation, while simultaneously tackling cuts, scrapes and other blemishes.

The science: Green tea has substantial anti-inflammatory properties, which make it an ideal beauty ingredient for sensitive skins. Herbalists have used cooled it for years to reduce itching and inflammation, and as an emergency first aid treatment to ease bleeding from small cuts and grazes. People with skin conditions such as psoriasis, rosacea, and dandruff, which are caused by inflammation, may benefit the most.

How to: Steep 5 teaspoons of green tea and 1 teaspoon of mint leaves in a cup of boiling water. Let the infusion stand for at least 10 minutes, then strain and allow to cool completely before pouring the water into a glass container. Now you can either soak cotton pads in this concoction or pour it into a spray bottle, from which you spritz your face 2-3 times a day.

Green tea: Relaxing bath soak

What it does: Soothes the body and clears the mind, making it perfect for a pre-bedtime ritual.

The science: There is a reason green tea appears as a key note in so many perfumes. Its fragrance has therapeutic values which create a feeling of balance, inner peace and serenity.

How to: Put some green tea leaves in a coffee filter (or a muslin handkerchief), gather the top, and tie it with a string. Drop it into your warm bathwater and chill out!

Green tea: Eye compress

What it does: Eases tired, puffy eyes and busts dark circles.

The science: Green tea contains vitamin K, which is a proven ingredient in the battle against dark circles and puffy eyes.

How to: Chill a cup of green tea in the refrigerator. Dip 2 cotton balls in the cool tea and place them on your closed eyelids. Sit back and relax for 10-15 minutes. As an alternative, you can swap the cotton balls for chilled, used tea bags.

green tea 3Green tea: Sunburn soother

What it does: Green tea can help soothe and heal sunburnt skin if applied directly to affected areas.

The science: Several scientific studies have proven green tea’s ability to neutralize the damage done by exposure to UV rays. This is a result of its high concentration of tannic acid, theobromine, and polyphenols – all of which ease inflammation and repair sun-damaged skin.

How to: Prepare a pot of green tea and chill it in the refrigerator. Use a cloth to apply the liquid to sunburnt areas – avoid rubbing; use the cloth as you would a cold compress.

Green tea: Mighty mouth

What it does: Green tea is also known for its ability to prevent bad breath – and it has the added advantage of tasting good if swallowed inadvertently.

The science: The natural fluorides in green tea curb mouth odor and help prevent plaque-forming microbes from attaching to the teeth.

How to: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 4 tablespoons of green tea and allow them to infuse for at least 30 minutes. Then strain out the leaves and make a paste using this liquid and one teaspoon of baking soda. Use this paste to brush your teeth as usual.

Green tea: Strengthening hair rinse

What it does: Protects hair from pollution and harsh products, while making it strong and shiny.

The science: Not only does green tea help ailments such as dandruff and psoriasis by reducing inflammation, it also stimulates hair growth and softens the strands. This happens due to high levels of panthenol, vitamin E and vitamin C, which are all well established hair conditioners.

How to: Steep 3-4 green tea bags in 1 liter of boiling water for about an hour. Let it cool and use the liquid as a final rinse after you’ve shampooed and conditioned.

12 seriously strange skincare secrets the experts swear by (I kid you not!)

Having beautiful, glowing, flawless skin is not always about rigorous dermatological treatments or expensive products. Sometimes, simple goes a longer way and every skincare pro I’ve ever spoken to has sworn by at least a couple of kitchen shelf DIYs they call upon in their own life. Some of these secret rituals are merely curious, while others are downright bizarre. But they are all underlined by serious doses of skincare science and the experts promise they perform miracles. So, here you go!

skincare tips1. Do shots… with chlorophyll: Don’t really relish those green juices and salads seem too much of a bother? Just stock up on liquid chlorophyll. This most essential of plant nutrients detoxifies the body, oxygenates the skin, boosts tissue repair, steps up digestion and restores our acid-alkaline ratio to keep the complexion clean, healthy and glowing from the inside out. Added bonus: It works fast and tastes like mint.

2. Order the guac: Or just go straight for the avocados, which are loaded with healthy fats and phytonutrients that nourish skin from the inside out and bring back your glow.

3. Bring on the beer: Beer isn’t just good for your hair, it’s also a powerful skin ally. All those B vitamins, hops, saccharides and yeast help dissolve dead cells, balance pH levels and bust acne-causing bacteria. Simply mix together half a cup of beer with one egg white and slather on your face. Let the mask dry for 20 minutes, then rinse off with warm water. Now say hello to radiant, fresh skin.

4. Freeze up: Late night? Crying bout? Sun scorched? Beauty pros always keep a few sheet of aluminium foil in the freezer. Simply take one of the chilled sheets and put them on your face for a few minutes to de-puff, tighten pores and bring back the glow.

5. Eye it: If it’s your eyes that need the de-puffing and redness relief, pop some eye cream in the  icebox and apply to lids for turbo-charged results.

6. Tea time: Skin more irritated than puffy? Chill some green tea bags and gently press them onto the inflamed areas – the antioxidants will soothe a sore complexion.

7. Tropical treat: Another refrigerated treat for your skin? Pineapple juice. Freeze some fresh pineapple juice and then rub this “ice cube” over clean skin. Let the liquid dry on your face for 5-10 minutes, then rinse away with plain water. Pineapple’s natural enzymes exfoliate, improve hydration and boost elasticity. Hello, luminous skin!

8. Dairy goodness: Swap the hot water with freshly boiled milk while steaming your face for the ultimate skin detox. Simply boil the milk, pour into a bowl and let the vapours float over your face as you lean in under a towel. Milk is full of lactic acid, which will decongest the pores, leaving your skin beautifully clear.

beauty hacks9.  Hydrate NOW: Dewy, glowing skin equals hydrated skin and when you’re sorely lacking in the latter department, whip together an egg yolk and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Apply a generous layer of this mixture all over your face and leave on for 20 minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm water.

10. Acne Rx: Need to bring down the redness and inflammation of a pimple right NOW? Dab a  bit of Visine on the blemish. This won’t make your pimple smaller, but it will definitely look less obvious for a few hours.

11. Scrub-a-dub: To banish dry, cracked heels, mix a handful of sea salt with enough almond oil to make a thick paste. Use this to exfoliate your feet and toes; say hello to smooth, sandal-ready summer feet!

12. Thigh high: For legs that tend to rub or chafe in summer, apply deodorant to the insides of your thighs… this sounds weird but it works!

What’s the strangest beauty tip you’ve ever heard? And how did it work out for you?