The most commonly known ways to lose weight:
1. Cut the calories
2. Eat nutritious food and ditch the processed junk
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)?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.