Ignore fad diets and so-called miracle weight-loss tricks. Instead, try these tips. A few small tweaks can yield big size-shrinking results.
1. Your first step toward trim: Keep a food diary for three days. Jot down everything—morning coffee, a bite of a cookie, two bowls of pasta. You’ll find what and when you’re over-consuming.
2. “Initially, change just one thing in your meal plan,” says Betty Herberger, corporate trainer for The Biggest Loser Resorts. Maybe that’s swapping one bag of chips a day for a handful of almonds or a brownie for a banana with a tablespoon of natural peanut butter. Build on those successes.
3. Avoid munching out of boredom by writing down the time you eat, suggests Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It. Check the clock before you dine again. If it’s only been an hour and a half, ask yourself whether you’re really hungry and try sipping some water instead.
4. “People often skimp on food in the early part of the day, which is exactly when you shouldn’t,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, author of Eating in Color. It’s especially important to eat in the morning if that’s when you exercise. You need a mix of protein and carbs within 30 minutes of finishing a workout to repair muscles.
5. Salads can be a waist-whittling lunch—with the right add-ins. Put dressing in a cup on the side and before you spear a bite, dip your fork in it, says Largeman-Roth. Make greens heartier with protein-packed quinoa or fish and healthy-fat-filled walnuts or avocado.
6. “Eating something in its entirety keeps portions in control,” says Largeman-Roth, “because you’re less likely to go back for more.” That means having a whole piece of fruit in place of fruit salad or one small yogurt container rather than a scoop from a large tub.
7. Can you spare a mere five? Then you have time to work out. Follow Herberger’s method of exercising every minute on the minute. Do 20 to 30 reps of moves like jump squats or push-ups. If that takes 30 seconds, you get 30 seconds to rest before the next round.
8. Reduce calories in any dish and still feel satiated by adding more veggies, especially to starchy foods like pasta or rice. Consider salad or soup prior to your main meal too.
9. Besides enhancing overall health, drinking green tea boosts your metabolism thanks to its antioxidants. And having a caffeinated cup can up your daily calorie burn by 4%.
10. It’s okay to hit the dessert table, but put one sweet on your plate and walk away. “Snacking without a plate makes you magically forget those calories,” Largeman-Roth says. At home, opt for fruit or chia seed pudding: Whisk 3⁄4 cup chia seeds with 3 cups coconut milk and let it set until thick.
11. Step on the scale every Friday and Monday so you're held accountable for weekend over-indulgences, advises Taub-Dix. Chart your progress on graph paper or with the Smart Scale (taylorscales.com, $60) and the SmarTrack app (Android, iOS, free) to spot peaks and valleys.
12. "Many people have one item they don't want to give up, like wine or cheese," says Linda Melone, a certified personal trainer and health coach. “But that’s often the reason you’re not losing 10 pounds.” Ditch your “non-negotiable” item for one week and consider it a temporary change. The results may motivate you to continue to cut back.
13. Hang a dry-erase board on your fridge. Every night, mark down your active minutes for the day, says Herberger. Get a more accurate number with Pivotal Living (pivotalliving.com, $12/year) or Jawbone’s Up Move (jawbone.com, $50). By week’s end, you should have logged about 150 minutes. If you haven’t, get walking!
14. Stop snacking two to three hours before bed. "it'll help your digestion and improve your sleep, plus you’ll wake up hungry so you’re not tempted to skip breakfast,” says Melone. Also, consume more light bites throughout the day so you’re not starved by dinner—making you more likely to nibble late at night.
15. We're all allowed setbacks, even sneaking that piece of cheesecake you couldn't resist or choosing your bed over the gym in the a.m. Don't sulk in those moments or you'll end up with more bad days. "Think of each minute as a new minute," says Herberger.
Bonus: Swap that post-lunch cookie for a juicy apple to cut calories and pounds.