As soon as people find out I’m a nutrition professor and registered dietitian nutritionist, they pick my brain for weight loss tips that really work. What do I tell them? Adhere to the old adage, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper,” since emerging research confirms the pattern’s benefits.
In a fascinating study published in the journal Obesity, for example, researchers at Tel Aviv University studied how changing the timing of meals would impact weight loss. In essence, they wanted to see if swapping a high-calorie dinner with a high-calorie breakfast – while keeping the total daily calories the same (1,400) – would impact weight loss. It did. Over the course of 12 weeks, the women who ate the high-calorie breakfast (700 calories) and low-calorie dinner (200 calories) lost about 19 pounds on average, while the women who ate the same foods but backloaded their calories lost about eight pounds. Weight aside, the higher-calorie breakfast group also lost twice as many inches around their waists than the higher-calorie dinner eaters.
While flipping your daily calorie intake is my favorite weight-loss tip, there are plenty of other helpful tricks out there. Here are my registered dietitian nutritionist colleagues’ picks:
1. Shed pounds with pulses.
Cynthia Sass, author of “Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches With Pulses,” is all about beans, lentils, peas and chickpeas (aka pulses) for weight loss. She recommends adding a half-cup serving of them to breakfast, lunch or dinner. Sass says this affordable superfood has been shown to increase fullness and satiety, delay the return of hunger and lead to eating fewer daily calories without trying. Pass the chickpeas, please.
2. Stress less.
Let’s face it: When you’re feeling stressed, you tend to seek comfort with the aid of your two best friends, Ben and Jerry. To beat this habit, Toby Amidor, author of “The Greek Yogurt Kitchen,” recommends looking to exercise to release your stress. She also supports taking a few minutes of “me time” daily, which can include reading a book or just taking a warm shower. If the stress is too much, Amidor recommends seeking the assistance of a certified therapist.
3. Strategically step on the scale.
Bonnie Taub-Dix, creator of Better Than Dieting and author of “Read It Before You Eat It,” suggests you make peace with the bathroom scale. In fact, she wants you to use it to your advantage by weighing yourself on Fridays and Mondays. Why? Taub-Dix has found that if your weight is up on a Friday, you’ll be less likely to go overboard with calories on the weekend – especially if you know you’re going to be weighing in on Monday. If you weigh yourself on a Friday and your weight is down, it may motivate you to curtail the weekend splurging for an even better Monday morning weight check.
4. Eat more to weigh less.
Keri Gans, author of “The Small Change Diet” wants you to concentrate on eating more to lose weight. Huh? What she means is rather than negatively focusing on all the foods you think you shouldn’t be eating to shed weight, focus on what you should be eating more of in your diet. For example, ask yourself, “Have I eaten any fruit today?” Or, “Does my dinner plate include a veggie?” According to Gans, the more healthy stuff you include on your plate, the less room there is for the not-so-healthy foods. I call that smart plate allocation.
5. Do the carb swap.
Leslie Bonci, owner of Owner Active Eating Advice, advocates carbohydrate swapping to control calories. She suggests devoting 20 to 30 percent of your plate to the carbs you enjoy. In other words, choose rice or pasta or potatoes or wine or dessert. This allows you to discriminate rather than eliminate.
6. Be a food snob.
Kathleen Zelman, the director of nutrition at WebMD, wants you to be picky when you eat something. She recommends that if you don’t love a food after taking the first bite, don’t eat the rest of it. In other words, don’t waste your calories on tasteless foods; eat only what you love instead.
7. Always have a plan B.
As a busy working mom and the author of the blog Better is the New Perfect, Elizabeth Ward understands that everyday life often gets in the way of your best weight-loss intentions. That’s why she highly recommends having a plan B up your sleeve. For example, when stormy weather prevents you from exercising outdoors, find a way to be physically active in your house – even if that means moving the living room chairs, downloading a variety of Beyonce music and strutting like one of her backup dancers.
8. Ditch the fad diets.
According to Kara Lydon, author of “Nourish Your Namaste,” research suggests that chronically following fad diets may actually make you gain weight over the long haul. Lydon wants you to forget the cleanses, detoxes and weight loss gimmicks that never work. Save your money and focus instead on making healthy lifestyle changes such as honoring your hunger, feeling your fullness and choosing satisfying foods that will nourish you mentally and physically.
9. Mind your mindfulness.
Sarah-Jane Bedwell, host of “Cooking with Sarah-Jane,” is all about mindfulness for weight loss. She says research shows that mindful eaters eat less and claim their meals are more satisfying than people who do not eat mindfully. Here are Bedwell’s four steps to mindful eating:
- Eat sitting down, since people eat more and tend to make less healthy choices when they’re standing.
- Eat your food off of a plate rather than out of a bag or box.
- Eat only when you are truly physically hungry and not for emotional reasons.
- Eat without distractions such as the TV, a tablet, smartphone or computer.
[See: How to Stop Emotional Eating.]
10. Journal your successes.
Writing down your food intake (including portions) and physical activity is a great way to promote weight loss, according to Elisa Zied, author of “Younger Next Week.” She says being aware and accountable to yourself can be a great first step to help you identify sabotaging habits and replace them with beneficial habits to ultimately achieve and maintain long term weight loss.