The weight-loss equation is pretty simple: Eat less, burn more. However, we’re always looking for ways to beat the system that don’t involve counting calories or logging more time at the gym. And we’re not alone. There are decades of research devoted to the habits, both unusual and mundane, that aid weight loss. So thank you, scientists, for discovering these 13 easy tricks for losing weight without trying. Scroll through to see them all!
Serving the same meal on a smaller plate (think 8 to 10 inches versus 12) can help you consume 22% fewer calories, with the same amount of satisfaction. Why? It’s all an optical illusion. The eyes, not the stomach, count calories. Seeing the white space around your food makes your brain think there’s less food compared to the same amount of food on a smaller plate with no extra white space showing.
Better yet, make your small plate blue. Studies show the color blue has the least appealing contrast to most food, acting as an appetite suppressant. Unless, of course, you’re eating a blue food. The same found that people eat more when their plates matched the color of the food on it. Just don’t eat your quinoa mac ’n’ cheese on an orange plate and you’ll be good.
Eating slowly is probably the simplest trick on this list, and it comes with serious benefits. It takes the brain about 20 minutes to register fullness, so you need to give your body time to get there. One proven way to slow yourself down is to chew each bite more. A recent study found that participants who chewed each bite 40 times lost 12% more fat than participants who only chewed each bite 15 times. Yes, 40 chomps sounds like a lot, but start small (aim for 20) and work your way up to it.
Light physical activity after a meal stimulates your GLUT4 receptors (they transport glucose), causing your muscles to absorb the glucose you consumed. This prevents spikes in insulin levels, the ones that give you a burst of energy and then leave you drained and hungry shortly thereafter—just another benefit of the 10-minute walk.
You have bad fat (white fat) and you have good fat (brown fat). Brown fat burns energy (aka calories) to keep your body warm. You can activate it and thereby accelerate fat loss by exposing your body to cold temperatures. Take a cold shower, turn the thermostat down, or drink ice water. Most of your brown fat is located on your neck, chest, and upper back, so icing those areas works too.
We’re all familiar with the virtues of keeping a food journal. But if you’ve ever tried to keep one, you know it’s kind of a lot of work. Good news! A new study found a better way: photo journaling. Taking photos of everything you eat is more effective than writing it down. So download an app that makes it easy (we like YouFood, free in the App Store), start snapping, and stay accountable to your healthy diet.
The old adage rings truer than ever when it comes to junk food. If the first thing you see when you open the pantry is a box of cookies, you’re going to think about (and eventually eat) the cookies. Stash your less-than-healthy treats in the back of the cabinets and fridge. The same logic applies when you’re serving yourself a meal. Fill your plate in the kitchen, leave the rest there, and eat your meal at the table with the remaining food out of sight. Do this at restaurants (which are notorious for their too-large portions), too. Ask the server to box up half your meal before you even see the full portion. When you increase the distance between you and food, you’re more likely to listen to the feeling of fullness, rather than visual cues.
Add a pinch of cayenne pepper to your meals to boost your metabolism by up to 25% for three hours after you eat. Studies show capsaicin, the natural compound that makes spicy foods hot, also curbs hunger and cuts craving for sweet, high-fat foods.
Chewing sugar-free gum between meals acts as a short-term appetite suppressant. Studies show that at least 45 minutes of gum chewing significantly lowers feelings of hunger, appetite, and cravings for sweets. Not surprisingly, it also helps cut back on snacking. So, stock up on the Trident ($12 for a pack 12).
You probably already know that our bodies have a tendency to confuse hunger with thirst—don’t let that happen. Drink more water throughout the day and especially before meals. Drinking a large glass of water before eating has been proven to help people shed more weight than cutting calories alone. And don’t forget to take water breaks during your meals to help you avoid speed eating.
How can you make your workout more effective? First, set it to an upbeat playlist—songs with 180 beats per minute or more naturally encourage your body to move faster. Secondly, get a cup of coffee before you hit the gym. Consuming caffeine before a workout boosts endurance. Caffeine slows the release of glycogen (what our bodies use for energy to fuel exercise), which encourages your body to use fat for fuel first.
If you really want to be accountable to your goals, tell someone what they are. Research shows that you lose more weight when you use social media, like Twitter and progress-tracking apps, in conjunction with diet and exercise. Find an online community to share your successes and setbacks with to reach your goal faster. We love MyFitnessPal (free in the App Store).
It may sound cheesy, but envisioning yourself achieving a goal makes a difference. Studies show that visualizing goal attainment—cranking out those last five push-ups, crossing the finish line of a 5K, or beating your personal best time—enhances your performance. Plus, picturing how good you’re going to look in your skinny jeans once you’ve dropped those last few pounds isn’t a bad motivator either. Dream it, believe it, and achieve it.
Will you implement any of these proven weight loss–boosting tricks? Tell us which ones work for you in the comments below!