We all know the main ingredients for losing weight: exercise more, eat more healthily, eat less junk food.
However, these tips are too general and inaccessible for many. The first step is always the hardest, and we might put these in the ‘too hard’ basket before giving them a proper try and establishing a routine.
What we need are more specific, small (and achievable) goals that we can easily integrate into our day-to-day lives. Once these goals become the norm, it’s easier to set new ones and slowly move towards those big goals.
Before we know it, we’ll be following those three essential, not-so-scary-anymore ingredients for healthy weight loss without even knowing it.
With this in mind, here are eight weight loss tips you haven’t heard of yet, which you can easily start following right now.
This might sound odd, but according to Michael Mosley, a doctor and journalist known for creating the successful 5:2 Fast Diet, people who fidget — so, those who can’t sit still, move around excitedly, get up from their desk every 10 minutes, or constantly stretch — tend to burn a lot more calories per day.
“Some people burn a lot of calories simply by twitching or fidgeting. Some people are restless and get up and roam around,” Mosley told The Huffington Post Australia.
“I think the secret to weight control is broadly that — it’s much more about boosting your NEAT than it is about exercise.”
NEAT refers to non-exercise activity thermogenesis and is the energy we expend for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. This includes activities like gardening, walking up stairs or fidgeting.
“One of the best ways to boost your NEAT is simply being more on-the-go all the time,” Mosley said.
“If you’re standing you burn three times as many calories as you do sitting. If you walk up the stairs instead of using the escalator or lift, that will make a difference.”
2. Practise your balance
Personal trainer and fascia stretch therapist Tegan Haining recommends focusing on building balance — not just in the mind, but literally in your body.
“A balanced body means you can have faster reflexes. This means how quickly the message gets from your brain, through the body’s nervous system, into the body to tell it what you want to do,” Haining told HuffPost Australia.
“You may measure this by how well you can hold positions on a yoga mat, or how quickly you recover from a stumble on a trail run. How good is your balance and body control?”
Improving balance can shape your workouts to challenge your body in new ways, leading to an increase in rapid changes in your shape, Haining said.
“Perhaps you include some hurdle drills to test your agility and coordination, or single leg Romanian deadlifts into your weight training to improve joint stability.
“Medicine balls and rotational movements based on speed are a favourite of mine. Think jumping lunges with alternating medicine ball twists.
“The more balance in your body, the more effective your workouts — increasing speed and power which in turn increases the fat burning and progress you will see.”
3. Be mindful of trendy drinks
While that fancy cold-pressed juice or large matcha latte once a day is a tempting beverage choice, Mosley encourages people to be cautious of hidden calories.
“Really look at the calorie content of the fluids you’re drinking,” Mosley said. “Fruit juices have a lot of calories and make no difference whatsoever to your appetite.”
This is because fruit juice contains little fibre (the nutrient that helps us feel full) from the original whole fruit.
“If I ate four apples before a meal, I would eat much less at that meal. If I drank a fruit juice, it would make no difference at all,” Mosley explained.
“When you drink fruit juice, the sugar delivery systems are going ‘bang!’ and is rapidly absorbed, gives you sugar high and you’re hungry an hour later. They don’t hang around in your stomach at all, unlike food which does.”
We are sometimes consumed by the marketing these drinks portray.
Todd Liubinskas, a personal trainer and expert for Body Science, said to also watch out for ‘vitamin flavoured water’ and milk in your coffees, matcha lattes and so on.
“All have excess calories that we don’t consider when we consume. Think about how much you would drink per day or per week,” Liubinskas said.
“We are sometimes consumed by the marketing these drinks portray. Be mindful of the calories in these drinks, coupled with the sugar content.”
4. Find a hobby you love
Often we hear ‘find a type of exercise you love’, but that can be easier said than done. A different way of going about it, which increases your NEAT for the long-term, is finding a hobby you enjoy.
Whether it’s gardening, surfing or baking, having a hobby you’re passionate about not only helps increase the amount of energy you burn, but also helps distract you from boredom eating.
“Keeping busy and concentrating on a project or enjoyable task can distract the brain from wanting to eat,” nutritionist Fiona Tuck told HuffPost Australia.
“Boredom is often a trigger for overeating. Painting, colour books, writing and meditation are good ways of distracting the mind from food.”
5. Get even more rest and sleep
We know how important sleep is for muscle recovery, mood and concentration. But more research is coming out showing a strong link between poor sleep and increased junk food cravings.
“Get a good night’s sleep. If you don’t get sleep it disrupts your blood sugar levels quite badly and you’re much more likely to seek out sugary, carby foods to eat,” Mosley said.
“We did a study on that and without telling the people why, on average they ate around 120 calories more on the days when their sleep was disrupted. You do it unconsciously.”
Having rest days and ‘lighter’ exercise days can also be helpful for controlling your appetite.
“Don’t train so hard. Easing off the intense sessions suppresses the ghrelin (‘I’m always hungry’) hormone,” nutritionist and personal trainer Moodi Dennaoui said.
“Sticking to your clean eating regime is a lot easier when ghrelin is suppressed, so choose less intense forms of training at least every other day, particularly if your weight loss has plateaued.”
Having trouble getting to sleep? These little tricks can help.
6. Don’t trust the gym machines (or fitness trackers)
There’s nothing more satisfying than hopping on a machine at the gym and seeing you’ve burned 350 calories. That’s burned off that Nutella doughnut, right? Bad news — those machines are probably lying.
“People often exercise to compensate for eating more and moving less during the day. They go down to the gym, do half an hour on the treadmill and think that’s enough, and go off and have a muffin,” Mosley said.
“But the figures they give on gym machines for the amount of calories you burn is completely unreliable. We looked into that and they are mind bogglingly inaccurate. They exaggerate wildly.”
The same goes for fitness trackers, unfortunately. In fact, some trackers are inaccurate 23.5 percent of the time.
It’s best to focus on the type of activity, minutes spent exercising, eating a sensible amount of calories and going by how you feel.
7. Skip the ‘zero sugar’ or ‘zero calorie’ beverages
If you’ve swapped to the zero sugar version of your favourite soft drink to save calories, science says it’s not as effective as you think.
“We have this illusion that if you have a zero calorie drink it’s somehow better, but your brain goes ‘hey, I’m expecting sugar’, prepares your body for it, doesn’t get it and there’s quite a lot of evidence to say that people then compensate by eating more,” Mosley said.
“The brain was expecting those calories, they didn’t arrive and that’s again why those zero calorie drinks are not helpful. There have been conflicting studies but broadly, that doesn’t appear to be the way to go.
“Your brain and body are not so easily fooled. They’ve been evolving for a few million years and have got a few tricks.”
8. Change your perspective
When you start a fitness or diet regime, it’s easy to get caught up in numbers and what you look like on the outside. But when we don’t see results, which is normal and inevitable at some point, we start to lose motivation.
“Change your perception. Telling yourself that you love all your bits and love your body for all that it provides is one step closer to self appreciation and love,” founder of Barre Attack Renee Scott told HuffPost Australia.
“I’m amazed at how many people I see lose heaps of weight when they change their mindset to loving their body. Meditation, yoga, Pilates and barre can also help with this positive mental transition.”
This article was originally published in the Huffington Post.