You can barely get through a week of network news without hearing something about America’s obesity epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese – and our kids are right behind us, as one out of every three kids is now overweight or obese.
Considering such numbers, you might imagine that a large portion of the population is on some kind of diet. And, you’d be right: 25% of men and 45% of women in the United States are on a diet on any given day. We’re on a crusade to lose weight. However, being overweight and unhealthy can take its toll on our wallets. The American Heart Association has reported that overweight men spend more on prescription drugs that normal-weight men. Other research has determined that overweight and obese adults are less productive, miss more work, and spend far more on medical care than fit adults.
Fortunately, there are many simple ways you can cut calories, expend more energy, and drop pounds without spending a fortune. That’s good news for both your wallet and your waistline.
Simple Tips to Lose Weight
You might be wondering whether it’s possible to cut calories without losing flavor – but there are plenty of easy ways to do so and still be satisfied.
1. Use Smaller Plates
Using smaller plates and bowls means there’s less space to fill up with food to make your plate look full. With this approach, it’s likely you could eat 20% less, and chances are you’ll feel just as full, especially if you eat slow. This also helps avoid portion distortion.
2. Skip Sodas and Juice
Today, the average American consumes 20% of his or her daily calories through liquids, and unfortunately, many of these are empty calories that come from sodas, coffee beverages, and large juice drinks and smoothies. Stick with water or skim milk to reduce your caloric intake vastly every day. Drinking water regularly throughout the day can help you feel more hydrated as well.
3. Use Cooking Spray
Using cooking spray can cut numerous calories and fat from the food you prepare at home. For instance, you may put two spoonfuls of butter or margarine in a pan when cooking eggs for breakfast. If you switch to cooking spray, you could save 34 calories or more each meal. Over time, this adds up.
4. Skip the Dressing
Instead of drenching your salad with creamy dressing, use oil (lightly) or vinegar (which is calorie-free). You can save more than 100 calories per salad this way.
5. Trim Your Pizza
When I order pizza, I get it with extra sauce, and light cheese, which cuts a ton of fat and calories – and, in my opinion, makes the pie tastier since it’s not as greasy and heavy. You can also trim calories by getting toppings such as mushrooms, olives, or other veggies, rather than sausage or pepperoni.
6. Eat Healthy Snacks
There’s nothing worse than getting that 3pm urge to snack – if it arrives and you are unprepared, you may grab something quick from a vending machine. Most of those foods are high in sugar, sodium, and empty calories.
To refrain from eating junk food, simply keep healthy snacks at your desk. Snacks such as almonds or walnuts, fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain crackers, and peanut butter are all good choices. Just be sure you watch how much you eat – although they’re good for you, nuts are high in calories. Eating more than a handful can add significant calories to your diet.
7. Shop the Perimeter of the Grocery Store
The outer perimeter of grocery stores is where the healthiest and lowest-calorie foods are located. Here is where you’ll find foods such as fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, and yogurt. If you want to cut calories, avoid the middle of the store, where all the processed foods are. Especially avoid the aisles of sodas, chips, and candy.
8. Identify Your Triggers
I write from home full-time, and I always used to head down to the kitchen when I was working on a really challenging article. Taking a walk to the kitchen and rummaging through the refrigerator or the cupboards was my way of taking a break. However, all these trips to the kitchen added up to hundreds of extra calories throughout the day. Once I realized what I was doing, I made myself stop. Now when I need a break, I stretch out on the floor in my office or walk around. Unless I’m actually hungry, the kitchen is off-limits.
You may be more at risk for mindless eating in the following situations:
- Whenever you feel bored, sad, or tired
- When someone brings donuts to the staff meeting at work
- Before or after a stressful meeting at work, or any other stressful event
- After arriving home from work with nothing planned for dinner
- While watching television
Once you’ve identified when you’re most at risk for mindless eating, figure out how to stop the behavior or avoid the situation altogether. Limit yourself to eating only when you are hungry – not as a way to deal with stress or boredom.
While cutting calories is important, getting substantial exercise may be even more crucial if you wish to lose weight. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, research has shown that sedentary adults have a three-fold increased mortality risk when compared to fit adults. Furthermore, it has been proven that the less you exercise, the more at risk you are for certain diseases.
The National Library of Medicine states that most adults need at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five times per week. Here are several ways you can squeeze more exercise into your daily routine.
9. Use an Exercise Ball at Work
As I write this, I’m at my desk where I sit for eight hours a day. However, I’m not hunched over like a soft potato – I’m bobbing up and down, rolling around, and balancing. I’m also having a lot of fun. This is because I sit on a Gaiam exercise ball all day. According to some experts, using an exercise ball instead of a regular desk chair can help you burn an additional 350 calories per day. Furthermore, your legs, back, and core get toned because you’re constantly using them to balance yourself.
Sitting on an exercise ball all day is great – I can tell I’m getting exercise, and I’ve seen a noticeable difference in my abs and back strength. You can get even more exercise if you sit on the ball as you would a horse with no stirrups. Grip the ball with your thighs, and make sure your feet aren’t touching the floor. This takes a lot of balance, and requires your stomach to work especially hard at first. You can make it even more challenging by going a minute or more without touching your desk with your hands – this is great to do when you’re reading. And when you finish work, sit on an exercise ball while watching TV.
10. Follow a Dream
Have you always wanted to learn how to surf, rock climb, or belly dance? Do you wish you had the endurance to swim a mile? Would you like to treasure hunt with a metal detector?
The great thing about exercise is that often it doesn’t feel like exercise, especially when doing something you have great interest in. If there’s an activity you’ve always wanted to learn, then go do it. It will feel great to fulfill a dream – burning extra calories is simply a bonus.
11. Walk at Lunch
Instead of standing in line at a fast food joint or spending your lunch hour at a restaurant, why not eat a healthy lunch and then go for a walk? You can save a lot of money by bringing lunch to work instead of buying food every day, and you can make much healthier, low-calorie choices.
If your lunch break is short, eat and walk at the same time. Pack a sandwich, an apple, and carrot sticks, all of which are easy to eat while walking.
12. Buy a Push Mower
Motor-less push mowers (also called reel mowers) are the mowers most people used 50 years ago – they require you to expend energy pushing the mower, rather than relying on gasoline combustion. Using this type of lawnmower is a great way to get additional exercise doing a chore you have to do anyway. Plus, reel mowers save you money since they don’t require gasoline – and they’re much friendlier to the environment.
13. Sign up for an Athletic Event or League
Signing up for a charity run is an excellent way to force yourself to get some exercise – plus, you can help raise money for a great cause. If the next charitable fun run won’t take place in your area for a while, consider playing a sport. Most towns and cities have adult leagues for a range of sports, such as softball, soccer, kickball, and touch football. Check with the parks and recreation department in your area to see what’s available.
If competing isn’t your thing, you still have plenty of options. Go for a hike, buy a trampoline, skip rope, or jump on a pogo stick. Break out your old skateboard or roller skates, or hop on a bike. Rediscover activities that you may have once loved, and let yourself feel like a kid again.
14. Become Inefficient
A major reason Americans get so much less exercise than in years past is that there are tons of gadgets that do all the work we used to. In the name of productivity and efficiency, we’re getting fat. So, look for ways to be inefficient at home and at work. For instance, when you get water at the office cooler, only fill your glass up halfway. This forces you to go back twice as often for refills. When you have clutter that needs to be put away upstairs, bring up one item at a time instead of coming up with an entire armload. You’ll make more trips, and will find that your heart rate increases too.
15. Stop Watching TV
The average American watches more than five hours of television every day. So why not cancel your cable to spend more time doing other things, such as exercising and cooking healthy meals? Even if you cut just 30 minutes to one hour of TV time each night, you can use that time to hit the gym or jog around the neighborhood.
More Quick Ways to Get More Exercise
There are countless additional ways you can both cut and burn calories that take little to no effort. For instance:
- Skip the elevator at work and always take the stairs.
- Park as far from the store or your office as you can.
- Don’t call your colleagues. Instead, walk to their offices if you need to talk.
- Don’t use a leaf blower – raking gives you far more exercise. The same goes for using a broom instead of a vacuum cleaner.
- If you use public transportation, get off one stop early and walk the rest of the way.
- Take your dog for a walk.
- Do pushups and situps during commercial breaks.
- Keep weights at your desk and do arm lifts and flexes while you’re working.
- If you have a stationary bike or treadmill you’re not using, move it out of that dark corner and put it right in your living room, perhaps in front of the TV. Walk or bike while your favorite show is on.
- Use a kitchen timer at work and make sure it goes off every 60 minutes. When it does, get up and walk for three minutes around the office. By doing so, you can walk an extra 24 minutes every day.
Statistics show that most Americans try to diet or lose weight at one point or another. However, focusing on long-term health and fitness is a superior approach. Try to make a habit of exercising and eating right – not just to lose weight, but also to feel better and live longer. It can be hard at first. In fact, it took years for me to do it in my own life. But now proper nutrition and exercise are always on my mind and part of my routine. Just keep at it, and if you fall off the wagon, pick yourself up and get back on. It’s well worth the effort.
What other tips can you suggest to help lose weight?