While healthy eating and exercise are the best ways to stay in good shape, sometimes we could all do with a little helping hand. If you're bored of conventional diet advice and fancy trying something new, check out these seven strange tricks that will help you to lose weight.
Eat in front of a mirror
Researchers from Arizona State University and Erasmus University Rotterdam found that watching ourselves eat can be a powerful trigger to consume less. During their experiments, the researchers placed a mirror in front of participants and found that those eating in front of a mirror consumed less food. The researchers believe that this is because seeing ourselves eat makes us more aware of our bodies and that we do not want to watch ourselves overeat.
Choose male eating companions
If you want to cut down on your food consumption when dining out, research suggests that opting for male eating companions could help you to consume less food. Researchers from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the University of Akron found that both men and women consumed fewer calories when dining with men than with women. The researchers believe that this is because we are more aware of our gender when around the opposite sex and women restrict their eating to appear "more feminine" while men eat more around women to appear "more masculine".
Pay with cash
According to a study by researchers at Cornell and Binghamton Universities, your credit card could be making you fat. While it has been known for a while that we are more likely to splash the cash when we are paying by card than by coins, the study results found that paying with plastic also has disastrous results for your waistline, as people are more likely to buy junk food and "vice" products - which tend to be impulse purchases - when paying by card. To keep off the pounds and save yourself some money, draw out enough cash for the day and then leave your cards at home.
Sugar cravings ruining your diet? Then lighting a vanilla candle or spritzing on some vanilla-scented perfume could help to keep you slim. A study at St George's hospital, south London, found that putting vanilla-scented patches on the back of participants' hands significantly reduced their appetite for sweet foods and drinks. It is believed that this is because the smell of vanilla can help to suppress sweet cravings.
Never eat in your pyjamas
While eating in your pyjamas will not necessarily make you fat (although late-night snacking can certainly be a diet-killer for many of us), wearing loose clothing such as baggy lounge pants and pyjamas can lead you to snack more. This is because baggy clothes give you the illusion of being slimmer and make you think less about your figure. While it is inadvisable to dress in uncomfortably restrictive clothes for your meals, wearing slightly more fitted clothes can help you to think more about your body and is also a better indicator of fat loss or gain than getting weighed on the scales.
Kit your kitchen out in blue
Blue is not only a perfect calming color for your bedroom walls, it is also an ideal kitchen color scheme for those trying to lose weight. It is believed that green and blue shades act as an appetite suppressant (while yellow and red stimulate the appetite) so opt for blue dishes, table cloths or walls in your dining area to help keep your hunger at bay.
Sign up to Facebook
If you haven't yet got onboard with the Facebook phenomenon, research suggests that signing up to the site could help you to lose weight. With the constant lurking danger of being tagged in an unflattering photo and our fat days being broadcast for all to see, social media sites have become a huge weight loss trigger for many of us. In fact, a study by Fitbit identified unflattering Facebook photos as the new number one weight loss trigger for Brits, overtaking preparing for the beach and not being able to squeeze into a favourite dress as the leading motivation for getting in shape.
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<strong>Why that's BS: </strong> It depends on the type of fats you're eating, says Tricia Psota, RD, a nutritionist based in Washington D.C. "Fats in chips, cookies, and greasy foods can increase cholesterol and your risk for certain diseases. But good fats, like nuts, avocados and salmon, protect your heart and support your overall health." And when paired with a healthy diet, the right fats can help keep you from being, well, fat, adds Sharon Palmer, RD, author of The Plant-Powered Diet.
<strong>Why that's BS:</strong> Eating in small, frequent amounts is a great way to curb hunger, control portion sizes, and make better nutritional choices, says Mike Clancy, CDN, a personal trainer at David Barton's Gym in New York City. "Smarter snacks like nuts, fruits, and yogurt will keep your energy levels high throughout the day." (Need proof? Our 400 Calorie Fix plan -- which involves three or four meals plus snacks -- can help you lose 11 pounds in just two weeks!)
<strong>Why that's BS:</strong> "Not all calories are the same," says Clancy. "The type of calories, the timing of the calories, and the quality of the calories can significantly alter the effect of the calories on the body," he says. "Food creates reactions within our bodies and the type of food you eat is an important component in diets." For example, 50 calories of an apple will cause a different internal reaction than 50 calories of cheesecake, says Clancy. "The quality of the calories is also important because the chemicals, hormones, and general byproducts that are found within processed food effects the absorption of real nutrients." Quality calories are nutrient dense, like spinach. Calories that don't contain any nutrients -- also known as "empty" calories -- are like the ones found in French fries. Bottom line: Calories are important for understanding portion control, but they’re not the only factor in good nutrition, says Clancy.
<strong>Why that's BS:</strong> The research on carbohydrate intake is often misinterpreted, says Chrissy Carroll, MPH, RD, founder of Inspired Wellness Solutions, LLC. "Yes, it is true that excessive intakes of refined carbohydrates, like white bread or white rice, may lead to weight gain or increased cardiovascular risk. But there is no research suggesting that healthy carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, or legumes, can negatively impact health or weight. On the contrary, many studies suggest a diet high in these plant-based foods is associated with better overall health." Case in point: A 2002 American College of Nutrition study that found replacing refined grains with whole-grain and minimally processed grain products, along with increasing the intake of fruits and veggies, can help lower dietary glycemic load and insulin demand. This, in turn, can ultimately reduce the risk of both type 2 diabetes and heart disease, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, manager of wellness nutrition services for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. So, keep the carbs! And aim for those that come from 100% whole grains or fruits, adds Kirkpatrick.
<strong>Why that's BS: </strong>Sorry, caveman lovers: eating lots of protein is not the key to healthy weight loss. Why? The body needs three macronutrients: Protein, carbohydrates, and fat, says Rania Batayneh, MPH, a nutritionist and author of the forthcoming The One One One Diet (published by Rodale, which also publishes Prevention), and focusing exclusively on protein for weight loss makes no sense. "You not only deprive your body of fiber and other antioxidants found in healthy carbohydrates -- whole grains, fruits, and veggies -- but you also run the risk of eating too much fat in your diet which can lead to high cholesterol and triglycerides.”
<strong>Why that's BS: </strong>There's no scientific evidence that gluten is a particularly fattening ingredient, says Palmer. "The problem is that we eat too many refined grains -- foods made of white flour or other refined grains," she says. And cutting gluten without checking with your doctor first can lead to deficiencies in important nutrients, such as fiber, iron, vitamin B12 and magnesium, says MaryAnne Metzak, CDN, a nutritionist in Southampton, NY. In the meantime, focus on getting healthy whole grains in moderate portions.
<strong>Why that's BS:</strong> Working out with or without food in your stomach doesn't affect calorie burn -- but skipping meals before sweat sessions may result in muscle loss, finds a study published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal. And before you settle for a sports drink, know this: While a quick sip of sugar energizes your muscles, the drink’s other artificial additives can be harmful to your health, says Sanda Moldovan, DDS, MS, CNS, a diplomat of the American Academy of Periodontology. Instead, go for naturally sweet fruit, like bananas, peaches, and mangos before your sweat session. Or try an ounce of dark chocolate for the same caffeine fix you get from a half cup of coffee. "Chocolate also contains feel-good substances, called neurotransmitters, which are the same release during a 'runner's high,' " says Moldovan.
<strong>Why that's BS:</strong> Going four or five (or even eight!) hours between normally-sized meals will not make your metabolism slow down, says Monica Reinagel, MS, a nutritionist based in Baltimore. "Eating more frequently may help stave off hunger, which can help you fight temptation. But if you want to do this, you have to be careful to keep your meals and snacks really small," she says. "Otherwise, eating every 2 hours can simply lead to taking in too many calories over the course of the day."
<strong>Why that's BS: </strong>Throwing caution to the wind on the weekends can offset the consistency and success you had all week, says Batayneh. "On the weekends, we tend to sleep in, maybe missing our workout, typically drink more alcohol and have heavier meals. So if you lose about one pound between Monday and Friday, you just might gain it back -- or at least maintain it, really taking away the efforts towards weight loss." Which means if you're trying to lose weight, the weekends shouldn't be a free-for-all. You still need a plan, says Batayneh. Some suggestions: passing on the bread basket and limiting yourself to one cocktail.
<strong>Why that's BS:</strong> "We tend to be in 'all or nothing' mode when we diet and never seem to find a middle ground," says Batayneh. "You have to realize that you can’t have pizza, French fries, and chocolate cake all in the same day, but -- with careful planning -- you can enjoy these foods when they are presented to you. Just don’t go for seconds and share if you can." In fact, research shows that moderately indulging in "forbidden foods" is what keeps people from bingeing on the stuff.
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