When it comes to losing fat, it can be so easy to get caught up with big numbers:
“I’ve got to lose 120 pounds.”
“Two dress sizes down, 10 more to go!”
“Today’s goal? Burn 1,000 calories.”
We get so obsessed (and as a result, stressed out) with losing big that we forget about the little wins that add up to create big results. Here’s how you can tap into five, easy-to-follow, but powerful habits that can change your body in big ways:
1. Eat more slowly.
Many of us can chow down a hot dog in two minutes flat. What’s the problem with eating this quickly? You’ll wind up wolfing down those extra large fries, a root beer float and apple pie before you realize you’re totally stuffed.
A study by researchers at the University of Rhode Island investigated the relationship between how quickly one eats and the amount of food they consume, found that fast eaters consumed a whopping 55% more food per minute compared to the slow eaters.
Slowing down your meal helps you counter this outcome by allowing you to plug into your body’s satiety cues, giving it time to figure out that it’s had enough food. In practice, this means setting aside 15 to 20 minutes to have your meal. Enjoy how your food smells and tastes, savor each mouthful by chewing mindfully, put your fork down between bites, breathe and give yourself room to feel nourished and filled up.
2. Follow hara hachi bu, or eat until you’re 80% full.
Translated into English, this Japanese term literally means “belly 80 percent full,” and refers to a way of eating that’s practiced by the residents of Okinawa, Japan.
While it’s difficult to quantify what 80 percent is (this is where eating slowly comes in), there’s a simple way to put this into practice: stop eating when you’re no longer hungry. It’s simple!
3. Compose your meal.
A doughnut here, a slice of cake there — unnecessary calories you chow down haphazardly throughout the day can add up quickly, especially when they’re from multiple sources that you’re likely to forget about.
Here’s how I combat this issue: I place all of the components of my meal on a plain, white plate, just as an artist would paint on a blank canvas. By ‘composing’ my meal, I have a bird’s-eye view of the amount of protein, carbs, vegetables and fat that I'm eating.
This way, if you’re overdoing it with one type of nutrient (carbs, for example), you’ll know immediately. You’ll also find it so much easier to keep track of your overall calorie intake and decide which food items to scale down or up on at your next meal.
4. Learn how to time your carbs correctly.
Knowing which type of carbs to eat — and when to eat them is crucial for fat loss.
Swap foods like pasta, white rice and bread with whole-grain, unprocessed carb sources like quinoa, millet, barley, amaranth and wild rice, all of which are high in fiber and low in simple sugars, allowing them to be digested slowly for long-lasting energy.
The best time to eat them? After an intense workout, when your body is primed for replenishing lost energy and recovery.
5. Up your protein intake.
Confused about all the hype about protein? Here’s why you need it to slim down: protein keeps your metabolism humming, controls your appetite, helps you develop and maintain lean muscle and improves your fitness performance.
In fact, a paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that 60 overweight and obese people who were put on a high-protein diet over six months experienced double the fat loss of those who were put on a moderate-protein diet.
Similar studies have also found that high-protein eaters were not only able to stick to their new diet longer, they successfully maintained their weight loss beyond a 12-month period.
A simple rule of thumb to getting enough protein into your diet is to add a palm-sized portion of chicken, fish, beef or other protein source of your choice, to each of your meals if you’re a woman, and if you’re a man, go for two palm-sized portions.