Health-related goals like losing weight, and financial goals like spending less or saving more, are among the most common New Year’s resolutions each year.
Losing weight and gaining wealth might seem like incompatible goals. After all, Americans spend $33 billion on weight-loss products every year, according to the Boston Medical Center.
But you can lose weight without buying into weight-loss products or services. We’ve identified five methods supported by scientific research.
They’re all cost-free, safe and relatively simple. They involve no diets, supplements, workout equipment or whatever else the weight-loss industry might peddle to folks who’ve resolved to shed pounds in 2019.
1. Drink water before eating
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Mounting evidence suggests that drinking water before meals can aid weight loss efforts.
For example, a study published in the research journal Obesity in 2015 found that drinking 500 milliliters of water — roughly one 16-ounce glass — 30 minutes before eating their main meals can help obese adults lose weight.
Over a 12-week period, the study participants who were instructed to “preload” with water before meals lost an average of 2.87 pounds more than the participants who did not preload with water.
Study co-author Helen Parretti, a lecturer at England’s University of Birmingham, explains:
“The beauty of these findings is in the simplicity. Just drinking a pint of water, three times a day, before your main meals may help reduce your weight.”
2. Don’t stay up too late
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As we reported in “5 Ways That Being a Night Owl Can Harm Your Health,” studies have associated staying up late with consuming more calories.
In a large study published in the journal Sleep in 2013, participants whose sleep was restricted to 4 to 8 a.m. consumed more calories overall compared with those who went to bed from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. The researchers attributed this difference to the first group eating more food late at night.
3. Get enough sleep
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Getting fewer than five to six hours of sleep per night can increase your chances of weight gain, according to the Mayo Clinic. Just don’t oversleep either, as getting more than nine hours of sleep can also lead to weight gain.
So, what’s the magic number?
Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology reports that the consensus is most adults need at least seven hours per night. Here’s why:
“Researchers believe that a lack of sleep alters the release of two hormones that help your body to regulate feelings of hunger. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases more ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, and releases less leptin, which suppresses appetite. This could lead to an afternoon trip to the vending machine for a candy bar or a visit to the coffee shop for a drink filled with fat and sugar.”
4. Avoid distractions
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The American Heart Association defines “mindless eating,” in part, as eating while distracted — such as while watching TV, working at a computer or texting. The AHA continues:
“Simply put, it’s not paying attention to what we eat, which can lead to being overweight and even obesity.”
Brian Wansink, founder and director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, has written an entire book on the topic. It’s called “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.”
The solution to mindless eating is perhaps what researchers at the University of Birmingham call “attentive eating.” That means thinking about the flavor and texture of food while eating and recalling what you ate at your most recent meal, for example.
The researchers’ comprehensive study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2013, suggests that not only do people who are distracted from their meals tend to eat more at those meals, but they also tend to eat more at later snacking sessions. People who eat attentively at meals, on the other hand, snacked about 10 percent less.
The university explains:
“The evidence suggests that distracted eating reduces people’s ability to remember what they have eaten earlier in the day. Since food memories normally inhibit later appetite, distraction may increase intake later in the day by interfering with these memories.”
5. Use smaller dishes
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A comprehensive study published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research in 2016 found that the size of the plate or bowl you eat from can have a “substantial” effect on how much you eat.
Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab did not conduct the study but emphasized that using a smaller plate is more effective when you are serving your portions to yourself, such as at a buffet, rather than when you are served food by someone else.
As it turns out, serving yourself with a smaller plate leads you to serve yourself less food, which in turn leads you to eat less.
If you’re intrigued, check out the Food and Brand Lab’s Small Plate Movement challenge. It entails eating off a 10-inch plate, rather than the usual 12-inch dinner plate, at your largest meal of the day for a month.
Do you know of other ways to lose weight without spending money? Let us know below or over on our Facebook page.