Here Are 15 Weird Weight-Loss Tricks That Really Work
POP A VITAMIN
In a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers assigned 96 obese women to take a multivitamin, calcium supplement, or placebo for 26 weeks. The vitamin group wound up with significantly less body fat than the others. “It’s possible that some people eat more because they’re seeking out certain nutrients,” says Louis J. Aronne, director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City. Although taking a vitamin alone isn’t a valid weight-loss plan, he says, doing so might reduce the need to consume as much food.
Happy hour cocktails or dinners out are essentially invitations to overeat. Snag a spot at the end of the table if you can, because “the center seats are where the bread, chips, and other sharing plates usually wind up.
Your inbox can be a useful place to find nutrition email blasts. “They’re crammed with clever tricks,” says New York City nutritionist Joy Bauer, author of Joy Bauer’s Food Cures (Rodale), who sends out her own daily tip sheet through joybauer.com. A fan of subscription snail-mail publications such as theTufts Health & Nutrition Newsletter and the Harvard Health Letter, in addition to weightwatchers.com’s free email newsletter, she cites a Kaiser Permanente study that found people who read weekly wellness newsletters ate more fresh produce and fewer trans fats after 16 weeks, as well as exercised more.
Experiencing more darkness at night could make your body lighter. Researchers at Ohio State University found that mice who sleep in total darkness are far less prone to obesity than those who snooze in bright light or dim illumination (e.g., a TV screen). Laura Fonken, a neuroscience student who led the study, says that the mice who slept with light exposure ate at odd times (the equivalent of late-night eating).
After an unhealthy meal, don’t give yourself a hard time, says Kristin Neff, an associate professor of human development and culture at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of Self-Compassion (William Morrow). Dieters are prone to overeating in response to stress—including guilt about what they’ve eaten.
The average adult spends a whopping five hours a day in front of the television. When researchers used an electronic lock-out system to force television hounds to watch 50 percent less, the participants burned an average of 119 more calories per day.
Food that revs your metabolism sounds like the stuff of late-night infomercials. But Bauer notes that unprocessed whole foods “require more energy to break down and digest than refined foods, so you burn more calories when you eat them.” Simple swaps—brown rice instead of white, an apple instead of bottled juice—can make a significant difference over time in overall body fat.
An ice-cream buffet was the setting for one study led by Brian Wansink, director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab. Nutrition professors and grad students were given either 17- or 34-ounce bowls and two- or three-ounce scoops. People with the oversize bowls served themselves about 31 percent more than the small-bowl groups did. And those who had big scoops and big bowls served 57 percent more than those with small ones.
When researchers put a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper in a bowl of soup, people ate 60 fewer calories at the next meal on average, compared to people who ate plain soup with or without a cayenne-pepper pill, according to the study at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Scientists say cayenne seems to rev metabolism when consumed in food, as opposed to pill form.
In the fight against fat, restricting carbohydrates may not be as important as timing intake of them. In a 2011 Israeli study, 100 obese people went on a diet of roughly 20 percent protein, 30 percent fat, and 50 percent carbohydrates. Group one ate starches throughout the day; group two saved most carbohydrates for dinner. Six months later, group two reported feeling fuller during the day and had lost more weight, body fat, and abdominal inches.
As virtuous as that 60-minute kettlebell class feels, “it’s very difficult to exercise off weight,” Aronne says. “All the evidence shows that you need to reduce calorie intake to lose weight.” But aside from its benefits for cardiovascular and mental health, exercise is key after you’ve dropped several pounds, because “your muscles compensate by burning fewer calories,” Aronne warns. A mix of cardio and toning five times a week will keep the metabolism humming.
A somewhat chilly bedroom could improve both your sleep and your metabolism. An article in Obesity Reviews noted that the average indoor temperature has ticked upward during the past few decades. What’s more, most of us keep the thermostat steady throughout the house, preventing the body from experiencing as many dips in temperature—and from having to stoke its own calorie-burning furnace. “Sleeping in a chillier room is a great way to force your body to heat itself up for hours,” Aronne says. “You will burn calories keeping yourself warm.”
A 2010 study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, which followed more than 19,000 women for an average of 13 years, found that those who had one to two alcoholic drinks daily put on fewer pounds than nondrinkers and heavy drinkers. Weight gain was lowest among wine drinkers. While the researchers can’t definitively explain this, they say that the subjects who sipped a glass or two ate fewer calories—and that women burn more calories after drinking than men do.
Regularly using sugar substitutes may make you feel saintly, but it’s hell on your waistline, research suggests. Rats fed sugar alternatives, such as zero-calorie saccharin, eventually gained more weight than those fed sugar. Scientists speculate that because fake sugar doesn’t come with additional calories, the confused digestive system fails to burn calories and regulate food intake the way it would with the real stuff. Bottom line: You’re best off with small amounts of natural sugar, such as yogurt with fruit.
For some people who take medicine to control allergies, weight gain may be as common a complaint as a runny nose or itchy eyes. People on antihistamines are ten pounds heavier on average than their unmedicated counterparts, Joseph Ratliff, a postdoctoral associate in Yale School of Medicine’s psychiatry department, has found. This could be because H1-type antihistamines (such as Claritin or Allegra) block the immune system’s histamines, which play a role in appetite and fat breakdown. Allergy shots or corticosteroids are possible alternatives, but those whose symptoms are best controlled by antihistamines may have to adjust their diet or exercise to compensate.