Trying to lose those pesky 10 pounds you gained on summer vacation or wondering how to prevent packing them on over the holidays? Oodles of new research has uncovered ways to trim 100 calories or more from your diet without skimping on flavor. While it doesn't sound like much, shaving off 100 calories a day could help you trim 10 or more pounds a year--even if you never set foot in the gym.
Get started today with these science-backed calorie-cutting shortcuts that'll help you maintain healthy curves all year long.
1. Dim the lights
Regardless of what you thought as a kid, it turns out the dark isn't so scary after all. A new study from Cornell University says the secret to eating less--and feeling more satisfied about what you do eat--could be as simple as turning down the lights. Researchers found people who ate a meal under soft, warm lighting consumed 175 fewer calories than those who noshed in brightly lit places. The study participants who dined under mood lighting ate 18 percent less of the food on their plates--and also rated their food "more enjoyable" than those under bright lights. Scientists think that's because the harsh fluorescent lights commonly found in fast food restaurants may create a psychological need to rush through meals and eat more--so light a candle or two at dinnertime, and you may be less stimulated to gobble up your food.
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2. Be a straight shooter
They might look stylish, but swanky, curved drinking glasses on your table could lead to saddlebags on your thighs and a spare tire around your middle. A British study found that people consumed 60 percent more alcohol, sugary sodas, and juices if the glass they drank from was curvy, rather than a straight tumbler. The researchers speculate that people drink faster from the curvy glasses because it's harder to tell when you're at the halfway point, so you reach for another drink sooner and end up consuming more.
To space out your sips and feel satisfied sooner, pour yourself a drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) in a straight-shaped glass. If you end up drinking 60 percent less than you normally would, that's about 67 calories saved at breakfast if an 8 oz glass of orange juice is a morning staple; 48 calories saved at lunch if you're sipping a sweetened iced tea; or about 40 fewer Chardonnay calories consumed at dinner or happy hour.
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3. Grab a few winks
Got a bad case of the head bobs? Several studies say you could wind up hungrier than if you were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. One study from the Mayo Clinic shows getting less than 6 ½ hours of sleep a night can lead to consuming as many as 500 excess calories in a day.
Being sleep deprived can increase how hungry you feel and lead to downing more calories than you'd eat if you weren't exhausted, says Manfred Hallschmid, PhD, department of medical psychology and behavioural neurobiology, University of Tübingen and lead researcher of a separate study on sleep and calorie consumption. "Sleep deprivation can raise levels of appetite hormones like ghrelin," he says. Surging levels of ghrerlin, the hormone that revs up your appetite, can lead to eating hundreds of extra calories than when you're well-rested, according to Dr. Hallschmid.
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4. Don't say, "I can't"
Whether you're trying to sidestep a fast food drive thru, leftover Halloween candy, or heaping plates of food at Thanksgiving, don't tell yourself what you can't eat. New research says you'll get better results if you frame it a little differently and focus on what you don't eat. "Can't" sounds more like punishment than being healthy, researchers say, and it creates a sense of self-deprivation that can tank your motivation. On the other hand, reminding yourself you "don't" eat certain foods helps steel your willpower towards a healthier lifestyle.
Case in point: When researchers divided a group of people into "can't eats" and "don't eats", 64 percent of those in the "don't" group passed up a candy bar in favor of a healthier granola bar-but only 30 percent of the "can't" group chose the healthier snack. So cut the "can'ts", and will yourself towards smaller portions of healthier food. Here are some easy ways to Pump Up Your Willpower.
5. Think thin
Think you're overweight? Think again. New research says the way you think about food and your waistline can determine your success at sticking to a healthy diet. Turns out telling yourself you're "chubby" or "very fat" decreases the odds of hitting your target goal weight, even if you're physically active.
Over a 10-year span, 59 percent of women who started out with an average body mass index of 20 but thought they were overweight, wound up packing on weight and watching their BMI swell to more than 25. That weight gain likely happened because of a self-fulfilling prophecy, says Susan Albers, psychologist at The Cleveland Clinic and the author of Eating Mindfully and 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food. "Your mindset is incredibly important in giving up or getting on track with your weight," she says. "So if you think you are not overweight, regardless of your actual weight, you will act in ways that lead you to what you already believe." And that translates to eating fewer fats and calories.
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6. Stop staring at sugar
Don't you hate when you're minding your own business, sticking to a healthy diet, and all of a sudden a craving for junk food comes along and ruins your good intentions? To help you keep those cravings in check, a new study says you should look the other way when you see pictures of high-fat, high-calorie, or sugary foods. That's because brain scans have shown that ogling pictures of high-calorie treats stimulates parts of the brain that control hunger and the reward center, says Kathleen Page, MD, assistant professor of medicine at USC and the study's lead author.
What should you do when TV commercials flash images of high-calorie foods? Head to the kitchen and take a peek at some healthy foods to shut down the reward center of your brain.
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7. Wet your whistle
You're more likely to crave veggies than greasy French fries, chips or other foods high in fat and calories if you pair a meal with water instead of caloric beverages. Researchers at the University of Oregon say that food-drink pairings can influence the type of food choices we make and the amount of calories we eat. In the study, adults who paired a meal with water were more likely to eat their vegetables and make other healthy food choices than if they sipped on soda. Additionally, more participants named water as the best drink to pair with healthy, low-calorie foods, while soda scored high as the best drink to accompany pizza or fries. Pour yourself a tall glass of water, not soda, before your meals, and your appetite may follow suit.
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8. Look forward to eating
Are you jonesing for lunch? Got Thanksgiving dinner or other meals on your mind? Go ahead, keep fantasizing! Dr. Hallschmid says anticipating a meal can actually lower your body's levels of ghrelin, the appetite hormone. In a study he conducted, he found that looking forward to and thinking about a meal before you sidle up to the table helps reign in ghrelin levels, so people consumed less calories during the meal. "Looking forward to eating could have a positive effect on food intake control because it leads to feeling full sooner, and sustaining that feeling of full so you don't seek out high-calorie snacks," says Dr. Hallschmid.
More: 10 Ways to Lose the Last 10 Pounds
-By Gina-Roberts Grey, Prevention
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Lose pounds and inches and watch your Belly Flatten!