We're one third into the first month of the new year, and if you're anything like us, you're probably already chewing your nails over how to reach those ambitious fitness and weight loss goals you so confidently scribbled in your 2018 diaries.
Sounds familiar? We bet it does.
While we can't haul you out from under the blankets and drop you off at the gym, what we can do is give you low-effort dieting hacks that can help take you over the finishing line, when it comes to weight loss goals. Here are several of our top tricks.
Drink water, not other drinks
This includes so-called healthy drinks like packaged juices, fruit smoothies, or sports drinks. If you're on a strict diet with only a specific number of calories allowed in a day, you don't want to use them up on drinks - they won't satiate you (neither psychologically, nor physiologically), add sodium to your system, and will eat into your quota of calories and, invariably, lead to you falling off the wagon and binge-eating something you will later regret. Save the calories for something rich in fibre, it will keep you away from food a lot longer. Plus, drinking all that water is bound to improve your skin, flush out your system and get you out of the habit of mistaking thirst for hunger. It really doesn't get better than that. Add lime, mint leaves, or even wedges of fruits in a bottle with an infuser so that it doesn't get boring.
Drink coffee half-an-hour before working out
Yes, really. Drinking a cup of black coffee, or adding just a tiny bit of skimmed milk to it will help you burn calories faster while you work out. This works in two ways: first, the coffee will wake you up properly, making you more alert and focussed during your workout. And second, more importantly, it gives your metabolism a boost, making your body use your fat as the primary source of energy during the workout, instead of glycogen, which comes from carbs.
Keep a food diary
Calories have a way of sneaking past our minds and into our bodies without us realising it. Keeping a food diary is a great way to understand what you're doing wrong, if you've been dieting for a while without any success. Maybe you're eating too late in the night, not giving your body enough time to break down the food. Or starting the day on an empty stomach and eating big meals as the day progress. Research shows that people who keep a food diary tend to eat 15 percent less than those who don't. Maybe it's something to do with the act of writing it down that makes us more careful. Whatever the reason, if it works, whyever not?
Stay away from breakfast buffets on weekends
Weekends are when most of us end up either drinking or having a cheat day. Now, it's not practical to ask you to give up all your alcohol - how long can you sustain such a regimen anyway? But at least stay away from breakfast buffets, and opt for a healthy protein breakfast to start the day. Aim for a 300-calorie breakfast to keep you feeling full for a while. Typically, food in buffets is not fresh, of the best quality, and is likely to be high on baking soda, so you feel fuller, faster. Avoid.
Put your silverware down while eating
It takes about 15 to 20 minutes for your brain to send your stomach the signal that you're full and don't need to eat more. Give your brain that time to process. Putting your spoon or fork down will make you eat more slowly, allowing your stomach and brain to work in sync. Talking to friends and family - in person, not on the phone - will also force you to eat at a slower pace. The fact that you'll end up swapping happy/stressful stories from the day and make each other feel better is a great added bonus.
Don't give up desserts completely
Eating a spoonful of ice cream, or a small piece of chocolate every day is far better than getting fed up of a sugar-less existence and stuffing your face with cupcakes when the craving takes over your senses. Knowing that there's a little treat to be had every day will make it easier for you to stick to your diet.
Turn up the spice
If you're a fan of spicy food, your taste buds are in for a treat. Spices add flavour to the food, without the calories and fire up your metabolism, making your body burn calories faster. If the choice is between a creamy pasta and a spicy tomatoe-y pasta (whole-wheat, please!), you know which way to go, and why.