About 750 years ago, a British philosopher and scholar named William of Ockham came up with a theory that can best be summarized like this: Keep it simple, stupid.
His theory, known today as Occum’s Razor, basically says that the simplest path forward is usually the best. And while we’ll never know if William actually had ye olde abs, his view on philosophy is the same as our view on quick weight loss: If you just do the little things—take advantage of tiny overlooked tweaks to your daily routine—you could toss the rice cakes and running shoes once and for all. (Or at least not feel like you were a slave to them.) In fact, a swing of just 10 calories a day—about as many calories as you burn in 3 minutes of standing still—will make you a pound slimmer by this time next year.
So before you sign up for a complicated diet plan or commit to an expensive personal trainer, make sure you’ve taken advantage of these simple, effective and overlooked ways to strip off the pounds.
A cup of coffee has nearly zero calories. A cup of coffee with cream and sugar has 80 calories. If you drink two cups a day, learning to take it black will save you 14 pounds in a year!
Not around your waist, but on your plate: A new report from the Credit Suisse Research Institute found that more and more of us are choosing whole-fat foods over skim, lite, fat-free or other modern monikers of leanness. And while many health organizations like the American Heart Association still want us to cut down on fat—particularly saturated fat—this full-fat trend may be a healthy rebellion against those decades-old credos, according to recent studies.
It’s the best fruit for weight loss. That means Pink Lady over Granny Smith, watermelon over honeydew, red grapes over green ones. The higher levels of nutrients called flavonoids—particularly anthocyanins, compounds that give red fruits their color—calm the action of fat-storage genes. In fact, red-bellied stone fruits like plums boast phenolic compounds that have been shown to modulate the expression of fat genes.
This fermented Chinese tea can literally shrink the size of your fat cells! To discover the brew’s fat-crusading powers Chinese researchers divided rats into five groups and fed them varying diets over a two month period. In addition to a control group, there was a group given a high-fat diet with no tea supplementation and three additional groups that were fed a high-fat diet with varying doses of pu-erh tea extract.
The researchers found that the tea significantly lowered triglyceride concentrations (potentially dangerous fat found in the blood) and belly fat in the high-fat diet groups. Although sipping the tea could have slightly different outcomes in humans, we think these findings are promising enough that it’s still well worth your while to fix yourself a steaming hot cup.
Wear jeans to work wears away your belly. University of Wisconsin researchers found that people who wore denim to work took almost 500 more steps (about a quarter mile) throughout the day than they did on days when they wore more formal attire. Sure, you may feel more dapper in your suit, but losing extra belly fat is sure to make you see jeans in a different light and feel more confident—no matter what you’re wearing.
Shower Before Bed
If you normally bathe in the A.M., listen up. “A hot shower is great for ensuring a good night’s sleep because it can help relieve tension and relax sore muscles. Additionally, it can increase the level of oxytocin—a “love” hormone released by your brain—which can be very soothing,” says Falamas.
The heat from the shower also gives your body temperature a lift, resulting in a quick drop in temp when you get out and towel off, a dip that helps relax your entire system. A hot bath will also have the same effect.
Take A Whiff
Smelling fresh green apples, bananas and pears can curb appetite and make sugary desserts less appealing, studies have shown. The scientists suggest this is because the produce makes you subconsciously think about making healthier choices.
If a fruit basket on your desk attracts too many flies, try a simpler idea, like a shea butter-based scented lotion, which will have the same effect. (If you’re eating your apple instead of sniffing it, go for the red one.)
Become a Cereal Killer
Does your crazy-busy morning routine leave you with little time to do more than scarf down a bowl of cereal before running out the door? If so, put down the spoon and listen up! Research has found that eating oatmeal is more satiating than the cold stuff and can help you slim down.
Since the instant varieties aren’t always nutritional champions, it’s better to use the slow-cooking variety and whip up a bowl of drool-worthy Zero Belly oatmeal.
Take a Candy Daydream
A recent study found that fantasizing about eating an entire packet of your favorite candy before indulging may cause you to eat less of it. For the study, researchers asked participants to imagine eating 3 or 30 M&Ms, and then invited them to help themselves to some of the candies as a “taste test.” Those who imagined eating lots of M&Ms actually ate the least.
Schedule a Workout Date
It’s hard to squeeze in a workout before meeting friends for drinks, so you blow off…the workout, of course. A better idea: Tell your bud to meet you at the gym. You can socialize, get fit, and still hit the bar afterwards.
This trick works with spouses, too: A recent JAMA Internal Medicine study of nearly 4,000 couples found that people are more likely to stick to healthy habits like exercise when they team up with their partner.
While frozen produce has a nutrient density that’s often higher than fresh, canned foods don’t hold up. A study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that for some vegetables, canning degraded as much as 95 percent of the vitamin C and damaged every B vitamin in the food. Nuke your frozen fruits and veggies instead.
Host a Melon Banquet
While all fruits are healthy, a handful of them reign supreme when it comes to frying fat and de-bloating your belly. University of Kentucky researchers found that eating watermelon can lower fat accumulation, while another group of great minds discovered that honeydew can banish water retention and bloating. Spend ten minutes chopping up these slimming fruits for the week ahead.
Enjoy them solo as a snack, throw them into yogurt or add them to salads.
Pregame Your Dinner
While it may sound counterintuitive, eating before going to a work dinner or happy hour can actually take off pounds.
A series of studies out of Penn State found that noshing on an apple or a broth-based soup prior to sitting down to a restaurant meal can reduce total calorie intake by 20 percent. With the average restaurant meal weighing in at 1,128 calories, saving 20 percent once a day could help you lose up to 23 pounds this year.
Play Betty Crocker
If you’ve let the time pass and you’re still craving something sweet, it’s okay to indulge—just do so mindfully and in moderation. Instead of munching on a few Oreos, whip up a single-serve dessert in the microwave. It only takes ten minutes.
According to Psychological Science research, people who prepare sweets themselves find them far tastier than those who watch someone else make the same recipe. The more satisfied you feel, the less likely you are to go back for seconds and the easier it will be to lose weight.
Make Perfect Fried Eggs
Impatience is the easiest way to ensure a tough, underwhelming egg. Instead, heat a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat and add just enough butter or olive oil to lightly coat the pan. Crack the eggs directly into the pan and let them sit, undisturbed, untul the whites fully coagulate, but the yolks are still wobbly, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Drink Chocolate Milk
“I drink low-fat, organic chocolate milk every day—usually after my morning workout,” says Elisa Zied, RDN. “Not only do I love the taste, but I also know it delivers a valuable mix of calcium and vitamin D that I might not otherwise get enough of.”
The drink also provides high-quality protein that’s filling and helps preserve lean muscle mass, which is something that tends to decline as we get older. Even though it has some added sugars, research suggests that low-fat chocolate milk is a great beverage to aid muscle recovery after a workout.”
Balance Your Salad
Know Your Nuts
Research shows that omega-3 fats can help ward off depression and heart attacks, and walnuts contain an impressive 2.5 grams per ounce. A USDA study found pecans to display four times the antioxidant activity of almonds and nearly six times that of peanuts.
And compared to almonds, macadamias deliver about twice as many healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. Use the oil to burn fat, too!
Spread the Tahini
“Tahini is an oft-forgotten option for nut and seed butters, but it sits front and center in my fridge because it delivers major creaminess to sauces and smoothies and packs a powerful flavor punch,” says Willow Jarosh MS, RD co-owner of C&J Nutrition. “Although some advise against eating the spread because of its high omega 3:6 ratio, the super high intake of omega-6s in the average American’s diet isn’t due to things like tahini—it’s mostly from not eating a variety of fats or consuming the majority of fats from fried foods and packaged snacks.
As long as you’re also eating foods rich in omega-3s, your end-of-day ratio should be nothing to worry about. Plus, tahini is loaded with tons of healthy nutrients like copper, which helps maintain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant responses in the body. It also provides 6 percent of the day’s calcium in just one tablespoon.”
Play Video Games
Next time you’re jonesing for a dietary no-no, seek out a distraction. Most cravings only last about ten minutes; if you can just stay away from the kitchen and keep your mind occupied for that long, you’ll likely forget all about it, which can save you thousands of calories and subsequent pounds in the long run.
So call a friend, take a walk, stream John Oliver or play video games. Research has found that getting in touch with your inner gamer stimulates the brain’s reward system and reduces the desire to eat. It really doesn’t matter what you do to distract yourself as long as it doesn’t involve putting fork to mouth (finger foods count, too!).
Swap Whey for Veggie Protein
Zero Belly Diet test panelist Bryan Wilson, a 29-year-old accountant, lost 19 pounds and an astounding 6 inches from his waist in just six weeks on the program, and he attributes his success to the Zero Belly shake recipes. “I love the shakes. I added them to my diet, and almost immediately I lost the bloat,” Bryan said.
“I’m a sweet craver, and the shakes were an awesome alternative to bowls and bowls of ice cream I would have had.” Protein shakes are great ways to get a monster dose of belly-busting nutrition into a delicious, simple snack. But most commercial protein shakes are filled with unpronounceable chemicals that can upset our gut health and cause inflammation and bloat. And the high doses of whey used to boost protein levels can amplify the belly-bloating effect.
The Zero Belly solution: Try vegan protein, which will give you the same fat-burning, hunger-squelching, muscle-building benefits, without the bloat.
Sprinkle Some Ch-ch-chia
“Chia seeds aren’t just a pet, they’re a party in your mouth. I’m a huge fan of them because they’re chock-full of heart-healthy omega-3s, fiber, protein and calcium. Chia seeds are easily absorbed by the body, so they’re very nourishing and satiating. Every day I add them to my breakfast smoothie or pair them with yogurt or cottage cheese along with some blueberries.” – Sarah Koszyk, MA, RD, founder of Family. Food. Fiesta.
Make a Breadless Sandwich
In seconds: Lay a slice of Swiss cheese on a cutting board. Top with a slice of deli turkey and a spoonful of hummus or guacamole. Wrap like a jelly roll and eat.
Keep it Cool
A striking new study published in the journal Diabetes suggests that simply blasting the air conditioner or turning down the heat in winter may help us attack belly fat while we sleep. Colder temperatures subtly enhance the effectiveness of our stores of brown fat—fat keeps you warm by helping you burn through the fat stored in your belly.
Participants spent a few weeks sleeping in bedrooms with varying temperatures: a neutral 75 degrees, a cool 66 degrees, and a balmy 81 degrees. After four weeks of sleeping at 66 degrees, the subjects had almost doubled their volumes of brown fat. (And yes, that means they lost belly fat.)
Swap out the Quinoa
With ancient grains trending, this one will battle quinoa and teff for space at your table. Native to the Middle East, kamut, also known as Khorsan wheat, is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, high in protein and low in calories.
A half-cup serving has 30% more protein than regular wheat (six grams), with only 140 calories. Eating kamut reduces cholesterol, blood sugar and cytokines, which cause inflammation throughout the body, a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found. “This whole grain has plenty to offer,” says Moskovitz. “It packs in a good source of zinc, iron and B-vitamins, all of which will help keep your energy levels high so you can burn more calories throughout the day, aiding your weight-loss efforts.”