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By Jim Karas

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Nine surprising slim-down tricks

Looking to slim down but not ready for an intense workout? Try these nine small changes to everyday behaviors that can actually help you lose weight.

1. Get a Good Night's Rest

Hearst Goodhousekeeping Photo of Woman Asleep

According to a study from Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Stanford University, the less you snooze, the less leptin (a powerful hormone) your body is likely to produce. What's that got to do with shedding pounds? Leptin helps promote weight loss in two ways: It discourages you from eating (by sending the message Hey, stop munching — you're full! to your stomach), and it rouses you to expend energy. More evidence that sleep deprivation interferes with dropping pounds: The hormone ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, is higher in people who don't get enough zzz's. (If you don't sleep soundly one night, try to squeeze in a nap the following day — the hormones are affected by how much shut-eye you get in a 24-hour period.)

2. Turn Off the Radio

When a restaurant wants its customers to finish their food and go, it plays fast music — as quick as 120 to 130 beats per minute (which is the tempo used in most step classes). And for good reason: The speedier the tune, the faster (and the more) you'll tend to eat. So before any meal, either switch off your stereo or put on a slow, soothing album.

3. Never Skip a Meal

Ever. Ignoring breakfast, say, isn't going to save big calories. Trust me. You'll become so ravenous, you'll likely gobble down whatever you can get your hands on at the following meal. The reasons: Physically, your blood sugar plummets, making you feel famished; emotionally, you may feel entitled to consume more. Plus, when you deprive yourself of food, your body thinks there isn't a source of nourishment readily available. As a result, your metabolism moves at a snail's pace. And we all know — the slower your metabolism, the harder it'll be to lose weight.

4. Leave the Car Behind

The numbers say it all: Your risk of obesity increases by 6 percent for every hour you spend in your automobile each day. Similarly, every mile you walk on a daily basis translates into an 8 percent reduction in the risk of obesity. How to get that exercise in? When you're on the phone (especially with your chatty mother-in-law), pace back and forth. To really knock off some calories, throw in a few lunges or squats. And when you're watching TV, make sure you get up and move around during the commercial breaks. Climb up and down a flight of stairs or speed-walk from one end of the house to the other. Going to the mall? Follow my shopping rule: no escalators, no elevators. Period.

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