By Jim Karas
Nine surprising slim-down tricks
1. Get a Good Night's Rest
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.
5. Get Some Sun
Your body needs sunlight to produce a very essential feel-good hormone called serotonin, which may lessen your cravings for sugar and other carbs. So when you start longing for sweets, go outside instead, even in the cold weather. It's also a good idea to keep the drapes and shutters open during the day.
6. Don't Store Cookies and Other Treats in Glass Jars
If you keep fatty foods out of sight, it'll be much easier to keep them out of mind. Experts at Cornell University determined that women ate more Hershey's Kisses when the candies were on their desks than when they were in opaque containers or placed farther away.
7. Set Your Fork Down After Every Bite
It takes around 20 minutes for your stomach to send signals to the brain that it's full. So when you eat too quickly, your body doesn't have time to recognize that it's satiated. The consequence: You consume a lot more. To slow down, you can also try switching to chopsticks (they make it much harder to eat huge bites). Or try this experiment in food appreciation: Using a 30-second timer, take a bite only when the bell rings. You'll see how eating slowly will perk up your taste buds.
8. Flick on All the Lights
The dimmer the room, the more you'll eat. Why? One theory is that low lights make you feel more relaxed and less self-conscious. On the flip side, research suggests that the brighter your dining area, the less food you'll likely consume. So consider adjusting the lighting in places where you eat most often.
9. Lose the Anger
If you don't keep this emotion under control, it can make you fat. How? Getting riled raises levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in your body, and that increase can cause you to gain weight. Plus, research suggests that the angrier you get — and the more frequently you get angry — the more likely you'll be to put on pounds around your waist. (Hostility also ups your risks of cardiovascular problems.) So the next time someone pushes your button, take 10 deep breaths and ask yourself, Is this really that big a deal? Another trick I teach my clients: Close your eyes, slowly press your thumbs into your temples, and massage the frustrating moment away.