If you’re looking for ways to get back in shape (or get in shape, period), you’re not alone. After all, it’s prime resolution-making (and breaking!) season, which means most of us have some self-improvement goals, and getting healthier and fitter is always a good one. Instead of being laser-focused on shedding pounds, which can result in tunnel vision and frustration, there are some easy ways you can tone and tighten—and melt fat—without agonizing. Below are 50 of the best ones.
1. Switch Up Your Workout
If you’re not seeing results from your cardio regimen, switch to interval training. For instance, sprint for 30 seconds, and then recover by walking or jogging for a following 30 seconds and repeat for the duration of your workout. Or, follow this guide.
2. Follow the 80/20 Rule
Eat clean 80 percent of the time, while allowing a bit of indulgence for the remaining 20 percent. By clean, we mean whole foods with no processed flour, sugar, or additives.
3. Keep a Food Journal
This will help you monitor absent-minded eating. A 2008 study found that tracking your eating habits can actually double your weight loss! Rather than pulling out a pen and paper, try free apps like SparkPeople Diet and Food Tracker or LoseIt so you can update your entries on the go.
4. Break Out Your Blender
5. Cut Down on Carbs
Limit your starch intake by choosing protein and vegetables over bread, rice, pasta, and other grains. Evidence suggests that cutting down starchy foods and carbs can help you lose weight quickly, and can also reduce your risk of heart disease.
6. Take the Stairs
Seems simple, but do it whenever possible instead of using an elevator. You’ve heard it before, but little changes like this are a great way to get incidental exercise, and burn calories without planning a workout.
7. Pack Your Own Lunch (and Snacks)
This can help you avoid unhealthy takeout temptation. Sure, sometimes it’s hard enough to find time to eat lunch, let alone pre-prepare it, but that’s why we came up with 13 healthy lunch ideas that are realistic for busy people.
8. Use Smaller Dishes
Serving meals on smaller, salad-sized plates or in small bowls really can help control your portion size.
Drink a glass of water before each meal to feel fuller and to avoid overeating. While water doesn’t have a magical fat-burning property, nutrition experts say keeping hydrated can stop overeating, as many people confuse thirst with hunger.
10. Chew Slowly and Thoroughly
Slice crunchy vegetables and fruit into large chunks—this will force you to spend longer chewing, slow down your eating, and allow your brain to recognize when your body is full.
11. Minimize Munching
Keep snacks to around 100 calories to avoid over eating. We enlisted fitness guru and celebrity trainer David Kirsch to offer up 10 ridiculously easy-to-grab healthy snacks that clock in at 100 calories or less.
12. Eat an Apple a Day, Because…
It will help curb your appetite and keep your feeling full for up to two hours. The soluble fiber found in apples (pectin) actually reduces the amount of sugar and calories you absorb after a meal, making apples one of the best snacks for dieters. Pectin also stops blood sugar from spiking, which helps to avoid that “crash” that can often leave you desperately craving sugary food.
13. Use Veggies Instead
Swap pasta for shredded zucchini, squash, carrot to decrease the starchy food in your diet.
14. Brush Your Teeth Between Meals
Doing this every time you finish a meal can discourage snacking. Nothing tastes good mixed with toothpaste.
15. Fill Up on Protein
Tons of studies show that missing out on high protein foods can cause overeating and lead to weight gain. Plus, if you’re exercising to lose weight (which you should be!), protein is important for your muscles to repair after a big workout.
16. Avoid Restaurant Bread
When you eat out, ask the waiter not to bring any bread to your table. One large bread roll with butter could be up to 100 calories, which you probably don’t need to be eating in addition to a full meal.
When you’re thirsty, sip water with lemon or iced greed tea rather than sugary soda drinks or milky coffee concoctions.
18. Never Skip Breakfast
Researchers analyzed 19 studies on weight gain and found a relationship between skipping breakfast and piling on the pounds, so remember to eat within an hour of waking up to kick-start your metabolism.
19. Stand While You Work
Get a standing desk. Even a couple of hours spent standing rather than sitting can boost your metabolism.
20. Make it Hot
Eat spicy foods, like hot peppers, which increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation by increasing the metabolism.
21. Pick Smart Snacks
Snack on calorie negative foods, like celery, which actually require more energy to digest than they contain.
22. Load Up on Grapefruit
It’s a great metabolism booster and an amazing source of vitamin C and vitamin A, both of which have been proven to help clear up your complexion and reduce the dark circles around tired eyes. Eat up!
23. Get Into Green Tea
Ditch empty energizing drinks like those found in milky lattes that don’t fill you up. If you miss your morning coffee, try a strong green tea instead—it’ll perk you up without the caffeine crash later.
24. Eat Right in the A.M.
Eat a breakfast that’s between 300 to 400 calories and full or protein to keep you feeling full (and not reaching for snacks) all morning. Stuck for ideas? Try making a frittata using only egg whites, or follow one of these recipe ideas.
25. Strengthen Up
Try a high-intensity workout that uses your own body weight as resistance.
26. Get Energy With Every Meal
If you’re not eating protein with just about every meal, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to lose fat. An article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition during 2006 argued that the current recommended daily intake for protein, 0.36 grams per pound of body weight, is way less than any woman undergoing strength training actually needs.
Instead, they suggest active women get between 0.54 and one gram per pound of body weight. If you want to lose weight, Women’s Health suggests using your goal weight rather than your current weight as a guide when calculating the required protein intake.
27. Go For Sweet Potatoes
Replace regular potatoes with sweet potatoes to swap starch and carbs for vitamins and nutrients. Here are a bunch of tasty recipes that use sweet potatoes perfectly.
28. Get Enough Fiber
Remember that it’s incredibly important for weight loss and nutrient absorption, so make sure you’re getting 30 to 50 grams of the good stuff every single day.
29. Pick Up Some Blueberries.
They’ve been shown to help get rid of belly fat, so much away on the tasty fruit at snack times or breakfast.
30. Get Plenty of Z’s.
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, because nothing induces overeating and skipped workouts than feeling tired!
31. Download Healthy Apps.
32. Be Realistic
Set healthy and realistic weight loss goals and write them down on paper. The relationship between goal setting, committing said objectives to paper, and achieving success has been well documented.
33. Burn Calories at Home
Bookmark online cardio workout videos you can do at home for those nights or mornings when it’s too cold, hot, or rainy for a run outdoors.
34. Use the Buddy System
Plan workouts with a friend who will hold you accountable to your exercise commitments.
35. Add Garlic to (Almost) Everything
Apart from being damn delicious, it’s a fat-burning, metabolism-boosting food that helps balance blood sugar levels, which in turn reduces energy highs and slumps that are associated with over-eating.
36. Motivate With a Pro Program
Too busy to commit to a gym class? Buy an eBook program, like Kayla Itsines’ 12 week program that you can follow at home at burn fat in your living room.
37. Experiment (Carefully)
Try sipping on sugar water or extra-light olive oil—seriously! The Shangri-La Diet was pioneered by Seth Roberts, PhD, a professor of psychology, and claims you can lose weight by drinking one to three tablespoons of sugar water and/or one to two tablespoons of extra-light (not virgin) olive oil twice daily in between your normal meals. Apparently this diet suppresses your appetite while lowering your body’s “set point” (the weight at which it naturally wants to settle).
“It burns up to 50 calories if you laugh for 10 to 15 minutes per day,” Adelino Da Costa, owner of Punch Fitness Center in New York City told NBC News.
39. Go Organic
Where possible—and affordable—you should opt for organic food. Canadian researchers report that dieters who have the most organochlorines (a pollutant found in pesticides that is stored in your fat cells) find it harder to lose pounds. These dieters experience an abnormally large dip in metabolism when they lose weight, which could mean that the pesticides are actually interfering with the energy-burning process.
40. A Short Workout’s Better Than No Workout
When you’re too swamped to exercise properly, at least take a short 10 minute walk, or get up for regular intervals to walk around your office. One study looked at people who sit for hours on end, and found that those who took regular breaks to stand up, stretch, of stroll down corridors, had smaller waists than those who continued to sit all day.
41. Avoid Processed Stuff
Stop eating processed junk food—it may sound obvious, but too many people crush their weight loss progression by snacking on sugary and salty snacks.
42. Take an Actual Lunch Break
Stop eating lunch at your desk, and instead be more mindful about your meals by sitting at a table and avoiding distractions. You’d be surprised at just how effective mindful eating is at reducing overeating and lowering your BMI. By simply thinking about what you’re eating, as you’re eating it, you’re more tuned to your body’s “I’m full” cues and can start to think rationally about any desires to eat out of boredom.
43. Watch What You Add to Your Coffee (If You Drink It)
Drinking coffee can help you to lose weight, but be sure to watch the milk and sugar additions. Caffeine has been shown to increase the rate at which you burn calories, upping your metabolism dramatically in the hours after you drain your morning mug.
45. Go On a Cleaning Spree
Complete your simple household chores, like vacuuming, dusting, and making your bed, to burn calories without even realizing it.
46. Walk and Talk
Instead of sitting down to take a phone call, walk and talk so that you can burn calories while mindlessly pacing a room or strolling the streets.
Find yourself tapping your feet or bouncing your legs while you type at your desk? Don’t stop! These little moves have been shown to make an actual difference when it comes to burning calories—again, it’s better than nothing.
48. Clean Your Cabinets
Rid your kitchen and office space of junk food—if it’s not there, you can’t eat it!
49. Watch Your Posture
Sit up straight at work and while watching TV, forcing your body to use muscles and exert energy to support itself.
50. Drink Wisely
If you don’t want to completely cut out alcohol, switch from sugary cocktails packed with empty calories to healthier alcoholic drinks, like vodka and club soda with a dash of fresh lime, or a glass of Brut Champagne. Wine isn’t nearly as bad as a hot-pink cocktail, but one glass will add about 130 calories, while a single shot of vodka with seltzer is only about 65 calories.