Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lifestyle Shortcuts to Big Weight Loss By Chris Freytag

Content provided by: Prevention

Step Up to the Plate
One of the most effective weight loss devices ever invented is sitting right in your kitchen. In fact, you probably have a lot them. They’re called plates, and eating off them can help you cut dozens, if not hundreds, of calories every day. It works like this: Instead of opening the fridge, popping open a plastic leftovers container, and mindlessly scooping food into your mouth, you put the amount you want to eat on the plate and eat it. Sitting down at the table is a bonus, but you don't even have to go that far. Putting food on a plate and a beverage in a glass is the only way to see (and control) how much you’re eating. And while it's a cinch to polish off the brownie pan, pinch by pinch, you would never eat a whole plateful. Even better, use the salad plates.

Take it outside
Nothing beats the great outdoors for energizing every cell and boosting your mood. It's a chemical fact. Australian researchers have found that men and women who run outdoors have even higher levels of feel-good endorphins afterward than their treadmill-running peers.

Use Flower Power
Research shows that women who are given flowers enjoy a more positive mood for a full 3 days after they receive them. When flowers are presented to elderly people, they not only report having happier moods, but also perform better on memory tests. Flowers have an immediate and lasting effect on how we feel and how we react. Trying to change lifestyle behaviors and lose weight can be stressful. A vase or two of fresh cut flowers can make you feel better. Keep some in the kitchen and wherever you work out.

Think positively
Psychologists estimate that about 72 percent of our self-talk is negative or self-critical! Can you imagine how defeated you'd feel if someone else was putting you down all day? Well, your own berating can be just as damaging. We all have times when we feel defeated or tired, but the key to overcoming those spells is treating yourself to some positive affirmations. When you encounter a stressful situation and are lacking self confidence, say to yourself, 'You can do it—you've done harder things than this before.' It may sound silly, but self-talk is one of the most powerful motivators. Try it for yourself.

Get sleep
Counting sheep may actually help take inches off your waist. Research shows that if you're sleep deprived, your body produces more stress hormones, which promote belly fat and also increase appetite. What's more, a new study shows that a sound night's sleep boosts levels of leptin, a hormone that works to suppress hunger. To study the sleep-appetite connection, researchers at Laval University in Quebec tracked the sleep habits of 740 men and women for 10 years. As it turns out, the benefits of just 1 extra hour of sleep are astonishing! The researchers found that women who got 6 to 7 hours of sleep were 11 pounds heavier (men fared even worse—16 1⁄2 pounds heavier) than those who slept 7 to 8 hours a night. Blood tests revealed that short sleepers had levels of leptin 80 percent below those who got a full night of shut-eye.

Drink up!
Water is your weight loss ally. Your body needs to be properly hydrated to metabolize fat and keep your systems running optimally. Water is the best fluid for the job. When University of North Carolina researchers reviewed the eating habits of nearly 5,000 Americans, they found that those who drank about 7 cups of water a day ate 200 fewer calories than those who drank less than a glass a day. Water-phobes were also more likely to chow down more high-fat foods and drank twice as many soft drinks as clear-liquid lovers. What's more, water can kick-start your metabolism. German researchers recently discovered that about 2 cups of ice water can raise metabolism by 30 percent for 90 minutes.

Appreciate your own brand of beauty
Fitness magazines are a wonderful source of new moves and inspiration. But don't make the mistake of getting caught up in trying to look just like the models that grace their pages. For one, most of these women look great because it's their job to work out and look beautiful. The typical woman has many other things—including her own job!—to focus on. What's more, never underestimate the power of makeup and good lighting. Even those models couldn't look as good as they do without all that professional styling, lighting and camera work. Besides, you can't accomplish anything positive when you're feeling negative emotions like envy and jealousy. So go ahead and feel inspired to look lean and beautiful in your own way, but don't lose yourself by always wishing you looked like someone else.

Laugh it up
A recent study found that laughing out loud for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn up to 40 calories. Not that that's a huge number, but over the course of a year, it could shave more than 4 pounds from someone who usually doesn't crack a smile. More importantly, laughter is your best weapon against stress, which can pile on pounds in multiple ways. Brain research shows that laughter overpowers the stress response (which is why so many of us laugh when we're nervous), and it reminds us that most of the nitty-gritty we worry about is not a matter of life and death.

Hit the pound
A furry friend could help speed your weight loss progress. A study from the University of Missouri–Columbia found that walking a dog helped people shed more weight than they would with Weight Watchers or other popular diet plans. The researchers found that when overweight volunteers started walking a dog for just 10 to 20 minutes a day, they lost an average of 14 pounds over the course of a year—all without changing their eating habits. The average diet program yields just a 5- to 7-pound loss in the same amount of time. As a bonus, studies show that dogs can help lower stress and improve your sense of well-being—both of which will help accelerate your goals for weight loss and healthy living.

Hoop it up
Sometimes child's play is the best thing for adult bodies. All those great kids' games like tag and kickball and playground fun take your body through a full range of motion while letting your mind relax and laugh. For flexibility in your back and hips, the most "therapeutic" kids' play may be with a hula hoop! Swinging your hips to keep the hoop in motion rotates your vertebrae in a full range of motion they never see during everyday life (unless you moonlight as a belly dancer), and it's good exercise. You can even buy a weighted hoop called a Heavy Hoop. These foam-covered steel rings come in weights ranging from 1 to 7 pounds, and they make your abs and obliques work twice as hard as a lightweight hoop. Research shows that vigorous gyrating with a Heavy Hoop can fry up to 110 calories in just 10 minutes! Now that's no child's play.

Live for the future

When researchers reviewed past and recent activity levels of more than 5,000 men and women, they found that those who were physically active at the time of the survey were 40 percent less likely to die during the 16-year follow-up than those who were mostly sedentary, regardless of how active they were in the past. There's no time like the present to start living the life you wish you'd lived before. It's like Abe Lincoln famously said, "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be!"

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