Shedding pounds does not require a complete diet-and-exercise overhaul. Do this instead.
You know you want to lose weight, and you have a pretty good idea of what you should do to make it happen. You just need to get started. And unfortunately, that’s often the hardest part.
When motivation is lacking, remember this: Shedding pounds does not require a complete diet-and-exercise overhaul. In fact, starting small is often the best way to meet—and maintain—your weight loss goals, says Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., founder of CORE in Boston. The good habits you adopt can snowball, leading to bigger changes down the line too, he says.
Here are ten ways to start losing weight with minimal effort.
1. Eat Foods That Hydrate You
It may sound counterintuitive, but eating more food can be a key to weight loss—as long as we’re talking about foods with a high water content, says Christine Rosenbloom, Ph.D., R.D.N., author of Food and Fitness After 50.
Eating water-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, or broth-based soups can fill you up, leaving you less likely to overeat on more calorie-dense foods, she says.
In fact, a study in Appetite found people consumed 20 percent fewer calories overall when they ate a broth-based soup 15 minutes before a pasta lunch, compared with eating just their main meal. The researchers believe the soup slows the rate at which food moves through your digestive tract, which can increase feelings of satiety.
There’s a mental benefit too. Seeing more food in front of you can make you feel less deprived, Rosenbloom says. And that can cut your urge to end your meal with a calorie-rich dessert.
Try starting your meal with a broth-based soup, even if you’re eating at home. Not a soup fan? Look for other ways to include more water-rich foods to your plate. “Add two or three leaves of lettuce or more tomato on your sandwich,” Rosenbloom says.
2. Wake Up to Protein
Eating a protein-rich meal in the morning can set you up for a whole day of healthy eating, Rosenbloom says. That’s because, like hydrating foods, protein boosts satiety. And if you’re feeling satisfied, you’re less likely to graze all morning.
“Aim for 30 grams of protein at breakfast,” she says, adding that most people get less than 15 grams.
Adding a scoop of protein powder to your smoothie is an easy way to pack it in. A single scoop contains roughly 20 to 30 grams, depending on the type you choose. If you prefer solid foods, “think eggs and a whole grain cereal with filtered milk, like Fairlife, which contains more protein than the regular kind,” Rosenbloom says.
Want more ideas? Check out these seven protein-packed breakfasts that trim your waistline.
3. Give the Sweatpants a Break
One of the perks of retirement is not having to get dressed up every day. But living in yoga pants or sweats might actually be doing your belly a disservice since you’re missing out on the instant feedback of a too-tight waistband, Rosenbloom says.
“It’s a little bit of self-monitoring,” she says. Noticing your go-to pants suddenly feel tight can lead you to make changes to your food or exercise routine—which you may miss if you’re wearing elastic pants that are more forgiving. Your weight may change more significantly before you realize something’s up.
You don’t need to swear off sweatpants for good. Even trying on the same pair of dress pants every Sunday can be enough monitoring, Rosenbloom says.
4. Rearrange Your Fridge
If you’re like most people, the most nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods—think fruits and vegetables—are hidden in your crisper drawer, while the ready-to-eat stuff that tends to be less healthy remains front and center.
So when you pop your head in for a snack, what’s going to catch your eye? Probably not the produce stored in those drawers.
Keep quick, healthy snacks visible on the shelves of your fridge, Rosenbloom says. That means giving prime real estate to those juicy berries or that bag of baby carrots. And use the opposite technique for treats: Store them out of sight so you won’t be tempted as soon as you open the fridge.
5. Pony Up for the Pre-Portioned Snacks
Portion control is key to staving off weight gain—and triggering weight loss. “When you’re just munching from a giant bag of potato chips or pretzels, it’s really easy to overdo it,” Rosenbloom says.
The most budget-conscious solution is to buy the cheaper, family-size package at the store and portion out servings into individual baggies. But if your motivation is lagging, that task will seem like a huge burden.
Instead, start by buying the smaller, single-serving packages at the store, Rosenbloom says. They may be a little pricier, but the built-in portion control is worth it. Once you get used to your eating tweaks and your motivation increases, you can start packaging them out yourself to save some cash.
6. Lowball Your Exercise Routine to Start
Think about how many times per week you want to commit to working out. Then on a scale of 1 to 10, ask yourself how confident you are that you can hit that number each week, Gentilcore says.
If you give it a 7 or an 8, it’s probably realistic and a good place to start. But if you give it a 4, then you need to reassess your plans. There’s no such thing as too small of a goal to start—especially if you’ve never exercised before. The key is committing to something you know you can achieve.
Once you come up with a number, mark each day you intend to exercise on a calendar, Gentilcore suggests, so you can actually cross it off. “There is just something magical about checking something off that provides the motivation to continue with it,” he says.
7. Set a Goal That Has Nothing to Do with Your Weight
“I like to work with people to focus on their health instead of their weight,” Rosenbloom says. “You start eating a little better for your health, and before you know it, a couple of pounds are coming off.”
You can use this trick in the gym too. Simply choose a fitness goal you want to reach, and then work toward meeting it. “Performance-based goals are pretty much the way to go for every population,” Gentilcore says. It could be anything from walking a mile nonstop to performing 10 reps of a bodyweight squat.
“You’re putting in the work toward reaching that goal,” he says. “The aesthetic stuff follows automatically.”
8. Stop Doing Workouts You Hate
We often fall into the comparison game when we’re talking about exercise, Gentilcore says. For instance, if your friend dropped 15 pounds walking on the treadmill for an hour each day, you might think that’s what you should do too.
But if exercising on a treadmill makes you want to claw your eyes out, it’s not going to be a sustainable plan—nor is it going to motivate you when your couch looks more inviting than usual.
“There’s no golden rule that you have to do any one exercise or any one methodology,” Gentilcore says.
Consider swapping the treadmill for a hike outside or getting your blood pumping with pickleball. Don’t like free weights? Stick to machines, or give resistance bands a try.
“Being consistent by doing something—whatever it is—is the determining factor for most people in the long run,” Gentilcore says.
Need some fresh workout ideas? Check out these great resources:
- 9 Best Types of Exercise for Older Adults
- The Total-Body Gym Machine Workout
- The Beginner’s Guide to Exercise Bands
- 15-Minute Chair Workout for Your Whole Body
- 5 Simple Moves That Tone Your Belly, Butt, and Thighs
9. Build Your Support Team
A knowledgeable fitness instructor and encouraging exercise buddies can help you feel more confident, have more fun, and stay on track when motivation dips.
With SilverSneakers, you’ll find both types of support. SilverSneakers members can take classes led by instructors specifically trained in senior fitness and have the opportunity to make new friends. Check your SilverSneakers eligibility here.
10. Keep Moving—Not Just When You Exercise
Even on days you can’t get to the gym or do a “real” workout, there are many opportunities to move and burn calories. And this non-exercise activity thermogenesis (N.E.A.T.) makes a difference. In fact, a 2005 study found lean people expend 350 more calories per day via N.E.A.T. than overweight people.
One of the easiest ways to stay active throughout the day: walking. Check out these simple tips to sit less and sneak in more steps.
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