Trying to lose 10 pounds? Oodles of new research has uncovered simple ways to trim 100 calories or more from your diet without skimping on flavor. While it doesn’t sound like much, shaving off 100 calories a day could help you trim 10 or more pounds a year—even if you never set foot in the gym. Add these smart strategies to your routine:
1. Dim the lights.
A recent study from Cornell University says the secret to eating less—and feeling more satisfied with what you do eat—could be as simple as some mood lighting. People who ate a meal under soft, warm lighting consumed 175 fewer calories, and finished 18% less of the food on their plates, than those who dined in brightly lit places. Those in the darker rooms also rated food as more enjoyable than the other group. Scientists think that’s because the harsh fluorescent lights commonly found in fast-food restaurants may create a psychological need to rush through meals and eat more. Consider this your chance to actually use those candlesticks you got for your wedding ages ago.
2. Be a straight shooter.
They might look stylish, but swanky, curved drinking glasses on your table could lead to extra weight. A British study found that people consumed 60% more alcohol, sugary sodas, and juices if the glass they drank from was curvy, rather than a straight tumbler. The researchers speculate that people drink faster from the curvy glasses because it’s harder to tell when you’re at the halfway point, meaning you’re more likely to reach for another drink sooner and end up consuming more.
3. Turn in earlier.
The research is pretty definitive on this one: Being short on sleep makes you more likely to overeat. One study from the Mayo Clinic shows getting less than 6½ hours of sleep a night can lead to consuming as many as 500 extra daily calories. “Sleep deprivation can raise levels of appetite hormones like ghrelin,” says Manfred Hallschmid, PhD, a researcher from University of Tübingen who studies sleep and calorie consumption. And surging levels of ghrerlin, the hormone that revs up your appetite, is bad news for your willpower.
4. Don’t say, “I can’t.”
Whether you’re trying to sidestep a fast-food drive thru or Thanksgiving leftovers, don’t tell yourself what you can’t eat. Instead, tell yourself you “don’t” eat it. In a recent study, when researchers divided a group of people into “can’t eats” and “don’t eats”, 64% of those in the “don’t” group passed up a candy bar in favor of a healthier granola bar—but only 30% of the “can’t” group chose the healthier snack. “Can’t” sounds more like punishment than being healthy, creating a sense of self-deprivation that can tank your motivation. On the other hand, reminding yourself you “don’t” eat certain foods feels more empowering.
5. Think thin.
The way you think about food and your body can determine your success at sticking to a healthy diet. Over a 10-year span, 59% of women who started out with an average body mass index of 20 but thought they were overweight, wound up packing on weight and watching their BMI swell to more than 25. That weight gain likely happened because of a self-fulfilling prophecy, says Susan Albers, psychologist at The Cleveland Clinic and the author of Eating Mindfully and 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food. “Your mindset is incredibly important in giving up or getting on track with your weight,” she says. “So if you think you are not overweight, regardless of your actual weight, you will act in ways that lead you to what you already believe.”
6. Stop staring at sugar.
To help you keep sugar cravings in check, a recent study says you should look the other way when you see pictures of high-fat, high-calorie, or sugary foods. That’s because brain scans have shown that ogling pictures of high-calorie treats stimulates parts of the brain that control hunger and the reward center, says Kathleen Page, MD, assistant professor of medicine at USC and the study’s lead author. Bottom line: maybe your Pinterest board of cupcakes isn’t the best idea.
7. Wet your whistle.
You’re more likely to crave veggies than greasy French fries, chips, or other high-fat foods if you pair a meal with water instead of caloric beverages. Researchers at the University of Oregon say that food-drink pairings can influence the type of food choices we make and the amount of calories we eat. In the study, adults who paired a meal with water were more likely to eat their vegetables and make other healthy food choices than if they sipped on soda.
8. Look forward to eating.
Fantasizing about lunch? Go with that. Hallschmid says anticipating a meal can actually lower your body’s levels of ghrelin. In a study he conducted, he found that thinking about a meal beforehand helps reign in ghrelin levels, helping people consume fewer calories during a meal. “Looking forward to eating could have a positive effect on food intake control because it leads to feeling full sooner, and sustaining that feeling of full so you don’t seek out high-calorie snacks,” says he says.