Losing weight just got easier! Take advantage of everyday habits to see bigger results on the scale
Big changes can make for fast weight loss (and popular reality TV), but when it comes to lasting health, it's the day-to-day stuff that really matters. Whether you're taking the stairs instead of the elevator or trying a new piece of produce every week, small changes add up to big drops on the scale. And research backs up this connection time and time again. The best news: You may be doing more than you think! In fact, these nine habits could be unknowingly helping your weight loss efforts. (Learn these 10 Ways to Lose Weight Without Even Trying.)
Red, red wine, you make me feel so fine—it looks like UB40 was on to something. According to a recent study by Oregon State University, people who drank a daily glass of red wine or juice made from red grapes burned more fat than they did without the drink. The scientists say ellagic acid (a natural phenol antioxidant in the grapes) "dramatically slowed the growth of existing fat cells and formation of new ones, and it boosted metabolism of fatty acids in liver cells." Who doesn't love a reason to kick back with a glass of vino after a hard day of work? (Just make sure to stick to one small glass.)
Tanning may be bad for your health, but that doesn't mean you should become a vampire and avoid it completey. Outdoor exposure to a little bright sunlight early in the day reduced appetite and increased mood, according to a study in PLoS ONE. The researchers had people wear a device that recorded their sun exposure; participants who spent just 15 to 20 minutes in the sun had lower BMIs than those who were exposed to less or no sunlight. Most experts agree it's not necessary to wear sunscreen for 15 minutes of sun, but if you're planning on staying out longer, be sure to apply the white stuff.
Upping your daily water intake is good advice for almost everyone, but if you're trying to lose weight, make sure yours is on ice. German researchers found that people who drank up to six cups a day of chilled water raised their resting metabolism by 12 percent. The scientists think your body has to work harder to bring the water to a warmer temperature before digesting it. And while it may not seem like much, over time it can help you lose about five pounds a year, researchers say. (Drinking water is also one of the 11 Ways to Rev Up Your Metabolism.)
Keeping a night light on (or just the glow from a phone or tablet) can cause you to pack on the pounds, according to an Ohio State University study. Mice who slept with a dim light on had altered circadian rhythms that caused them to lose deep sleep and eat more during the day, leading them to gain 50 percent more weight than their furry friends who slept in pitch black. While the study was done on mice, the researchers note that people who sleep with the light on show hormonal disruptions just like the mice. Previous studies on shift workers have found those whose schedules require them to sleep when it's light tend to gain weight.
Spanish researchers found that obese women who ate their lunch after 3 p.m. lost 25 percent less weight than those who ate their lunch earlier in the day. Even though both groups ate the same foods and the same amount of calories, the early bird diners lost five pounds more. Scientists believe that waiting to eat until you're starving may spark cravings for more food later in the day.
Over the past few decade, the average indoor temperature has gone up by several degrees and the average body weight has gone up several pounds. Coincidence? Scientists don't think so. Our bodies evolved to work to keep ourselves warm in cold weather and letting the thermostat do all the heavy lifting may be making us heavier. (See 6 Unexpected Causes of Winter Weight Gain.) Researchers from the Netherlands found that people who spent a week in rooms kept around 60 degrees Fahrenheit lost weight. They think that not only did they burn calories staying warm, but that the exposure to the cold air triggered the growth of "brown fat" which increased their overall metabolisms.
Stepping on the scale every day can be a one-way ticket to Crazytown, but abandon it completely and research has shown your weight is likely to creep up. Fortunately, a recent study from Cornell found there is a happy medium. People who weighed themselves at a set time once a week not only didn't gain weight but lost a few pounds without making any other changes to their diets.
No, toting your three-ounce iPhone everywhere doesn't count as weight lifting, but having your phone on you constantly can have some health benefits. A study out this month from Tulane University found that people who used phone apps for weight loss reported shedding more pounds and feeling more motivated to make healthy changes than people using traditional fitness trackers. You're more likely to keep track of your phone and to pay attention to information on it than other types of wearable tech, experts say. And, hey, maybe getting stuck on that impossible Candy Crush level will make you loathe the sight of candy?
Sharing that amazing recipe you found on Facebook, chatting with your sister about what to make for dinner, or keeping an online food journal can help you shed weight. Contrary to popular belief, it isn't the act of sharing your food that makes this effective, but rather the simple act of remembering what you ate. A study this month from Oxford found that people who recalled the details of their last meal ate less at their current meal. Remembering your food can help you be more in tune with your hunger signals. (Learn more about How to Eat Healthier by Tricking Your Brain.)