When it comes to losing weight, the top factors will always be nutrition and activity, so it makes sense to focus on those most.
But apart from the calories-in minus calories-out efforts, there are actually non-food and non-fitness strategies that can be helpful, too. Best of all, they don’t require much effort and could pay off in more sustainable weight loss and better lifestyle habits in the long run. Check these out:
When you’re feeling particularly frazzled — especially if that happens most of the time — you’ll experience a surge in cortisol, the hormone that helps you handle stressful situations.
If cortisol is switched on too often, though, the body responds by keeping blood glucose levels elevated, and it breaks down muscles for that effort, according to Dr. David Greuner, head physician at NYC Surgical Associates. That can lead to more body fat getting stored, especially around the midsection.
Not only can de-stressing techniques lower your cortisol levels, but they can also help you sleep better and snack less, which means chilling out can potentially have a major effect on your weight-loss efforts.
READ MORE > ASK THE DIETITIAN: THE TRUTH ABOUT BELLY FAT AND INFLAMMATION
According to a study on snacking behavior, cluttered and chaotic environments like messy kitchens may lead to eating more unhealthy snacks.
Participants were given cookies, crackers and carrots and placed in either a messy kitchen area or a clean one. Those in the out-of-control space ate more cookies than the other group did, suggesting there may be a correlation between clutter and higher-calorie snacking.
The researchers noted that a chaotic environment can create a vulnerability to making unhealthy food choices, but of course, mindset matters as well — if you’re committed to skipping the cookie plate, you probably will. But why take the chance? Implement some spring-cleaning strategies and tidy up, paying particular attention to storing snacks out of sight.
Although it sounds deceptively simple, smelling peppermint oil may actually have an effect on how often you eat, and even what you eat, according to Vanessa Rissetto, RD.
A study done at Wheeling Jesuit University over a period of two weeks found participants who regularly smelled peppermint reported lower hunger levels, significantly lower calorie intake and fewer calories from saturated fat and sugar during the research period.
Although the study was done on a small number of participants over a short timeframe, it’s an inexpensive trick that’s worth trying, suggests Rissetto. For example, you might begin to associate the smell of peppermint with lower cravings for unhealthy snacks — as long as that peppermint isn’t coming in the form of candy, of course.
In addition to regulating your hormone levels more efficiently, sleep can also have a major impact on your hunger signals, says Dr. W. Chris Winter, author of “The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It.”
“Your circadian rhythms inform your hunger and digestion,” he says. “Poor sleep can throw those signals out of whack.” That might lead to overeating, consuming high-calorie foods close to bedtime and snacking more when you feel tired, he says. It can also make you skip the gym or simply feel like getting less activity overall — which becomes a vicious cycle, since being sedentary can then interfere with your sleep even more.
READ MORE > SLEEP EXPERT DR. G ON THE SLEEP-WEIGHT LOSS CONNECTION
“Many people find that when they focus on establishing good sleep habits, other areas of their lives start to fall into place, too,” says Winter. “That includes their energy levels, food choices, exercise consistency, even their moods.”
You’re not likely to see huge weight loss from one or two of these strategies, but focusing on diet and exercise shifts, coupled with de-stress measures and lifestyle tweaks could get your weight moving in the right direction.