Need to lose weight but hate the gym? While doing more exercise will help you to burn calories (and improve your general health), experts agree that watching what you eat is the most important thing when it comes to weight loss. Here are six ways to drop the pounds without having to work out...
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1. Get more sleep
Research has linked chronic sleep deprivation (those who regularly get less than six hours per night) with a 55% higher risk of obesity. Even just one poor night's sleep is enough to increase your appetite by 24%, and decrease levels of the fullness hormone leptin by 26% according to one study.
Experts say that sleep-deprived people produce more ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite. In addition, brain scans of sleep-deprived people show that the portion of the brain involved in rewards and pleasure lights up when they eat - more so than their well-rested counterparts. Given that a tired brain is also less able to control cravings, and it's easy to see how being tired all the time can tip the scales against you.
2. Announce your snacks
Announcing that you're about to eat something fattening could be enough to stop you in your tracks, according to Cornell researcher Brain Wansink, author of Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life.
He says: "You can eat anything you want or snack as often as you want as long as you announce - out loud - 'I'm not hungry, but I'm going to eat this anyway.' His research revealed that the average person who does this every day for a month loses 1.9 pounds."
Dr. Wansink explains: "It breaks mindlessly negative eating behaviour. You're not saying, 'I can't have this,' but you're saying 'I really have to fess up to what I'm doing.'"
3. Eat a filling breakfast
You've heard it before – but now there's research to show that eating breakfast really does help you lose weight. It sounds crazy, but one study found that eating chocolate cake - in addition to a normal breakfast - can help you lose weight. Researchers at Tel Aviv University followed the weight loss of 193 clinically obese, non-diabetic adults. Half ate either a low-carb diet that included a 300-calorie breakfast, while the other ate a balanced 600-calorie breakfast that included a piece of chocolate cake.
Halfway through the study both groups had lost an average of 33lbs per person. But in the second half, the low-carb group regained an average of 22lbs per person - while the chocolate cake eaters lost another 15lbs each.
While eating cake (at any time of day) isn't the best way to drop the pounds, the study makes an important point. Those who deny themselves a filling breakfast are more likely to give in to cravings later in the day. Eat more in the morning, when the body's metabolism is most active, and you have the rest of the day to work off the calories. Eating high-protein foods – like eggs – will help to keep you feeling full for longer.
4. Cover your fridge with photos of healthy food
So you put a snap of yourself looking fat on the fridge, and it just depressed you and made you want to eat more - but have you tried pinning up some positive motivation? Research suggests that sticking pics of healthy food on the fridge could result in you making healthier choices. Scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that dieters who saw photos of low-calorie food ate less than those who looked at non-food images. Experts believe that looking at pics of fresh veggies and low-calorie meals helps concentrate your mind at just the right time.
5. Eat dinner in front of a mirror
It might feel strange at first, but try eating your dinner in front of a mirror. Research shows that people who watch themselves eat consume considerably less than those who do not. Experts from the Arizona State University and Erasmus University Rotterdam believe that seeing ourselves eat acts as a powerful trigger as it makes us aware of our bodies and weight loss goals.
6. Keep a food diary
One of the easiest and most effective ways to lose weight is to keep a food diary. Be honest and write down everything that passes your lips. It only takes a few minutes to do each day, and you can log your food with pen and paper or use an app on your phone. You'll soon get an idea of how much you're really eating and where you can save calories.