At the core of most diet regiments is a very straightforward and sensible idea – you should spend more calories than you consume if you are hoping to effectively lose a couple of pounds. Naturally, this focuses the attention of both nutritionists and those actually undergoing a diet on cutting down calories intake and getting more exercise. But, shouldn’t there be a less intrusive way to achieve the same?

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Many experts on nutrition and lifestyle claim that focusing on not eating too much is maybe the first, but definitely not the only or most important step in losing weight. Habits an individual forms around eating, food preparation and even food shopping can play a very important role and make a profound difference when it comes to achieving your weight loss goals.

With an excess of information on different types of diets available online, here we decided to do something different and instead focus on these small tips and tricks. And while they certainly won’t be able to help you to make a drastic change in your weight overnight, they will go a long way in teaching you how to better manage your appetite and adopt a healthier attitude towards food and eating in general, thus making your weight loss efforts much more focused and by extension, much successful and less intrusive.

Never skip breakfast

While many people assume that breakfast is the meal that can be most conveniently removed from the daily routine, either for the sake of reducing calorie intake or because of the busy schedule, this practice has been proved to have rather harmful consequences. On top of that, skipping breakfast not only doesn’t contribute to weight loss but, according to experts’ belief, actually undermines these efforts, causing an individual to end up having a higher calorie intake due to increased appetite for the rest of the day. In fact, there are numerous studies which seem to confirm the importance of breakfast in preventing the need for constant snacks during the day.

This is why nutritionists largely agree that those aiming to lose weight should never skip breakfast, but at the same time, they should try to keep it healthy and low on calories. And in order to ensure the much needed energy, experts suggest a breakfast rich in both fibre and protein. Most commonly recommended foods include oily fish (such as salmon), eggs, natural yoghurt, nuts and seeds, fruits and cereals.

Don’t go shopping hungry

There is not much to be said about this one. It is almost common knowledge that you will be significantly more likely to fill your trolley with unnecessary and often unhealthy snacks and foods if you go shopping hungry. On the other hand, individuals shopping on a full stomach seem to be statistically much more likely to actually read through labels on food, making sensible choices and buying a balanced range of items.

Choosing specific days in the week also seems to play a role in making healthier choices. Some nutritionists advise their clients to go food shopping at the very end of the working week, as this will help them plan the meals over the weekend, making them less likely to order takeaway on a Saturday night. On top of that, it seems that most supermarkets are at their busiest on Monday evenings, following the weekend, so it might be tempting to simply rush through without paying too much attention to your choices.

Bottom line is – you should always aim to do your food shopping as close to the weekend as possible. The statistics seem to indicate that this might actually boost your weight loss efforts and make you much more likely to make informed choices.

Avoid eating late at night

Another tip that can easily be considered to be common knowledge is that those looking to lose weight should definitely avoid having dinner late at night. However, this is a habit that is surprisingly easy to fall into. As of now, there is still no clear consensus on the topic on why and how exactly does eating late at night facilitate weight gain. Some dieters argue that late consumption of calories makes them less likely to be spent. While it sounds like a sensible theory at first glance, the scientific evidence is still lacking.

On the other hand, some medical experts aimed to explain the link between late night eating and weight gain by focusing on a completely different question – what we eat late at night. The statistical research seems to indicate that those coming home late after a long day are significantly more likely to consume food rich in calories and saturated fat as a reaction to stress, heavy workload or a prolonged period of being hungry.

Once eating late in this manner becomes habitual, this can lead to a noticeable increase in calorie intake, making losing weight significantly harder. So, the doctors recommend ingesting 90% of your daily calories before 8pm while paying special attention to spread out these calories evenly in order to allow the body to successfully regulate blood sugar levels during the day.

Of course, it is not always possible to stick to this schedule, so if you do have to eat later than usual, just be careful not to overdo it and limit your calorie intake.

Staying hydrated

Many people know that drinking water with a meal can facilitate weight loss, but why exactly is that so? As of now, there is no exact answer to this question and there are several competing theories on that. On one hand, water has no caloric value, so it’s naturally a better option than high calorie drinks such as milkshakes, coffee variations or alcohol. At the same time, however, filling your stomach with a zero-calorie substance will also have an impact on the subjective perception of hunger. In simpler terms, you won’t have to eat as much to feel full.

It might seem too simple to actually work, but in fact, there are scientific studies which confirmed this assumption. One study indicates that dieters who drink water prior to eating manage to lose roughly three to four pounds more than those without this habit.

Finally, some scientists also mentioned the fact that the body can send out mixed signals to the brain when thirst hits in and sometimes, this sensation is misidentified as hunger. Because of this, staying hydrated can significantly contribute to reduction in ‘false hunger’ pangs and preventing you from snacking when you don’t really need it.

Size matters – when it comes to plates

After going through several tips related to physiology of hunger, we can now also mention the question of “>psychology and subjective experience of hunger and food. Well, psychology might be a tad too heavy word. The thing is rather simple – serving dinner on a large plate is more likely to result in overeating while trying to clean up your plate, as opposed to using a smaller plate which will give the appearance of a large meal.

Sounds simple? Well, because it is. But, scientists have a name for this effect – the Delboeuf illusion. The notion that an optical illusion might cause us to eat more might sound a bit odd, but the experiments have confirmed that not only can size of the plate have an effect on the perceived volume of food, but the contrast between the colour of the plate and the colour of the food can also play a role.

Don’t forget to treat yourself

While completely cutting out sweets and treats is certainly admirable when trying to lose weight, it is not always easy to stay firm in this decision and act as you intend to. In other words, the more restrictive your diet is, the tougher it is to not give in to temptation. In order to prevent relapses, you should maybe consider a more sustainable approach – not giving up treats completely, but think of them as an occasional indulgence. This way, you will know that in certain amount of time you will be able to eat whatever you want, without compromising your diet, in the strictest terms.

Take the time to slow down

While our fast-paced lives often force us to choose speed and convenience over taking the time for ourselves, eating too fast is actually one of the major contributors to ever-increasing prevalence of obesity in the modern western societies. By eating quickly, you don’t give your body enough time to signal to the brain that enough of food has been consumed which results in eating much more than you actually would if you took the time to chew your food properly and make short pauses between mouthfuls. Since it can take as much as 20 minutes for your brain to finally register enough food has been consumed, taking the time to enjoy your meal will actually cause you to consume less food than you would otherwise.

Ensure you’ll have leftovers

At first glance, this might seem a bit counterproductive – losing weight and making extra-large portions don’t really seem to go hand-in-hand. But, having leftovers mean that you can actually enjoy a healthy home-cooked meal at work, thus significantly reducing the likelihood of opting for a standard processed microwave meal or lunch from a fast food restaurant.

However, when making larger portions with the goal of ensuring leftovers, you should be careful about your choice of food. Certain foods such as rice, shellfish or chicken can only be reheated once after being allowed to cool. Having leftovers for a healthier lunch at work is a good idea, but getting food poisoning definitely isn’t!