Who said that losing weight is all about eating less and exercising more? Recent studies by major Universities have revealed that weight loss is strongly affected by factors such as how much you sleep, how much protein you consume, the size of your fork, the image you have for yourself, and the focus of your mind.
Being overweight takes a toll on more than your waistline; it can be expensive, too. According to figures released by Journal of Occupational and Environmental medicine, the average obese American spends an extra $2,741 each year (most of it going to medical expenses) than her slimmer counterparts. I don’t know about you, but I could think of many things I would rather spend almost three thousand dollars on—how about a new wardrobe, monthly spa pampering sessions or a tropical getaway?
With sparky shoes and tempting beaches dancing in my head, I went ahead and looked for some proven, factual ways to drop a few pounds, and start enjoying my extra three grand a year. Some of the research out there simply reinforced what I already knew—cut calories, exercise more, and you’ll shed pounds. But a few ideas surprised me, so I wanted to share them with you (does that mean I get a cut of your $3,000 savings? No? I didn’t think so!)
Get more sleep
Simply making sure you get enough sleep each night can boost your weight loss potential, according to a recent University of Washington study. Sleep less and you’ll have more waking hours—and more time to consume calories, or even an extra meal or three. The researchers found a link between sleep and weight and preliminary findings suggest that sleeping 9 hours a night is more beneficial for weight loss than sleeping 7 or less. More specifically, the study found that if you have a genetic tendency to gain weight, this tendency is more likely to manifest itself if you sleep 7 instead of 9 hours. This is one of the easiest items on this list to implement—you don’t have to buy anything, eat anything or even work out—just get to bed a little earlier and you’re set.
Bring on the protein
A big juicy steak can be more than tasty; it can also help you drop a few pounds, according to researchers at the University of Sydney. Dr. Alison Gosby and her team found that people who take at least 15% of their daily calories from protein will eat 12% less food than people whose protein intake is only 10% of their daily calories. She explained that a low protein diet “can drive excess energy intake”. In fact, the excess food consumed by the low-protein eaters comes mainly from over-snacking. Consuming foods high in protein can boost energy levels and can be beneficial to weight loss. Researchers think that a diet lacking in protein can cause you to snack more, particularly if you eat less than 10% protein per day. What does this mean for you? Add a meat, egg or bean dish to your menu each day and you’ll get more than an energy boost, you’ll ward off a snack attack as well.
Measure your fork
I’ve been a writer for a very long time, and have never written the sentence “measure your fork”, but it’s true—the size of your fork can play a role in how much you eat. How does this work? According to the Journal of Consumer Research, a study conducted actually measured the fork sizes of diners in an Italian restaurant setting.
Given a large plate of food, those with bigger forks actually consumed less food overall than diners with small forks. Researchers feel that the results mean that the diner’s perception of the amount of food they are eating may help them instinctively feel full. Bigger bites equal a faster feeling of fullness, since the food disappears from the plate more quickly. So the next time you are in a restaurant, forget proper etiquette and grab the biggest fork you can find for your meal.
Interestingly, if you eat at home, then things are reversed. Using a small fork makes you eat less food. The difference between the restaurant and the home setting is in the mechanism that promotes satiety.
At home, the smaller the bites, the slower you eat, the more time you allow your brain to develop satiety signals. As you know, it takes our brain about 10 minutes to tell us we are full after we have eaten enough. Therefore, if you eat one bite a minute you will go beyond your fullness by 10 bites of food, while if you take five bites a minute your will eat 50 bites more than your body really wants before the satiety signal kicks in.
When you dine in a restaurant you have a different psychology, experts claim. Food has cost you more than eating at home. Therefore, the bigger the fork, the higher the dent in your plate, the greater the perception you have progressed toward your goal of satisfying your hunger—a goal that has required more-than-normal investment (money, effort).
Boost your body image
Stop obsessing about your body and how it looks, and start focusing on how you feel and you’ll boost your weight loss potential. It’s not just your mom telling you this—researchers recently studied a group of almost 300 overweight women, half of whom received some training and attention to improving their body image and self-esteem. The women who worked to improve their own perception of themselves lost more weight, suggesting that an improved body image helps your brain focus more on losing weight and less on fretting about how you look. Put this into action by taking some time each day to focus on the good parts of your body—strong arms that can lift kids high into the air, your shiny hair and great skin—and make your self image your partner, not your enemy, in your weight loss journey.
Track things with meaning
Once again, a study has shown that your brain plays an important part in your overall ability to lose weight or maintain a weight loss. According to a pair of researchers, Geoffrey Cohen of Stanford University and Christine Logel of the University of Waterloo, Ontario, journaling each day about things that you value— morals, religion, family and related topics— can actually boost weight loss.
In the study, participants wrote each day about something important to them, and made no other changes. After 10 weeks, the journalers were found to have lost an average of 3.4 pounds, while their non-journaling counterparts actually gained weight in the same time period. Findings suggest that journaling and reflecting on important values can improve your self-esteem—and automatically help you make better choices.
I hope you’ll find these factual weight loss studies as interesting as I did, and maybe even implement a few. As for me, I’ll be getting more sleep, keeping a journal and asking for a bigger fork the next time I go out to eat!
Matthew Denos owns a weight loss blog where he publishes reviews of popular diet programs. As a biologist who conducted medical research for over 10 years, he scours the web to discover the most fascinating advances in health science. Matthew likes to write about the latest findings in nutrition, human psychology, and diet. In his free time he lifts weight or goes hiking in the Greek mountains.
[Ref. 1] Sleep Journal. Sleep Duration and Body Mass Index in Twins: A Gene-Environment Interaction
[Ref. 2] Science Daily. Why People Eat Less When They Have Big Forks?
[Ref. 3] PLos One. Testing Protein Leverage in Lean Humans