10 Slim-Down Strategies You Can Count On

The devil is in the details—and nowhere is this cliché truer than with weight loss programs. It’s the small decisions that add up to change, and that’s a good thing, says William Dietz, MD, PhD, with the CDC: “If you can count it, you can change it.”
The 10 countable steps that follow will add up to victory over unwanted pounds. But don’t try them all at once. “It’s like renovating a house; most people do better taking one room at a time,” says John Jakicic, PhD, director of the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh. “Start with the easiest tactic. Once you master it, move on.”
1. Weigh yourself once a day Why it works: Weekly weigh-ins are a staple of many popular weight loss programs, but some studies show that daily weighing can be key to lasting weight loss. When researchers at the University of Minnesota monitored the scale habits of 1,800 dieting adults, they found that those who stepped on every day lost an average of 12 pounds over two years (weekly scale watchers lost only six) and were less likely to regain lost weight. The reason: “The more often you monitor your results, the quicker you can catch the behavioral slip that causes weight gain,” says Jakicic. Add it in: Step on the scale first thing every morning, when you weigh the least. Expect small day-to-day fluctuations because of bloating or dehydration, but if your weight creeps up by 2% (that’s just three pounds if you weigh 150), it’s time to pass up dessert.
2. Limit TV to 2 hours a day Why it works: TV junkies miss out on calorie-burning activities like backyard tag with the kids; instead, they become sitting ducks for junk-food ads. One study found that adults who watch more than two hours of TV per day take in 7% more calories and consume more sugary snacks than those who watch less than an hour a day. Add it in: Wean yourself off the tube by introducing other activities into your life. Eliminate the temptation to watch between-show filler by recording your must-see programs so you can fast-forward through the ads. Or subscribe to a mail-order DVD service like Netflix, and make a movie the only thing you watch all day.
3. Call a friend 3 times a week Why it works: “Long-term weight loss requires support,” says Marion Franz, RD, a nutrition consultant in Minneapolis. Her study review found that people who met regularly with a dietitian or attended reinforcement meetings were more likely to maintain their losses than those who didn’t. Add it in: Announce your weight loss intentions Why it works: A University of Helsinki study of 7,000 adults found that those who’d packed on pounds in the previous year were more likely to have logged overtime hours. Lack of time for diet and exercise is most likely the cause, but it’s also possible that work stress has a direct effect on weight gain through changes in hormones like cortisol. Add it in: Set firm limits on your workday so that when you’re done, you still have the oomph to take a bike ride and cook a healthy dinner. To help you stay productive enough to finish on time, set an hourly alarm; when it goes off, deal with your most pressing duties.
10. Trim 10 points off your glycemic index Why it works: Foods high on the glycemic index—including sugars and refined carbohydrates—cause blood sugar to spike. “The body uses insulin to bring down blood sugar,” says Yunsheng Ma, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The body stores the excess sugar as fat. But that leaves blood sugar levels low, so we feel hungry again and eat more—an unhealthy cycle. Dr. Ma studied the eating patterns of 572 people and found that those who ate foods high on the glycemic index weighed significantly more than those who did not. “There’s about a 10-pound body weight decrease for every 10-point drop in the glycemic index of all the food a person eats each day,” he says. Add it in: Read labels to avoid added sugars, or better yet, eat fresh produce. Healthy swaps include a baked sweet potato (48 on the glycemic index) instead of a russet potato (94); grapes (49) instead of dates (103); pasta (45) instead of pizza (60); and Nutella (30) instead of jelly beans (80). And skip the liquid glucose known as juice.