So, you're sick of your gut and you want to do something about it. Obviously, going to the gym is a good step—but there's actually a number of things you can do right away that you might not have thought about. Here are eight ways to get on the road to a better body immediately.
Take a water jug, go to your tap, and fill it up. "Most people don't realize how many calories are hiding in beverages such as sodas, teas, and beers," says Sheri Barke, M.P.H., R.D., nutrition education director at UCLA. "So if people drink more water instead, they'll consume a lot fewer calories."
Read the labels
Most food labels tell you how much fat is inside. The total should never exceed 1/4 of the total calories. And saturated fat should never make up more than 1/3 of the total fat, nor 1/10 of total calories.
Clean your cupboard
God only knows what you might find in there. But throw out anything that doesn't stand up to the above standards and/or has a three-day growth on it. But, Barke cautions, avoid the kind of appetite denial that can lead to binges. "Let yourself have a little of your favorite food once per week, but don't keep it around the house," she says.
Do it yourself
Try to eat at least one additional home-cooked meal per week. "People eat out so much, and there are so many hidden calories when we eat out," says Barke. "If you start packing more meals or eating more at home, you'll find you can save a lot of calories."
Make your list
To prepare more food at home requires having more food at home. So start planning your shopping spree. "Fruits and vegetables should go on that list," says Barke. These are hard to find at work, but consuming more of them will reduce your need for high-fat snacks. You may also want to purchase a small, portable cooler or insulation bag if you don't have access to a refrigerator.
HALT before you act
From this moment forward, say "HALT" before you eat. Barke suggests you use this technique to determine if the need for food is physical or psychological. H refers to genuine hunger or habit. "If you're physically hungry, then you need to eat," she says. "But often we don't eat because of hunger, but out of habit." The remaining letters refer to other wrong reasons for eating: A because you're anxious; L because you're lonely or depressed; and T because you're tired.
Tell a friend
It could be your girlfriend, roommate, or co-worker, but you may be less likely to backslide if someone else is aware of your intentions. Be aware, however, that sometimes friends and co-workers unintentionally sabotage your efforts.
Schedule your meals
Barke and many other nutritionists believe eating smaller meals more frequently—five or six per day—better fuels the body and reduces fat storage. This approach also bumps up your metabolism. "But you have to schedule your eating," she says. "Write it in your planner. If you don't put effort into it ahead of time, you'll get busy during the day and it won't happen." If you're on a five-meals-a-day schedule, eat when it's time; even if you don't feel hungry. Believe it or not, you're actually training your body to be more efficient.