Authors: Jillian Michaels
Fast-forward through food commercials. (The Papa John’s pizza one gets me every damn time.) Your best defense is to not watch them, or better yet, use the commercials for an exercise break. Nowadays you get about 4 minutes of commercials every time your favorite show breaks. Crunch until the end of the first commercial, do lunges during the second, crank out some jumping jacks through the third one, and do push-ups for the last. Do the math—by the time you’ve watched an hourlong show, you’ve exercised a good 20 minutes or so—a pretty good calorie exchange from just being a couch potato.
Spicy foods can reduce your appetite by increasing your body’s nor
epinephrine and epinephrine levels. Canadian researchers found that people who ate appetizers with hot sauce ate
200 fewer calories
than people who didn’t use it. And another study in the
British Journal of Nutrition
found that women who added 2 teaspoons of dried red pepper flakes to their food ate fewer calories during the day. When you order ethnic, like Indian or Chinese, tell them you want it spicy, and be sure to add a little fire to your everyday dishes for the same benefit.
Yoga for weight loss—yes, it’s true. Practicing yoga regularly may help suppress appetite and therefore promote weight loss. According to research published in the
Journal of the American Dietetic Association
, those who regularly engaged in yoga seemed to be more aware of their eating habits. They were less likely to binge or eat mindlessly. The scientists did not find a similar association with other types of physical activity, such as walking or running. These
findings suggest that learning to be more self-observant through yoga will spill over into being more aware of your eating habits, leading to healthier choices and weight loss, independent of yoga as a physical practice. If you’re looking for a way to control mindless eating, add a yoga session or two to your weekly workouts.
Exercise can erase my bad eating habits.
You can eat your way through any amount of exercise. Think about it. Spend an hour on the treadmill, and you can burn 500 calories—basically that’s a slice and a half of pizza, without any sides. You have to eat right
work out if you are going to see results. If you’re doing one but not the other, chances are you won’t gain weight but you probably won’t lose either. To ensure success, cover all bases with a clean diet and a solid exercise regimen.
Stave off hunger by starting your meal with a cup of soup, broth, or broth with veggies. This can curb the tendency to overeat. Wait 10 to 15 minutes before you eat your main meal, and there’s a good chance you’ll eat a lot less. If you’re making your own veggie-based, potassium-rich, low-sodium broth, use organic vegetables such as asparagus, zucchini, green beans, and celery—especially the leafy heart. Use greens of any kind, parsley especially, as they’re naturally diuretic. Don’t add salt. Do add natural seasonings such as black and cayenne pepper, turmeric, dried mustard, and lemon juice, and you’re off to a filling, slimming start to any meal.
Don’t confuse hunger with cravings. They’re very different. You can have cravings when you’re not hungry—usually for something salty or sweet. If you treat cravings as if they’re hunger, you’ll eat and
eat, hoping they’ll abate—but to no avail. The following section is geared specifically at crushing cravings so they don’t ruin all your hard work.
Think about the treat you’re going to ingest, then figure out how many hours of exercise you will need to put in to counteract it. To help you figure this out, look up the food you’re going to consume in your calorie-counting app or pocket calorie-counting book. Then imagine that you’re exercising
burning around 10 calories a minute (give or take). For example: if you had the Bloomin’ Onion appetizer from Outback S
teak House at around 1,800 calories, you’d need to run at a minimum of 7 mph for about 3 hours straight to work it off. That’s practically a marathon. I play this game with myself all the time. You’ll be amazed how quickly you write that junk food off. An hour and a half of intense circuit training for the Big Mac—I don’t think so.
This tip comes straight from the mouth of supermodel Naomi Campbell. She says that one of her top tricks for fending off hunger and cravings is to sip tea. There are a number of reasons why this works. First, many teas are lightly caffeinated; caffeine is a natural appetite suppressant. Green tea, for example, has been shown to squelch hunger, boost energy, burn up to 4 percent more calories, and increase the rate of fat oxidation (fat burning). Herbal teas (noncaffeinated) can also be helpful in fending off hunger, as some of the properties of herbals support a host of organ and metabolic functions.
Here are my top picks:
Dandelion is regaled for curbing cravings for sweets and is also reputed to boost metabolism, flush out the kidneys, and help treat digestive problems. You can purchase it at your local grocer or make it fresh from the dandelion root. It’s most effective as a craving killer when consumed three times each day.
Ginseng helps stabilize blood-sugar levels, which in turn helps stave off cravings and suppress appetite. People with a history of high blood pressure or anxiety must limit their consumption of Siberian ginseng, though, or find natural alternatives. This type of tea is commonly found in Asian grocers or herbal shops.
This “sweet root” tea helps to sustain healthy blood sugar levels, reducing cravings for sweets and managing hunger.
Bilberry helps kill cravings, particularly in the evening, as it’s both naturally decaffeinated and defends against sugar-induced munching. Bilberries have blood-sugar-balancing effects, like many of the other herbals listed here, which will send you running for that late-night snack far less often.
This wonder beverage helps boost metabolism and burn fat while simultaneously inhibiting hunger and cravings. It’s also been shown to help lower cholesterol, prevent diabetes and stroke, and stave off dementia.
This tea helps to suppress hunger, boost metabolism, and reduce fatigue.
A study in the
Journal of American College of Nutrition
found that black tea decreases blood sugar levels by 10 percent for two and a half hours, so you’ll feel fuller faster and avoid hunger later on.
Put cinnamon on anything and everything. It’s great for you, and it’s healthily deceptive. We associate it so much with sugar that it makes us
we’re eating something sweet and fattening even when we aren’t. I put it in applesauce and on peaches. I’ve even had my
peeps put it in Greek yogurt with crushed almonds as a treat. Or add it to your coffee or tea as a topper.
What are you antsy for—something salty, sweet, crunchy, or sour? Or something fat laden or decadent? If you can pinpoint what your body has a desire for, it’s easier to either squelch it or satisfy it with a low-calorie option. For example, if you’re craving sweet, try half a baked yam or a slice of watermelon. If you’re craving crunchy, try an apple with a light spread of crunchy almond butter. If it’s salt you want, try a 100-calorie bag of popchips, seaweed snacks, kale chips, or celery with low-fat ricotta cheese. (Sprinkle with a little cayenne or chili powder for extra flavor.) Popcorn alone is also a healthy, whole-grain fiber snack—the extra butter and salt that are usually added contribute the calories and bloat.
If this kind of substitution still leaves you wanting the pizza or the brownie, remember that that’s an option, too, but portion size is key. Luckily, when it comes to cravings, satisfying them doesn’t take volume. Check out my next tip to see what I mean.
As you may have gathered, I’m not big into deprivation. I’m also not into overindulgence, either. In an effort to find the middle ground, I’ve personally perfected my craving-management strategy. Here it is:
Take three bites.
I’m serious. Savor three bites of whatever it is that you want, then step away from the food and distract yourself with a chore or a hobby (see my next tip). Give it 10 to 15 minutes, and chances are your craving will disappear. When you’re on that third bite, you’ll be thinking that you could consume the whole thing and that I (meaning me) must be an idiot. I promise, if you can muster up the willpower to wait another 15 minutes before going back for more, it’s extremely likely you’ll forget about wanting to do so.
As with the feeling of fullness, your body takes a beat to register the sugar and feel satisfied. Once your body knows it has gotten its fix, it’s satisfied without you having to eat the entire box of cookies or the whole pint of ice cream.
When you need to distract yourself, keep busy. It’s amazing how
hungry I am on days where I’m up to my armpits in contestant problems on the set of
. But when I work from home, I feel starved every hour. When you’re busy, your mind isn’t constantly searching for a way to entertain, amuse, or please itself. I want you to work at keeping busy (for some of us, that’s not hard). If you aren’t working, then volunteer or pursue a hobby. I don’t care what you do, just keep busy. Remember, “Idle hands are the devil’s playthings.”
Aromatherapy has long been practiced as a way to curb hunger. All you have to do is dispense 1 to 3 drops of pure essential oil and inhale. I’ve even put it on my wrists and behind my ears like a perfume. Try
these slimming scents, recommended by aromatherapists to help curb food cravings: grapefruit, cinnamon, ginger, and coriander oils.
Here’s another tip where your nose can help you. Dr.
Alan R. Hirsch of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago had 3,000 volunteers sniff apples and bananas. He found that the more often they sniffed food, the less hungry they were, and the more weight they lost. His theory is that
sniffing food tricks the brain into thinking you’re actually eating it and as such helps to reduce appetite. I personally have experimented with using other temptation foods as a deterrent (as apples and bananas don’t always float my craving boat). Although my success rate isn’t 100 percent, I’ve been able to circumvent a brownie or two on occasion simply by smelling other sweet foods.
The dentist always tells you to brush after you eat, right? Well, next time you think you’re hungry, or you’re ready to mindlessly binge, go brush your teeth. This quick, simple, and cheap deterrent can keep you from wreaking major havoc on your eating plan. Seriously, think about it: how good does sugar seem right after you brush your teeth? It doesn’t really, right? Use this response to your advantage. I even travel with Wisps (disposable mouth fresheners that look like mini-toothbrushes), so when I’m out and about without my
toothbrush and toothpaste, I’m still covered.
Ever wonder why the food commercial says, “You can’t eat just one”? It’s because the manufacturer loaded that crappy food up with
MSG so you’ll want more of it. These two ingredients are the underlying source in most foods known to cause cravings. Don’t use them. Substitute
lemon, lime, vinegar, onion or garlic, pepper, chili,
ginger, or any other real seasonings that won’t encourage your body to keep eating. Over time your taste for salt will diminish, your cravings will dissipate, you’ll be less bloated, and your blood pressure will likely be lower!
Excessive stress is a killer—literally. Left unchecked, stress can contribute to health problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. It can sabotage your slim by wreaking havoc on your hormones—essentially throwing your body into a survival state that packs on fat and cannibalizes muscle. It also puts you in a bummer of a mood. Stress can be managed and minimized, but you have to make conscious efforts to do so.
You’re probably going to want to blow off this section, because you’re busy running the rat race. But I’m telling you, don’t. In the long run, how you handle the excess stress in your life is going to be one of your top slimming factors, as well as the key to keeping you healthy and disease free.
Sleep is crucial for weight loss. Getting 7 to 8 hours a night can do as much for your waistline as an actual workout. Often when I’m faced with a choice between getting 6 hours of sleep but doing a workout, and skipping the workout and sleeping 8 hours, I choose the sleep. Does that sound crazy to you coming from me? It’s not—here’s why.
I promised you no boring biochemistry lessons, so I’ll try to make this explanation brief. Sleep has a dramatic impact on your
hormone balance. You release most of your slimming hormones when you sleep, like HGH (which burns fat and maintains lean muscle mass) and
leptin (which helps control and regulate appetite). Conversely, when you don’t sleep, you release hormones like
cortisol (which promotes fat storage) and
ghrelin (which stimulates appetite). Ever had one of those days where you didn’t get much sleep the night before and you feel like your stomach is a bottomless pit? Yeah, I thought so. In fact, a study from the Mayo Clinic found that shortchanging slumber by as little as 80 minutes a night leads people to take in an average of 549 more calories the next day. Prioritize your shut-eye.