We scoured through hundreds of weight-loss studies published in the past year and identified the top five most surprising, helpful, and actionable tips that could help you reach or maintain your healthiest weight in 2016. The main message boils down to this: Small changes to your lifestyle don’t have to be difficult or time-consuming, and can still yield big results. Follow this useful advice and you could be a pound slimmer within the first week of January.
1. Eat a bigger breakfast and a smaller dinner.
This summer, a review study in the journal Biochimie answered long-standing questions about meal size and timing in relation to weight: Australian researchers found that eating a bigger percentage of the day’s calories at or before noon aids weight loss. Likewise, eating more than a third of the day’s calories in the evening doubles obesity risk. A healthy adult shouldn’t need a lot of calories later in the day, unless you’re working a night shift or exercising heavily.
Grazers who eat small meals throughout the day may also want to reconsider their plan. Researchers debunked the myth that eating less and often may increase metabolism and control appetite. In fact, frequent snacking may actually cause weight gain when it leads to eating more calories than you need for the day’s activities.
2. Drink a glass of water before every meal.
Nutrition experts have long recommended filling up on water to decrease one’s appetite. However, the science supporting this weight-loss theory has been sparse until recent years. A new study out in Obesity this August shows that you can time your water intake to help weight loss. For about three months, 84 obese British volunteers either drank about two cups of water or imagined feeling full before eating their daily meals. People who pre-loaded with water before eating lost nine pounds (or more) on average compared to the control group who dropped less than two pounds. The reason: H2O may have led subjects to feel more satiated, thus prompting them to consume fewer calories at mealtime.
3. Give your kitchen a much-needed makeover.
Weight loss may be your resolution, but here’s a better one that might actually help you reach your goal: Vow to re-organize your kitchen. A space with too much visible food may hurt your weight-loss efforts, reveals Cornell University research published in October. Study authors looked at 210 households in Syracuse, New York, and found that snack food left on the kitchen counter may correlate with weight gain. Volunteers who had candy, dried fruit, soda, and cereal on their countertops weighed between 21 and 32 pounds more than people with sparser countertops.
The study also emphasized what you should leave on the countertop: a fruit bowl. We’ve heard this before; doing so may trigger healthy habits. In the study, women who kept fruit on the counter were likely to be 14 pounds lighter. Additionally, women who designated a cupboard for snack storage were less likely to purchase large packages of food. Why does this matter? According to a Cochrane Library review study published in September, eating from smaller-packaged food items could lead to a 228-calorie daily drop when coupled with drinking caloric beverages from tall, narrow glasses.
4. Keep your food choices simple and consistent.
A study published in October in PLOS One suggests that following an “everything in moderation” mindset may be harmful for weight. In the study, people with the most variety in their diets had a 120 percent greater gain in waist circumference over five years—and also had higher BMIs, or weight for height. Subjects who ate more fruits, vegetables, and nuts were less likely to have varied diets, while people eating more desserts, foods containing trans fats, and soda were more likely to have varied diets.
5. Get more shuteye on the weekdays.
In a study presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in March, scientists found that adults constantly losing as little as 30 minutes of sleep on weekdays had a significantly higher risk of obesity. In the study, 522 patients with type 2 diabetes completed sleep diaries. People who built up weekday sleep debt were 72 percent more likely to be obese. Another study released in June sheds light on how sleep deprivation may be linked to overeating. The review, published in the Journal of Health Psychology, found that calorie intake following a low-sleep night may be as much as 20 percent higher. The study authors note that sleep-deprived individuals tend to seek out foods rich in carbs and fat—which tend to be high in calories too—and fewer fruits and vegetables.