We've all been there: Despite exercising and watching what you eat, the elastic in your workout shorts seems to be as tight as your hamstrings. "Ninety-five percent of the active people I work with want to lose some weight," says Cassie Dimmick, M.S., R.D., a sports dietitian and running coach in Springfield, Missouri.
Getting lean requires the same trait that makes you get up at 5 a.m. for a workout: discipline. You need to be vigilant about your diet and consistent with exercise so that you maximize calorie burn, increase muscle mass, and decrease body fat. Luckily, it's easier than it sounds when you employ these tactics from dietitians and coaches. Get ready to lose! (Find out why your diet & fitness plan isn't working—read our list of Weight Loss Myths, Exposed.)
1. Practice Long, Slow Eating
In a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2011, researchers in New Zealand looked at the relationship 2,500 women had between their self-reported speeds of eating and their body mass indexes. For each step up in speed (on a five-step scale from very slow to very fast), BMI increased by 2.8 percent. By slowing down, you give your mind a chance to process that your body is full. Increase your meal splits by eschewing distraction: no computer, no television, no newspaper. "You'll become aware of every bite," Eberle says.
2. Go All DIY
"Throwing something together for yourself at home is almost always going to involve fewer calories than dining out," Dimmick says. "You can control the ingredients and the portion sizes." For nights you're too rushed to cook, stock your pantry and freezer ahead of time with these staples: vegetable and bean soups, a frozen vegetable pizza, brown rice you can microwave, a can of black beans and salsa (a combo of the latter three make an easy, healthy meal). In order to make a brown-bag lunch as easy as possible, double dinner recipes so that you'll have leftovers. Chili and lasagna—make them both heavy on the vegetables—are especially tasty the day after you make them. If you need more inspiration, try these 30-Minute DIY Meals.
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3. Plan Ahead"Know when you're going to eat and what you're going to eat," says Suzanne Girard Eberle, M.S., R.D., author of Endurance Sports Nutrition. "Plan it out at the beginning of the day and the week so that you're not scrambling when you're hungry." This helps you resist the temptation of fast-food restaurants or pastries in the break room.