3. Be a Stealth Calorie Burner
It may happen subconsciously, but studies show that some people move less after they begin an exercise regimen. When women and men (average age 59), started to work out twice a week, their everyday activity decreased by 22 percent, according to research from the Netherlands. The reason for the slowdown, experts speculate, may be postworkout fatigue or the perception that if you exercise, you can afford to skimp on the small stuff. Wrong! Little activities such as standing instead of sitting, fidgeting, and walking more throughout the day can add up to an extra 350 calories burned per day, according to Mayo Clinic studies. Other research shows that a decrease in these everyday actions may shut down an enzyme that controls fat metabolism, making weight loss tougher. And even daily half-hour to hour-long workouts aren't enough to turn it back on.
Track nonexercise activity
Record your daily step counts with a pedometer on a couple of days when you don't work out. Then calculate your average (add up your daily totals and divide by the number of days tracked). If you don't maintain at least this level of activity every day, your fat-burning ability will decline. For instance, if you normally log 5,000 steps a day but skip half of them on days you work out, it could slow weight loss by up to 50 percent—even though you're exercising.
One study showed that signs encouraging people to take the stairs increased usage by 200 percent. To motivate yourself, stick notes on your bathroom mirror, microwave, TV remote, steering wheel, and computer that simply say: Move more!
Set up weekly physical outings
You'll be less likely to blow it off if you make a commitment to someone else. Plan a hike or bike ride with your family, help clean out a friend's garage, or volunteer to walk your neighbor's dog.
4. Halt Hunger Hormones
When 35 overweight women and men started exercising, researchers found that some of them compensated for their workouts by eating as much as 270 extra calories a day—negating more than half of the calories they burned, according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity. "Some research shows that exercising regularly can trigger the release of ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone meant to protect the body from losing weight too quickly," says Bonci. To make matters worse, appetite also appears to increase as you approach menopause because of declining estrogen levels, according to animal studies.
Snack before you sweat
"Exercising on an empty stomach lowers blood sugar, which can increase your appetite and set you up to overeat afterward," says Bonci. To ward off post-exercise hunger, have a light (about 100 calories), carbohydrate-rich snack, such as 4 oz. of yogurt or a banana, 20 to 30 minutes before you work out.
Write before you eat
Keeping a food diary is a proven weight loss tool, but don't wait until after your meal. "When my clients record what they're going to eat, it puts their dietary habits on pause long enough to decide if their food choices are really worth it," says Bonci. Time your meals If possible, schedule your workouts before a meal. In studies where meals were served 15 to 30 minutes after exercise, participants ate less than those who had to wait an hour or more to eat.
People who drink water regularly eat nearly 200 fewer calories daily than those who only consume tea, coffee, or soda, reports a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study. Bonus: Make it ice-cold water. German researchers found that drinking 6 cups of cold water a day raised metabolism by about 50 calories daily—possibly because of the work it takes to warm the fluid up to body temperature. And every little bit helps!