8 Secrets of the Naturally Slim

Tip No.5: They're Creatures Of Habit

Any dietitian will tell you that a varied diet is good—but too much variety can backfire, says Katz, author of The Flavor Point Diet. Studies have shown that too many tastes and textures encourage you to overeat, he explains. "Thin people have what I call a food groove—the majority of their meals consist of well-planned staples," says Beck. "There are a few surprises thrown in, but for the most part, their diets are fairly predictable."

Copy Them: Try to be as consistent as possible with your major meals—have cereal for breakfast, a salad at lunch, and so forth. It's okay to add grilled chicken to the salad one day and tuna the next, but by sticking to a loosely prescribed meal schedule, you limit the opportunities to overindulge.

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Tip No.6: They Have A Self-Control Gene

Researchers at Tufts University found that the biggest predictor of weight gain among women in their 50s and 60s was their level of disinhibition, or unrestrained behavior. Women with low disinhibition (in other words, a finely tuned sense of restraint) had the lowest body mass index. High disinhibition (i.e., low restraint) was linked to an adult weight gain of as much as 33 pounds.

Copy Them: Prepare for moments when your disinhibition is likely to be higher—such as when you're in a festive atmosphere with a large group of friends. If you're at a party, tell yourself you'll take one of every fourth passed hors d'oeuvre. If you're out at dinner, order an appetizer portion and share dessert. Or if you're stressed—another low-restraint moment—make sure you have a source of crunchy snacks (like fruit or carrot sticks) at the ready.

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Tip No.7: They're Movers And Shakers

On average, slim people are on their feet an extra 2 1/2 hours per day—which can help burn off 33 pounds a year, according to a study from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

Copy Them: Try a reality check. Studies have shown that people often overestimate how active they really are, says Gallagher. Most people actually spend 16 to 20 hours a day just sitting. Wear a pedometer on an average day, and see how close you get to the recommended 10,000 steps. Your day should combine 30 minutes of structured exercise with a variety of healthy habits, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or mopping the floor with extra vigor. To see how many calories your activities burn, see the exercise calculator at www.caloriecontrol.org.

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Tip No.8: They Sleep—Well

They snooze 2 more hours per week, compared with overweight people, says a study from Eastern Virginia Medical School. Researchers theorize that a lack of shut-eye is linked to lower levels of appetite-suppressing hormones like leptin and higher levels of the appetite-boosting hormone ghrelin.

Copy Them: Break it down: Two extra hours of sleep a week is only 17 more minutes a day—a lot more manageable, even for the most packed of schedules. Start there and slowly work toward 8 hours of snooze time a night—the right amount for most adults.

Quick Tip: Eat breakfast! 78 percent of successful dieters do it every day, according to the National Weight Control Registry, A database of more than 5,000 people who've lost more than 30 pounds and kept the weight off for at least a year

More: How to Track Your Weight Loss

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