Losing weight is not easy. It requires a near super-human level of commitment and dedication. But you don’t need to completely overhaul your eating and exercise habits to get results. You can shed pounds effectively by making a few low-effort, high-impact changes. “I’m a huge believer in meeting people where they are when it comes to weight loss,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, registered dietitian and founder of Nutrition Starring
PRIORITIZE PROTEIN AT BREAKFAST
Instead of eating a sugary breakfast or skipping your morning meal entirely, eat something with at least 20 grams of protein, Harris-Pincus says. A low-glycemic, protein-packed breakfastdoesn’t just help keep you full, it can also increase your energy levels, according to a study from the Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology Journal.
INCORPORATE HIGH-INTENSITY WORKOUTS
All exercise requires effort, but there are some workouts that can help you accomplish more in a short amount of time. Research shows high-intensity exercise (short bouts of max-effort intervals), for instance, burns more calories than steady-state exercise performed for the same amount of time.
Rachel Mariotti, a certified strength and conditioning coach, says examples of good high-intensity workouts include short running intervals, hill repeats and strength circuits that involve exercises like squats, kettlebell swings, plyometrics and pushups.
You can use your heart rate to determine how much effort you’re putting forth, Mariotti says. For a high-intensity workout, you’ll want to be at 70–80% of your maximum heart rate, which you can calculate by subtracting your age from 220.
KEEP AN EATING SCHEDULE
Weight loss isn’t just about what you eat — it’s also about when you consume your calories. Eating in alignment with your circadian rhythm, Harris-Pincus says, may help with weight loss. “That means eating breakfast — I say within 2 hours of waking — and stopping your food intake several hours before bed,” she says.
Establishing a meal schedule ensures you stay fueled throughout the day, while helping prevent late-night snacking.
DRINK MORE WATER
“Our bodies often confuse hunger, thirst and fatigue,” says Harris-Pincus. Instead of tearing into a bag of tortilla chips when you get the urge to snack, try drinking a glass of water first.
Quenching your thirst can help you avoid overeating. In one study, overweight people who drank two glasses of water before their meals every day for three months lost an average of 2.6 more pounds than people who didn’t hydrate prior to eating.
To stay hydrated throughout the day, carry a reusable water bottle with you or set a timer every hour as a reminder to consume a glass.
WALK FOR 30 MINUTES EVERY DAY
“Something low-impact that you can do every day is to walk 30 minutes at a fast pace,” Mariotti says. Think: Walk at the pace you use when you’re rushing through an airport terminal to make your flight.
Try turning your work commute into walking time or breaking your walk into smaller chunks after your meals. In one study, Type 2 diabetes patients who walked after each of their three meals experienced greater weight loss than participants who exercised once a day for the same amount of time.