Get a Dog (and 29 Other Surprising Weight Loss Tips)
Small changes add up to big fat loss, and every one of the tweaks you’ll find here is simple, smart and sustainable
1. Get a Pooch
A dog isn’t just a man’s best friend – having a mutt can also keep you greyhound-slim. Everyday stress floods your body with the hormone cortisol, which triggers the storage of fat, but a University of Missouri study proved that hanging with hounds releases the feelgood hormone oxytocin to keep belly-bloating stress at bay. Dog-owners are also 34% more likely to get out and exercise. For the greatest benefit, choose the most suitable breed of dog for your preferred type of exercise – shuffling around with a wheezing pug just gives off the wrong vibe.
Not surprisingly, dogs bred to hunt (like Labradors and Weimaraners) or to pull sleds (huskies, malamutes) will keep up with runners even on marathon threshold runs. For a more compact alternative, a Jack Russell has almost boundless energy.
If you’re an open-water swimmer or a kayaker, a Newfoundland – with its thick, water-resistant fur – is the perfect companion. If you don’t have room for one (they can grow up to 65kg), a Portuguese water dog is another option – and they’re also non-allergenic.
An all-rounder like an English or Irish setter can easily cope with vertiginous hikes, although serious walkers might prefer the power of a Bernese mountain dog. Again, the Jack Russell is a perfect small alternative – and will even fit in your rucksack.
2. Read the Label
People who understand food labelling weigh 4.5kg less than people who don’t, according to research published in Agricultural Economics. Check the ingredient order – manufacturers are legally bound to put the biggest one first. If your protein bar’s first, second and third ingredients are varieties of sugar (sucrose, fructose and saccharin, say), it’s basically a sugar bar.
3. Run on Grass
Switching your morning pavement plod to a run through a grassy park or sandy beach will help you torch more fat. A study in the Journal Of Experimental Biology revealed that running on soft surfaces burns 1.6 times more energy than running on pavements because your muscles have to work extra hard on uneven terrain. There’s less chance of stumbling across a deli full of pastrami baps, too.
4. Choose a Coloured Bowl
Next time you graze on crisps or biscuits while watching football on TV, eat them out of a red or blue bowl. A study in the journal Perception showed that the brain is tricked into thinking snacks served in coloured bowls taste more intense than those from white bowls, so you’ll scoff less without even thinking about it. Final score: beach body 1, belly fat 0.
RECOMMENDED: How to Lose Belly Fat
5. Spice up Your Dinner
Chop up an extra chilli in your stir-fry. A study in Physiology & Behaviour showed that spicy foods slash cravings for fatty, salty and sweet grub, while the University of Wyoming found that the capsaicin in chillies increases your fat-burning metabolism.
6. Enjoy a Two-Course Meal
Bulldozing straight into your main course at dinner time could turn you into a pork chop. Experts at Pennsylvania State University discovered that eating a starter of vegetable soup satisfied diners’ grumbling guts before the main course arrived and they consumed 20% fewer calories overall. In other words, double your courses and can fat for good.
7. Eat Grapes Before You Shop
If you often hit the supermarket with a list of veggies but come home with bags of pastries, it’s probably because your willpower is starved of glucose. Research in the Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology proved that willpower drops with your glucose levels, so eating glucose-rich grapes before you shop will sweeten your chance of avoiding the cake aisle.
8. Munch on Cheese
Giving up cheese in a bid to slim down is a bad idea. In a study published in the Journal Of Agriculture And Food Chemistry, a group of men who ate a cheese-rich diet had higher levels of the compound butyrate, an anti-inflammatory fatty acid that boosts your fat-burning metabolism, than those who ate other dairy products or a control diet. If you’re concerned about your fat intake, stick to cottage cheese and feta, which are relatively low in fat.
9. Eat Slower
Chewing your food slowly might make you look like a camel but it will also help you shift the fatty hump around your middle. Research in the Journal Of Clinical Endocrinology And Metabolism showed that men who ate ice cream slowly produced higher levels of appetite-busting peptides in the gut than those who wolfed down their food.
10. Watch TV on Delay
Stream all your favourite TV shows – or watch them on a ten-minute delay – so you can fast-forward through the filthy food porn ads. Scientists at the University of Southern California used functional magnetic resonance imaging to track the brain activity of subjects as they were shown pictures of fatty food, and they discovered that simply looking at food activates the brain regions associated with appetite and hunger. Skip the ads and you’ll also avoid that mid-show dash to the cookie jar.
RECOMMENDED: 50 Easy Food Wins
11. Snack on Plums
Next time you’re ambushed by the munchies, reach for a plum. Research by the University of San Diego’s School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences showed that plums suppress hunger better than cookies, so you feel fuller for longer. Not bad for just 30 calories and 0g of fat.
RECOMMENDED: Low-Calorie Snacks
12. Eat Eggs for Breakfast
Swapping your morning toast for a three-egg omelette could be the easiest fat-loss trick you pull today. Research in the Journal Of The American College Of Nutrition found that replacing a grain-based breakfast with eggs boosts fullness and cuts your lunch intake by over 160 calories. In fact, the effect lasts for 36 hours, so you’ll still be eating smaller portions tomorrow.
13. Clench your Fist to Fight Hunger
Next time you walk past the office vending machine, tighten your fist into a ball. Research in the Journal Of Consumer Research revealed that people who clench a muscle for 30 seconds are better able to control their impulses, giving you more chance of ignoring that shiny sack of Skittles. It will also come in handy next time your finger is hovering over the Buy button for a £300 cashmere cardigan on ASOS.
14. Devour Porridge
Muesli may look like a cold version of porridge but scientists from Sydney University found that porridge’s gloopy consistency makes it twice as filling, even when the portions contain the same amount of calories, so you’ll find it easier to reject that mid-morning office doughnut.
15. Turn off Your iPad
According to the Lighting Research Centre, gadgets reduce production of melatonin – a hormone that helps you sleep – by 22%, while the University of Chicago found that sleep loss sparks an 18% drop in leptin, a hormone that tells your brain you’re full, and a 28% increase in ghrelin, which triggers hunger. Ditch the iPad after 9pm to bag more shut-eye and dream your way to a better body.
16. Eat Lunch Alone
Whatever you tuck into at lunchtime, eat it alone. A study published in Physiology & Behaviour proved that eating with people you know wrecks your focus and causes you to consume 18% more grub. We wouldn’t suggest ignoring your girlfriend or kids at the dinner table – but a weekday lunch is one meal you can enjoy alone without making your family hate you.
17. Use a Smaller Plate
Shrink your plate and you’ll shrink your gut. A study published in the American Journal Of Preventive Medicine showed that people given a larger bowl served themselves 30% more food than those given a smaller bowl – even though they were no hungrier. If your dinner plate is the size of a satellite dish, swap it for a Hobbit-sized plate and you’ll eat less.
18. Chew Gum
If you can’t help snaffling a bag of Haribo every time you stop into a newsagents, chuck a stick of gum into your mouth on the way to the shop. A study in the journal Appetite proved it reduces cravings for sugary snacks. Plus, not even a Tangfastic dummy tastes good when you’ve got mint-mouth.
19. Drink While You Cook
When you’re prepping dinner tonight, guzzle half a litre of water while you chop and slice. Research published in the journal Obesity showed that people who drank 500ml of water 30 minutes before meals for 12 weeks ate much smaller portions and lost 44% more weight than those who didn’t.
20. Drizzle Lemon on Your Lunch
Give your stomach some lemon aid by squeezing lemon juice into everything from stir-fries and salads to fish dishes and fruit shakes. It blunts the post-lunch insulin spike that causes your body to store fat and helps it store carbs as fuel instead of blubber, so you’ll feel citrus-fresh for your next trip to the gym.
21. Sprinkle Some Cinnamon
Simply chucking cinnamon on top of your mid-morning yogurt can help you fight flab. The spice limits surges in blood sugar and slows down the emptying of the stomach, according to a review in the Journal Of Diabetes Science And Technology, which means you’ll feel fuller for longer and suffer fewer cravings. Scientists at the Chicago College of Dentistry have shown that it kills bad breath too.
RECOMMENDED: The 15 Best Fat-Burning Foods (Including Cinnamon)
22. Sweat for Two Minutes
Whether you hit the treadmill during your lunch break, commute to work on your bike or just nail a post-work sprint for the bus, find a way to knock out a two-minute all-out effort today. A report in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition And Metabolism showed that just 120 seconds of high-intensity effort increases the potential for fatty acid oxidation so your body burns more fat whatever you’re doing.
23. Listen to Pop Music
Working out to cheesy pop tunes like Katy Perry’s “Firework” or David Guetta’s “Titanium” can help you exercise for longer and shed more fat. Research in the Journal Of Sport And Exercise Psychology confirmed that synchronising your running pace to music with a tempo of 125bpm – as those tracks have – causes a 15% improvement in endurance. Check out jog.fm (opens in new tab) for more 125bpm fat-burners.
24. Buy a Heavier Spoon
Investing in weightier, higher-quality cutlery won’t just impress your guests at dinner parties – it’ll automatically slash your food intake. Research at Oxford University showed that heavier cutlery captures your attention when you eat and tricks your brain into thinking your food tastes better. With a happy belly you won’t be raiding the snack cupboard two hours later.
25. Take a Morning Walk
Yes, walking obviously burns a few calories, but it’s the timing that really matters. Scientists at Brigham Young University in the US found that 45 minutes of moderate exercise in the morning reduces the desire for food later in the day – giving you a 24-hour fat-dodging bonus.
26. Bag a Break
If you enjoy running, rowing or cycling in the gym during your lunch hour, take a break halfway through cardio exercise and you’ll nuke more fat. A Japanese study found that it helps you metabolise more fat than simply exercising without stopping. Try nailing that three-minute plank you’ve been gunning for while you’re resting.
27. Stock up on Olive Oil
If you can’t ditch your passion for belly-bloating buns and loaves, slosh some olive oil over your bread and you’ll eat much less. A study in the International Journal Of Obesity showed that using olive oil instead of butter causes diners to eat 23% less bread and consume 16% fewer calories overall, so your stomach will soon look more like a thin chapatti and less like a burger bun.
28. Fidget More
Research published in the journal Science has shown that simple everyday fidgeting – like tapping your feet to iPod tracks at your desk or walking around the office while you’re looking at notes – can burn an extra 350 calories a day, turning your dull day at work into a fat-melting exercise regime. Being annoying has never felt so good.
29. Cool Your Beans
Adding resistant starch – a type of fibre found in beans – to meals increases your body’s ability to burn fat by 23%, according to a study in Nutrition & Metabolism. And if you cook the beans the night before and allow them to cool, you’ll crank up the resistant starch content for additional fat-torching gains.
30. Drink Coffee after Lunch
If you know you’ll be stuck at your desk all afternoon, perk up your fat-burning furnace with a shot of coffee after lunch. Research in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition showed that caffeine elevates resting metabolism by 3-4% for over 2½ hours, so you’ll be torching more energy than that smug juice-sipping know-all next to you.
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Mark Bailey is a features writer and interviewer who contributed to Coach magazine in 2015 and Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach, until 2019. Mark has also written for national newspapers including The Telegraph (opens in new tab) and The Financial Times Magazine (opens in new tab), as well as magazines and websites such as Cyclist (opens in new tab) and Bike Radar (opens in new tab).