1. Exercise at night.
According to one study in the journal Obesity, our circadian system makes us hungriest a few hours before bedtime. But you may feel fuller after working out: A separate study in the journal Metabolism found that perceived fullness was higher among participants after 12 weeks of aerobic training than before they were exercising. A brisk walk after dinner each night may make you less likely to snack before bed.
2. Break up your regular meals.
If you usually top your breakfast oatmeal with blueberries and walnuts, eat the oatmeal plain when you wake up, and save the blueberries and nuts for a snack later, suggests registered dietitian Jen Brewer, author of Stop Dieting and Start Losing Weight. Brewer explains that it’s the same amount of calories divided throughout the day, so you’re able to snack healthfully and still feel satiated — without adding more calories to your “three” meals a day.
3. Get a dog.Researchers at Michigan State University discovered that having a pooch is linked with burning 200 extra calories per week. Registered dietitian Keeley Mezzancello says people who own and walk their dogs are 34% more likely than people who don’t to meet the American Heart Association's recommended 150 minutes of physical activity a week. Dog-walkers generally strolled about an hour longer per week than non-dog-walkers, which translates to an additional 230 calories burned a week.
4. Brush your teeth after dinner.
Cutting calories may be less about what you’re devouring and more about how much of it’s going in your mouth. Tara DelloIacono Thies, a registered dietitian and nutritional strategist at Clif Bar & Company, recommends using cues to let your mind and body know that mealtime is over. She suggests that you’re less likely to snack if you always plan for a post-meal brush, indicating that eating time is over.
5. Use social media.
“If you have to post that you ate M&M’s, you’re less likely to actually eat them,” says DelloIacono Thies. “That social aspect makes you more accountable.” Using social media apps to track calories and workouts — and share those results — can also help you consume fewer calories, according to a study by LUNA and Institute for the Future.
6. Sit while you eat.
You may want to skip even occasional on-your-feet eating. A Canadian study found that people who ate from plastic containers while standing consumed 30% more calories later in the day than those who ate an identical plated meal while seated. Hunger and fullness cues can be skewed if you’re not in the proper meal environment, says Mezzancello, so have a seat to eat mindfully.
7. Eat fruit first.
An easy, healthy way to avoid extra calories is to reach for an apple or other fruit before a meal. DelloIacono Thies says that if you’re bored, the fruit won’t sound good and you won’t want it, but if you’re truly hungry, you’ll want the fruit. “The worst that will happen is that you’ve eaten an apple — not a doughnut,” she says. She recommends choosing a fruit with a peel because they take longer to eat — giving your brain ample time to recognize you’re satiated — and drinking a glass of water with it so you feel fuller.
A good giggle boosts your mood and alleviates stress, which may be at the root of your comfort-food hankerings: “Laughter has been associated with a reduction in cortisol, a stress hormone associated with cravings for high-fat and high-sugar foods,” says Mezzancello. A study in the International Journal of Obesity found that laughing increases both heart rate and calorie expenditure by up to 20%, with 15 minutes of chuckling burning up to 40 calories.