By Jessica Girdwain for Shape.com
Despite what marketers and diet sites may tell you, losing weight isn't easy -- if it were, we wouldn't be sucking in our muffin tops while zipping up our pencil skirts. But you can make weight loss easier with these clever bite-sized strategies to burn more calories and consume fewer of them -- without your stomach noticing!
All exercise calorie counts based on a 140-pound woman.
1. Rethink Happy Hour
Instead of hitting a bar on Friday, schedule a dash-and-drink date with a girlfriend, says New York City-based personal trainer Missy Paris. After burning 222 calories during a half-hour jog, head back to your place or hers and pour yourself a 5-ounce glass of wine. According to a study by the Alcohol Research Group, most bartenders pour 6.2 ounces of red or white, and that little difference saves another 29 calories.
2. Better Your Breakfast Sandwich
Picking up a handheld morning meal to go is fine, but ignore the call of that sausage, egg, and cheese -- the egg whites and veggies wrap will look better on your thighs.
3. Have A Dance Party Of One
Celebrate a good day or bust out of a funk from a bad one by shaking your thing all around your house to your favorite music for 45 minutes. Goodbye 284 calories, hello brighter mood and sexier body.
4. Slurp The Right Soup
Instead of an entire can of clam chowder with oyster crackers, opt for 1 cup of chicken noodle soup with a side salad topped with lots of vegetables and 1 teaspoon oil mixed with 1 teaspoon vinegar. You'll cut back on bloat-inducing sodium to boot.
5. Do Hard Labor
Turn everyday yard work into a workout: Use a push mower, lift heavy bags of mulch, work the wheelbarrow, pull the hose around, and yank weeds or plant flowers. Constantly moving outside will burn 258 calories in 45 minutes, says Portland-based personal trainer Natalie Wessel.
6. App It Up
Make your go-to restaurant dinner two non-fried appetizers instead of one main dish, says New York City-based registered dietitian Ilyse Schapiro.
- March in place (as fast as possible)
- Sit-ups (as many as possible)
- Jump rope (as fast as possible)
- Pushups (as many as possible)
- Jumping jacks (as many as possible)
8. Slim Your Sammie
Schapiro uses this trick to cut 250 calories from a deli sandwich: Remove half the meat (it's usually piled with two servings worth, she says) and smear on 1 tablespoon of hummus instead of layering two slices of cheese, or spread on mustard instead of mayo.
9. Shop Till You Drop
Hit the supermarket to pick up your weekly groceries (45 minutes of shopping works off 113 calories), then head home and whip up that recipe you've wanted to try. Cooking for an hour torches an additional 168 calories -- just resist tasting!
10. Adjust Your Java
A grande pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks is 310 calories before you add whipped cream -- and it's only available in the fall. Treat yourself year-round and save 250 calories by ordering a tall nonfat caffè misto, and then sprinkling on some nutmeg and cinnamon at the counter to add that seasonal sweetness. Or ask for an espresso con panna: It's a shot of espresso topped with whipped cream for just 30 calories.
11. Bowl With It
Take the girls out bowling tonight! Just 90 minutes will incinerate almost 300 calories, plus it'll do wonders for your arms.
12. Discontinue Your Membership To the Clean Plate Club
Go halfsies with your friend when eating out, and you'll save at least 250 calories, Schapiro says.
13. Skip The Treadmill And Elliptical
Mix up your cardio while working muscles from head to toe by hopping on a rowing machine: Thirty seconds at high intensity alternated with 30 seconds at moderate speed for 30 minutes total will torch 250 calories, Paris says.
A small movie theater popcorn can contain 500 calories -- or more. Bring your own bag of light microwave popcorn (pop it at home and put it in your purse, we won't tell!) to eliminate 250 calories, says nutritionist Rania Batayneh, M.P.H., author of the forthcoming The One One One Diet. Better yet, go the air-popped route for 31 calories per cup.
15. Have An Active Dessert
Give your body a post-dinner calorie-burning boost by taking a walk around your neighborhood or in a local park, Wessel recommends. Walking at a moderate pace for an hour burns 277 calories, plus being out in nature helps relieve stress that's built up during the day much better than a sundae can.
16. Pick The Right Party Foods
Turn down three mozzarella sticks with dipping sauce and pick up two 1-inch cubes of cheddar instead. Then forget about mixing a vodka-cranberry (most of us tend to pour generously at parties) and ask for a small (4-ounce) flute of champagne.
- Squat jumps
- Split squats
- 1/4-mile treadmill run
18. Use Your Noodle
You can do better than whole-wheat pasta. Really. Swap 1 1/2 cups cooked whole-wheat spaghetti for the same amount of cooked spaghetti squash. Top with marinara as usual, but pick shrimp as your protein instead of chicken breast to cut 42 calories. And you can still have cheese, just downside your sprinkle of parm from 1 tablespoon to 1/2 tablespoon. Mangia!
19. Lace Up
Tell your boyfriend or husband to meet you at the skating rink for a date. Thirty-five minutes of light ice-skating burns 213 calories. To warm up after, nix the premixed cocoa (and the artificial sugars in diet mixes) and make a light hot chocolate by combining 2 teaspoons of cocoa and 4 teaspoons of sugar in a mug. Warm up 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk and whisk into the cocoa-sugar combo. You can even add 5 mini marshmallows, if you desire.
20. Skinny Your Stir-Fry
Saute vegetables in low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth instead of one tablespoon of oil, and you'll cut 117 calories, Batayneh says. Hit the 250-calorie mark by replacing beef with tofu and serving on top of soba noodles rather than rice.
21. Free-Wheel It
Two wheels are better than four, at least when it comes to running errands or commuting to work. A half-hour bike ride burns 277 calories, Wessel says.
22. Make Over Mexican Night
No reason to skip the tacos and margarita, just tweak your menu: Wrap up your filling in two corn tortillas rather than flour ones, then top off each with a tablespoon of non-fat plain Greek yogurt and salsa, not sour cream and cheddar cheese, for a total savings of 150 calories. Downsize your marg from five or six ounces to a reasonable three to slash another 100 cals.
23. Tidy Up To Tone Up
If you've been putting off cleaning your house or apartment, perhaps this will motivate you: Eighty minutes of nonstop work -- moving furniture to vacuum, cleaning corners (including ceiling crevices), scrubbing hard, you get the picture -- will negate about 250 calories, Paris says.
24. Break Your Bread Basket Habit
The fresh baguette offered by many Italian restaurants may make your mouth water, but one portion dipped in a tablespoon of olive oil equals 300 calories. Ask your waiter to bring a small bowl of olives instead and nibble on five while you wait for your entree to save 280 calories, says celeb nutritionist Christine Avanti, author of Skinny Chicks Eat Real Food.
25. Hold The Butter
There's nothing wrong with a steakhouse dinner, but restaurants often top your meat, veggies, and potato with butter -- and that's before adding sauce. Schapiro always asks for her food to be prepared sans butter and sauce, and with cooking spray instead -- most places will be happy to accommodate you.