5 Ways to Lose Weight When You Have No Time

5 Ways to Lose Weight When You Have No Time
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Slim-down strategies for busy people

If packing your lunch, cooking dinner every night, and getting to the gym regularly sound like things you’ll be able to do half past never, you may think that real weight loss just isn’t in the cards for you right now. It’s true: healthy weight loss can be a time commitment, especially if you’re overweight thanks to a job that keeps you sedentary for much of the day or a schedule that lends itself to fast food and unhealthy snacking.

Don’t throw in the towel just yet. You don’t need extra minutes in your day to eat less or to move more, the two basic pillars of weight loss. Here’s how to reevaluate the time you do have, and smart strategies to make dropping pounds easier, no matter how swamped you are.

Ditch the all-or-nothing mentality

Every small step you take toward a healthier lifestyle matters, says Jeff Katula, PhD, associate professor of health and exercise science at Wake Forest University. “People often think they have to spend an hour at the gym or eat a diet full of hummus and superfoods, and when they can’t attain that level they just give up and don’t even try,” he says. Instead of looking at your whole day as a success or failure, says Katula, consider every decision you make a chance to do something healthy. Just because you skipped the gym doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch your calorie intake for the rest of the day, for example. (In fact, it means the exact opposite!)

Ditch the all-or-nothing mentality

Every small step you take toward a healthier lifestyle matters, says Jeff Katula, PhD, associate professor of health and exercise science at Wake Forest University. “People often think they have to spend an hour at the gym or eat a diet full of hummus and superfoods, and when they can’t attain that level they just give up and don’t even try,” he says. Instead of looking at your whole day as a success or failure, says Katula, consider every decision you make a chance to do something healthy. Just because you skipped the gym doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch your calorie intake for the rest of the day, for example. (In fact, it means the exact opposite!)

Don’t skip meals

This may seem counterintuitive after advice to eat less overall, but busy people especially may need to space out their calories more throughout the day, says Jessica Bartfield, MD, clinical assistant professor at Loyola University’s Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care. That’s because going more than four or five hours without refueling can slow metabolism, affect hormones and insulin levels, and contribute to unhealthy food choices when you do finally sit down to eat. “A lot of our overweight patients aren’t necessarily overeating, but their eating patterns have become so erratic—they have a cup of coffee in the morning and then no real food until late afternoon,” she says. “They key is to avoid that and keep a consistent schedule, whether that’s three meals a day and a couple of snacks, or five mini meals.”

Squeeze in more movement

Setting aside time for a 30- or 60-minute workout is ideal, “but you can burn a lot of calories in not-so-ideal workout situations, too,” says Katula. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with breaking up your 150 recommended minutes of weekly moderate exercise into short bursts throughout your day. “If you can fit in 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at lunch, and 10 minutes at night, and you can do that five days a week, you’re there,” he says.

Katula tells his patients to think of burning calories they way they think of saving money. “We do so many little things—clip coupons, buy store brands—to save a dime here or a quarter there, because we know it adds up,” he says. “Exercise is the same way: A few push-ups here and a few extra steps there can add up, too, if you do it regularly.”


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