You—and everyone else—don't want to be on a "diet." It's an ugly word, one that implies a lot of work and sacrifice, and it's actually quite dated—a recent survey found that 94 percent of people no longer consider themselves dieters, even though 51 percent still want to lose weight. What's more is that we've smartened up: 61 percent of people in that same survey said they know that most diets aren't actually healthy (kind of like these fad diets), so what's the point of following one if it's going to hurt you in the long run? Thankfully, there are techniques out there that help you drop pounds without harming your health or driving you up a wall. In fact, the 11 ideas below don't require any thought at all—you can easily incorporate them into your daily schedule, then be happily surprised when that number on the scale starts to go down. Bet you can't wait for swimsuit season now.
1. BUY A FRUIT BASKET.
If you see it, you'll eat it. Research found that women who kept fruit front-and-center in their home weighed 13 pounds less compared to people who didn't. "Keep some on your countertop or desk and it'll be the first thing you reach for when you want to snack," says Amy Gorin, RDN (she likes grab-it-and-eat-it fruits like pears and mandarins). And presentation matters: "The more attractive your food is, the more likely you are to want to eat it, so place the fruit on a pretty pie plate or in a fun fruit basket," she says.
2. GO UNDERCOVER.
Or at least make your junk food turn incognito. Because now that you know putting fruit on display can help you lose weight, we bet you can guess what having junk food out does—yep, gain. That same study found that people who left not-so-healthy eats out in the open weighed as much as 32 pounds more than their neighbors who stashed them away. Gorin tells her clients to designate one cabinet solely for foods like candy, cereal, and dried fruit at home, and a drawer that does the same thing at work. So yes, you can have those foods (isn't that refreshing?), but keeping them out of sight will help keep cravings in check. Bonus: Your memory is likely to improve, as another study found that midnight bites can hinder learning capacity and memory. Pssh, you won't even need notecards for that work presentation.
3. UNPLUG...FOR REAL.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we've been telling you for years to set a specific time that you're going to unplug from all technology before bed, because you know the lights mess with your sleep patterns. But now is the time for you to actually listen. "When you switch to more relaxing rituals, like reading a book or taking a bath, you'll literally notice the difference in how much easier it is for you to fall asleep," says Brad Davidson, fitness expert, nutritionist, and author of The Stark Naked 21-Day Metabolic Reset. Getting more sleep is critical to losing weight, too, as Davidson says that there's plenty of research to show that those who sleep for four hours are much more likely to be obese compared to those who nab seven or eight hours. To force yourself into the healthy habit without actually having to put forth effort, download an app like Wink—you can sync your devices to it, set a shut-off time, and then you're done for the night.
4. SAY GOODBYE TO BLURRED LINES.
Whether you're pouring cereal, oatmeal, or popcorn, chances are you're eyeballing—not measuring—just how much you're going to eat. Make those eyeballs more accurate by drawing a line inside an inexpensive cereal bowl with a sharpie, suggests Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, founder of Nourish Snacks and author of From Junk Food to Joy Food. "It'll show you clear as day where the appropriate portion is, so when you're in a rush and pouring straight from the box, you'll know how much to fill it up."
5. GO, GO BENTO.
It's an Instagram trend because the lunchtime creations are cute, but using a Bento box is also super healthy because they allow you to serve up perfectly proportioned meals (no more monster sammies or five cookies—they simply won't fit). Up your game with a Bento that's specifically designed for weight loss, like the Portion Perfect by Bentology, which has guidelines for packing the ideal amount of food (3/4 cup fruit, 2/3 cup whole grams, 1 2/3 cup veggies) for a completely balanced meal.
6. REFLECT REALITY.
Mirrors can make your space gorge, help the room feel bigger…and put you in touch with your healthy eating habits. Researchers found that when diners ate chocolate cake or fruit salad in a room with a mirror, they said the chocolate cake didn't taste as good compared to those who indulged in the sweet when not in view of a mirror. They think it's because staring at yourself while you chow down on something that's not so great for you health-wise gives you a reality check, and even helps with portion control as you're more likely to put down the fork sooner. The mirror didn't change the perception of healthy fare like fruit—participants enjoyed it just as much—so opt for an oversized mirror for your dining room wall instead of an expensive work of art.
7. EAT BIGGER CEREALS.
Yep, sometimes size really does matter. When people were told to serve themselves smaller-flaked breakfast cereal, researchers realized that they ended up eating more calories than when they poured themselves bigger flakes. It's a part of that age-old saying, "you eat with your eyes first." High-volume foods, like whole-grain flakes versus granola, make it look like you're eating more, so you end up saving calories by the time you're finished with your meal.
8. SIT YOUR BUTT DOWN.
You're a busy woman, which means you've experienced your fair share of days when it was either shovel a granola bar down before a meeting or don't eat at all. Unfortunately, that habit isn't doing you any favors. Yes, if you absolutely have to choose, you should always go for the on-the-go snack over nothing (giving your body more healthy fuel helps keep that metabolism humming). But research shows that sitting while you eat will not only help you consume less calories in that moment, but it'll also help prevent overeating throughout the day. Because just like eating while watching Scandal, eating on-the-go is another form of mindless munching. But unlike your popcorn sesh, walking and eating may make you feel like the exercise canceled out the treat when, sadly, it didn't.
9. MAKE LUNCH A SMORREBROD.
It's a fancy (read: Danish) open-faced sandwich, and it's the coolest new way to eat your lunch. Ditching the top slice of bread on sandwiches, burgers, and rolls is an easy no-thought method for trimming calories at a meal, says Bauer. "Each slice of bread contains anywhere from 80 to 100 calories. If you cut out a slice five times a week, over the course of a year you'd save yourself 260 slices of bread and about 26,000 calories!" Besides, the toppings—the meat, veggies, avocado, cheese—is where all the goodness is anyway, so might as well get to it faster.
10. GET LUCKY.
Think of it this way: you could run about two miles or you can have sex. What's that? You choose sex? That's what we thought. On average, women torch 213 calories per 30 minutes in the sack, according to a recent study. In fact, the researchers go so far as to say that sex can be considered "significant exercise." And, though this surprises exactly no one, they also point out that both men and women said having sex was more fun than slogging a half hour on the treadmill (rocket science, we know). Need something to get the mood going? Crank up the tunes—a survey from Sonos discovered that couples who listen to music together have 67 percent more sex.
11. TURN ON ADELE.
Speaking of tunes…Queen B may be perfect for your a.m. run, but Adele needs to be your dinnertime go-to. Research shows that playing softer music helps diners relax, slow down and eat 18 percent fewer calories, all of which contribute to gradual weight loss. Plus, you and your husband can practice your dramatic arms-wide-open movements every time you sing along to Hello. Hey, every bit of movement counts as exercise.