Every morning, you get a fresh start to eat right and exercise that day. You also get a chance to make a big impact on your health right away: Mounting research suggests that healthy morning habits make it easier to lose weight and keep it off. Start with these six fat-blasting a.m. habits:
1. Get outside.
Daybreak sunlight has a higher percentage of blue light, which helps set your body's internal clocks or circadian rhythms. Keeping these internal timing devices in sync is important because they control hunger-stimulating and satiety hormones, as well as metabolism. People with out-of-synch body clocks such as shift workers and night owls, on the other hand, are more likely to be overweight or obese.
And good news: You don't have to spend hours outside to reap the benefits. In fact, a study in PLOS ONE found that adults who reported getting at least 20 minutes of morning light had lower body mass indexes than those who didn't get outside in the a.m. Take their lead to encourage your body to burn more fat and turn down the hormones that stimulate hunger and appetite.
2. Work out.
If you can squeeze in an a.m. workout, you'll be more likely to stick with an exercise routine. That's because there are fewer distractions first thing in the morning that get in the way of your workout. One study of 45 women published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that a 45-minute brisk walk in the morning was related to an increase in physical activity later in the day and a decreased desire for food. That's a win-win for weight loss. Working out also gives you a sense of accomplishment and a can-do attitude that can help you conquer cravings and other diet saboteurs later in the day.
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3. Power up on protein.
A study recently study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found that women who ate a 390-calorie egg breakfast containing 30 grams protein ate 135 fewer calories at lunch than when they ate a 390-calorie carb-rich cereal breakfast with 10 grams of protein.
Take a page from their book by striving to eat 20 to 30 grams of protein at breakfast – an amount you can easily achieve with simple recipes like these. The habit will help turn up satiety and tamp down hunger hormones to keep you satisfied for several hours. In addition, protein helps increase metabolism more than carbohydrates or fat.
[See: High-Protein Breakfast Ideas.]
4. Step on the scale.
Several studies over the past few years have confirmed that frequent or daily weigh-ins are beneficial for weight loss. One, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, for example, reported that dieters who weighed themselves daily lost about three times as much weight and body fat than participants who weighed themselves less frequently. Some of the regular scale steppers lost as many as 20 pounds.
The researchers concluded that daily weighing helps with self-regulation and directly links your daily behaviors with your weight. The habit gives you good feedback so you know if you're on track or need to step up your weight loss or control efforts. The best time to weigh yourself is immediately after getting up and going to the bathroom. Weigh yourself naked or in essentially the same amount of clothing each day to get the most accurate results.
5. Sleep in.
This isn't a dream: Sleeping more can help you lose weight. Science continues to show how optimal sleep is essential to maintain an ideal weight. In fact, the data are so conclusive that obesity researcher say the three key behaviors to trim down – and stay there – are diet, exercise and sleep.
In a study reported in Appetite, for instance, researchers increased sleep-deprived participants' sleep time by about an hour and a half per night. With more sleep, participants' appetites declined by 14 percent and cravings for junk food by 62 percent. Another study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when subjects cut back on sleep from their normal seven to nine hours a night to four hours, they ate, on average, about 300 more calories the next day. That may be because sleep-deprivation can cause you to feel hungry and unable to resist high-calorie treats and junk food. Sleep experts recommend developing a set sleep routine that allows you to get at least seven hours of shut-eye every night.
6. Be grateful.
This may sound a bit "new-agey," but strong research shows that being thankful or appreciative can improve your health and may help you lose weight by giving you a sense of confidence to control your daily behaviors. In one study published in Psychosomatic Medicine, for instance, researchers instructed 35 patients with heart disease to keep a daily gratitude journal. At the end of the two-month trial, the patients had less inflammation and variability in heart rate than similar patients who didn't keep journals. In another study in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 37 subjects who participated in a yoga intervention that included a gratitude element experienced improvements in their diet and weight loss.
To practice gratitude first thing in the morning, remind yourself – even while brushing your teeth – of the things you are thankful for or what you appreciate. Soon enough, successful weight loss will be on the list.
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