Belly too big? Think small. Choose from our list of easy expert approved research backed waist reducers and shrink your gut in no time flat

Rivers cut canyons. Continents drift. The guy in seat 23F hogs the armrest. Before we even notice, subtle shifts can add up to big changes. Social scientists call this phenomenon “creeping normalcy.” It’s bad news when it comes to climate change or paunch development, but you can use it as a tool to sculpt a new, leaner you.

A dramatic diet change – say, cutting hundreds of kilojoules a day – can slow your metabolism and thwart your efforts to lose lard. But with smaller adjustments, your body’s furnace won’t dial down and weight loss may be easier. That’s according to Dr Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, D.C. He’s one of many experts we consulted for this compendium of simple baby steps that add up to giant leaps for mankind.

In fact, focusing on just one seemingly trivial change each week can result in about four times the weight loss over a four-month period that a standard diet-and-exercise plan would yield, a study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found.

Another study published in the journal Eating Behaviors found that overambitious diet expectations can lead to big weight fluctuations. So focus on small steps and gradual weight loss for long-lasting results. Start by trying out the following tweaks.

Cut Your Consumption

 1 Preload

Before a big restaurant meal, eat a 830kj snack that contains at least 15g of protein – a small handful of lean biltong, a small serving of low-fat plain yoghurt or an apple with some cheese. With a gut full of satiating protein and fewer hunger hormones circulating, you’ll eat less at the restaurant and cut your total kilojoule count as a result, says Kahan.

2 Don’t Top Off

Picture a petrol gauge in your gut; E means you’re ravenous and F represents full. Aim to stay between a half and three-quarters of a tank by eating before you feel famished and stopping when you’re satisfied, not stuffed, says Matt Lawson, a behaviour coach.

3 Chew on It

Men in a Chinese study who chomped each bite 40 times ate 12% less than those who chewed 15 times. Chewing may kickstart the digestive process, speeding the release of gut hormones linked to satiety, the researchers say.

4 Think Like a Foodie

Take time to note the texture, smell and source of your food. Saying things like “This grass-fed rib eye is juicy” can create a vivid “meal memory” that keeps you fuller for longer so you snack less later, a UK study found. And remember, smell plays a huge part in the satisfaction of a meal, says Karlien Smit, registered dietician, so use fragrant ingredients like herbs and spices.

5 Read an Awesome Health, Fitness and Nutrition Magazine 

Researchers in the Netherlands say this tactic, called priming, works on a subconscious level. Most recently they found that people who were handed recipes with diet-related keywords when entering a grocery store bought fewer chips, biscuits and cakes – even if they said they hadn’t really paid much attention to the handout.

6 Plan Shopping Trips

Starving shoppers really do load their trollies with more high-kilojoule options, a study in JAMA Internal Medicine reports. The best time to shop is after breakfast on a weekend, says Anita Mirchandani, a New York City dietician. If that’s not a good time for you, buy a medium-sized fruit or some fresh vegetables from the salad bar to nosh on as you shop. If the grocery store is too tempting, make calculated choices online, says Smit. (Shop online at pnponline.co.za or woolworths.co.za).

 

7 Snack On This Not That

1. SNACK ON THIS 20g Woolworths Cassava Pops crisps + 2 tbsp guacamole dip 483 kJ, 5g fat

NOT THAT 36g Lay’s salted chips + 2 tbsp sour cream dip 980kJ, 17.6g fat

2. SNACK ON THIS Pancake with cinnamon and sugar 630kj, 2.5fat

NOT THAT Slice of cake with icing 1008kJ, 13 fat

3. SNACK ON THIS 30g air-popped popcorn with 1 tsp chilli powder 495kJ 1.5g fat

NOT THAT 36g spicy Doritos 906 kJ, 10.8g fat

4. SNACK ON THIS Hot cross bun + 2 tbsp low-fat smooth cottage cheese 740kJ, 3.2g fat

NOT THAT Croissant + 2 tbsp low-fat cream cheese 1190kJ, 17.9g fat

8 Drink This Not That

1. DRINK THIS Woolworths flavoured sparkling water 0kj, 0 fat

NOT THAT Vitamin water 479kj, 0 fat

2. DRINK THIS 250ml Skinny cappuccino: 210kJ, 0g fat

NOT THAT 250ml Cafe mocha 840kJ, 11g fat

3. DRINK THIS Castle light 421kJ

NOT THAT A double brandy and coke 939kJ

4. DRINK THIS 250ml tomato juice 150kJ

NOT THAT 250ml mixed berry juice 520kJ

9 TURN UP YOUR BURN: Steal a Workout from a Pro

American soccer player, Bill Hamid, used this workout to cut his body fat from 19% to less than 10%. Do each exercise for 20 seconds, with 20 seconds of rest between moves. Do the cycle two or three times. Interval-style training can increase calorie burn for up to 22 hours.

1/        Shadowboxing

2/        Jumping rope

3/        Walking lunge

4/        Side shuffle with medicine ball

5/        High-low exchange*

6/        Box jump

7/        Push-up with row

8/        Rotational sit-up

9/        Burpee

10/    Pull-up

*Lie on your back and hold a Swiss ball between your ankles. Then pass it from feet to hands, keeping your core tight.

10 Change Things Up

Swap rowing for running or free weights for machines. New moves can help speed your heart rate from 60% to 8% of your max, so you burn an extra 500kj an hour.

11 Hit the Sand

Running on a shifting surface can force you to expend 30% more energy than running on grass does, according to a study in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. The result is more kilojoules burned, because your muscles must work harder to stabilise your body. Nowhere near a beach? No problem. Just choose the least stable terrain you can find – soft grass or a trail, say – instead of hard asphalt.

12 Go Back-to-Back

To crank your metabolism, rest just 30 to 60 seconds between your weightlifting sets, says trainer Marc Perry, founder of BuiltLean.

13 Wake Up Earlier

…and workout before breakfast. (Okay, not all of these are easy.) You’ll force your body to burn stored fat, a 2013 UK study found.

14 Do Full-Body Cardio

The more muscle groups you involve, the more kilojoules you torch. A 80kg guy burns about 1 400kj in 30 minutes of vigorous rowing – 577kj more than in an elliptical workout.

15 Move More Outside the Gym

A 80kg guy doing any of these can burn about 167kj in 10 minutes.

Bath the dog
Carve wood
Play guitar
Mop the kitchen floor
Make the beds
Pull weeds
Waltz or tango

16 Walk or Run a Kilometre

C’mon, it’ll just take a few minutes. Walking 1.6km instead of driving that distance can result in a BMI decrease comparable to cutting 418 kilojoules a day, a study in Preventive Medicine suggests.

17 Race a Fitter Friend

Cyclists competing with an opponent who was slightly speedier pushed hard for nine minutes longer than those who cycled alone, say researchers at Michigan State University.

18 Listen to Your Past 

Music that inspires you helps you work out harder and longer, research shows. You’ll be motivated most by songs that were playing when you had your first kiss or won something, says Lee Brown of California State University at Fullerton.

19 Make a Deal

Go to stickk.com and pledge to fork over cash if you miss a goal. In a Mayo Clinic study, some people in a weight-loss plan earned $20 (not a huge amount of cash) a month if they shed pounds and paid $20 if they didn’t. They lost three kilos more in a year than those with no cash at stake.

20 Track Your Meals

Your smartphone app can help you lose more weight than a paper journal can, reveals British research. Keep it handy on the weekends, especially, when the binge risk looms largest, says Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

21 Break Out the Measuring Spoons and Cups

You don’t have to use them religiously, but haul them out every few weeks for a spot check. Serve yourself a typical portion, then measure to see how far you’ve strayed from the recommended serving size. Not into fishing around your draws for baking equipment? See right for easy portion size cheats.