While weight loss is a challenge, weight management can be even harder. The average adult gains one to two pounds every year. While there’s no magic-bullet cure, these four simple tips can help prevent weight gain.
1. Make time for meal prep.
Busy weekday schedules often mean reaching for processed food or takeout, but these are often calorie-rich and lack nutrition. One possible solution: planning and prepping meals ahead of time. One 2017 observational study of over 40,000 French adults found that those who planned meals in advance maintained healthier diets and were less likely to be overweight or obese. Set aside a few hours every week to prep big batches of veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins. If you have them ready to go, you’re more likely to eat them!
2. Don’t diet.
It sounds counterintuitive, but intentionally restricting calories or food groups can lead to weight gain. One 2015 study followed nearly 9,000 Australian adults for a year and found that those who dieted at any point gained more weight than those who didn’t. Worse, their weight gain increased with every additional diet they tried. Instead, take a less rigid approach: prioritize healthy foods, but don’t eliminate the less healthy foods you love.
3. Eat mindfully.
Looking for another way to maintain a healthy weight without dieting? How about mindful eating? One 2018 review found that mindful eating is strongly associated with successful weight maintenance. Pay attention to how your body feels before, during, and after meals. Eliminate mealtime distractions, such as work or TV. This way, you’ll learn to tune into your own hunger and fullness cues, as well as to how different types of food make you feel. Meals will become more satisfying, and you’ll learn what food and portions work best for you.
4. Take walking breaks.
When you hit a midday slump, your instinct might be to get a snack or take a nap. Try going for a brisk walk instead, even if it’s just around your office! The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that able-bodied adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, including brisk walking, at least five days per week. And this daily exercise doesn’t have to be done all at once. The AHA notes that exercising in smaller bursts throughout the day is fine. Splitting exercise sessions may make it easier for you to get your daily dose of exercise and maintain a healthy weight. A 2009 study of almost five thousand adults found that the average American gains more than two pounds per year during middle age, but that those who walk regularly gain significantly less weight than those who don’t, and the more they walk, the less weight they gain as they age.