Daily Life

7 Non-Diet Micro Habits That Are Surprisingly Good For Weight Loss

These habits make an excellent addition to any wellness routine.

By: Jessica Migala

There are a few biggies that we know can help support overall wellness and fitness goals and even weight loss — if that’s your goal. Load up on veggies, make sure you get enough protein, and pack your diet with fiber. But there are little things you can do, too — called micro habits — that science shows can make a big difference in your success. Some of these have nothing to do with food, like sleeping or scheduling your workouts in a certain way. Other habits might influence how much — or what you eat. Together, they don’t take a ton of time to accomplish and stay away from extreme “diet-y” suggestions, but they can still make a big difference in helping you reach your goals. 

7 Non-Diet Habits Microhabits To Support Your Wellness Goals 

#1 Fidget More

If you work at your desk, you’re probably doing a lot of sitting—and that means spending a lot of time inactive. One fix: Tap your toe, shake your leg, or change positions often. People who fidget under their desks burn 20 to 30 percent more calories per hour compared to those who tend to move around less, finds research in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine

Bonus tip — get up every hour or so or take an extra lap around the office (or your house) during breaks. It’s not only good for your body but taking a quick break from work is good for the mind too! We’re not designed to be sedentary for 8 hours straight! 

#2 Go to Bed 15 Minutes Earlier

Waking up early to start work or cutting sleep to exercise? You might want to rethink anything that gets in the way of a sufficient shut-eye. People who cut their sleep short for just one night were more hungry and tired, had greater cravings and ate larger portions of food compared to when they got their normal 7 to 9 hours of sleep, found a study from Michigan State University. Start by aiming to get just 15 extra minutes of sleep tonight. 

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Sleep 

#3 Turn Off The TV

Step away from the screen. People who eat and stare at their screens consume about 150 calories more at the meal compared to more mindful eaters, according to a 2019 study. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any evidence that people then “made up for it” by eating less at the next meal. It’s understandable to want to catch up on Bravo or the latest on Netflix, but simply shutting it off — and tuning in later — in order to be present with your meal can help you stop eating when satisfied.

RELATED: An Expert Explains Why Mindful Eating is More Effective Than Dieting 

#4 Store Even the Tiniest Leftovers

If you make it halfway through your meal and decide you’re full, it’s easy to pack up the rest of your dinner for leftovers tomorrow. But a funny thing happens when there are just a few bites of pasta or chicken left: There’s a tendency to eat it, even when stuffed, suggests research in the journal Appetite. What’s more, if it’s, say, a less healthy takeout meal, you might justify eating “the last few bites” by telling yourself the meal is more nutritious than it really is, the authors concluded. When you’re done with a meal — you feel satisfied — don’t hesitate to wrap up even the smallest bites of food, even when it clearly won’t make for a full meal later. E.g.: A few bites of pizza can go on a salad tomorrow as yummy “croutons,” a corner of a sandwich will pair well with soup tomorrow, some chicken can top a grain bowl.

#5 Exercise in The A.M.

The best time to exercise is the time of day that works best for your schedule, but if you have a choice, get sweaty in the morning. Over the course of 10 months, people who followed a supervised exercise program (moderate-intensity cardio five days per week) and worked out in the morning lost more weight compared to those who worked out in the late afternoon or evening, mixed up the timing of sessions, or a control group concluded research in 2020. Later exercisers might consume more total calories during the day, though the authors aren’t quite sure why morning might be best.

#6 Think First

It’s dinnertime, and you have no idea what you’re going to eat — but you’re hungry, and it seems like munching can’t wait, so you pull out the bag of chips and salsa while thinking about what you can make or order. If this sounds familiar, you’re better off taking a few minutes earlier in the day (in the morning, right after lunch) to come up with a loose game plan for what’s on the menu tonight. Meal planning — even done casually or occasionally — is associated with eating a greater variety of food and a healthier diet; women who meal planned were 8 percent less likely to be overweight and 21 percent less likely to develop obesity, shows research.

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Meal Planning 

#7 Write it Down

You might know that logging your food is associated with weight loss, but obsessively logging can feel like a total slog — and quickly become unenjoyable. Research suggests you don’t have to be as committed to it as you think. According to a recent study in Obesity, people who lost at least 10 percent of their body weight over six months were recording their diet intake just three times per day, something that required just 16 minutes. Plus, the study suggests that the most important thing is logging consistently, not necessarily recording every bite or being super detailed. That’s great because you can use a food journal as a way to record how your meals and snacks made you feel, rather than focusing on calories only — and that’s a healthier mindset to have.

A Non-Diet Mindset 

Research shows that restrictive dieting doesn’t work. There’s much more to successful weight loss than dieting and taking a holistic approach will only benefit your overall wellness and fitness goals too! With these non-diet habits, you can make small changes that actually work. Choose one or two to get started with and see how they benefit your wellness routine.