The gym is the ultimate “frenemy.” You love it for that unbeatable post-gym high that boasts swollen muscles, an energized body, and a self-satisfied feeling. You hate it for the sheer effort it takes and the pain it brings, not to mention the guilt that follows if you get off track. A skipped workout leaves you remorseful, promising yourself that tomorrow will be different. Skip a week and the excuses begin to flow. Skip a month and you may feel like you’ve consumed so many blocks of Velveeta cheese and sunk so low in the couch cushions that you’ve reached the point of no return.
There’s hope for those of you riddled with guilt. The gym is a great tool to stay fit and lose weight, but it’s not the only way. Here are five non-gym techniques that will help you shed pounds.
1. Make water your go-to
Appetite and thirst are regulated through the same part of the brain, leading you to think you’re hungry when you really need a glass of water. Beat the confusion by drinking a glass of water and waiting 15 to 20 minutes to see if your hunger vanishes.
Not only is water the cure for unnecessary snacking but a recent study found that drinking 16 ounces of waterbefore every meal assists in weight loss. Water fills your stomach making you feel full faster. Bonus benefits include clearer skin, improved digestion, and liver support, allowing your body to better metabolize fat.
2. Focus on food
As a general rule of thumb, weight loss is based on 75% diet and 25% exercise. Skipping the gym is less impactful than a fast food binge, so rather than tormenting yourself over a skipped workout, focus on eating less and eating healthy. “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet,” says Shawn M. Talbott, Ph.D., a nutritional biochemist and former director of the University of Utah Nutrition Clinic.
“More than 700 weight loss studies found that people see the biggest short-term results when they eat smart. On average, people who dieted without exercising for 15 weeks lost 23 pounds; the exercisers lost only six over about 21 weeks. It’s much easier to cut calories than to burn them off.” According to Dr. Talbott, you should eat 10 calories per pound of body weight for a healthy diet that retains muscle and keeps your metabolism up.
3. Vary your activity
You may have it in your head that unless you’re immersed in your carefully chosen, fail-proof gym routine, you can’t get fit. This misconception needs to be ditched. Studies have found that your body naturally finds the most efficient way to move, so when you do the same exercises week after week your body won’t work as hard. The more varied your exercise routine, the better your body will respond and the faster the weight will drop off.
So join a rec soccer team, do some yoga, or go for a hike. The more you keep your body guessing, the better results you’ll see. Skipping the gym also allows you to get outside. Not only do studies claim people have more rigorous and longer workouts when they’re outside, but being in nature has positive psychological effects including increased self-esteem and lowered depression and fatigue.
4. Hit snooze
While it may seem imperative that you watch one more episode of Game of Thrones or wake up early for a long run after a late night, it turns out that a lack of sleep directly leads to weight gain. Michael Breus, Ph.D., author of The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep, says that just 30 minutes of sleep loss could make you more likely to gain weight.
Less sleep means high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which increases your appetite. In a study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, sleep-deprived participants ate an average of 300 more calories per day. Breus reiterates, “Sleep is probably the most important thing a person can do if they’re ready to start a diet and lose weight.”
5. Do your workout at home
The gym offers equipment that isolates a single muscle group (like biceps) and builds strength in that area, but weight resistance training (think push ups, planks, and lunges) builds several muscle groups at once, which work together to create functional strength and power.
Using your body weight to build strength and do higher reps allows you to get leaner faster. Plus, you can perform bodyweight exercises anywhere and anytime, preventing the need for a hefty gym membership.