Eat with your non-dominant hand to reduce consumption. Image Credit: Getty Images

From juicing to the 5:2 and blood-type to souping; pretty much everyone is hooked on finding the latest dieting fad that promises to give us the body of our dreams – and fast.

Whether we’re told to eat infinite amounts of grapefruit, swallow a tapeworm or act like a caveman, we talk about it endlessly with our friends, order the books and try to avoid major food groups while contemplating eating clay like movie star A-listers Salma Hayek and Shailene Woodley. Despite knowing deep down that healthy eating and exercise is probably the best long-term solution, we’re constantly looking for the ‘magic’ fix that will make the weight drop off quick and without all the hard work.

Sarah Samaan and Rosanne Rust are co-authors of DASH Diet For Dummies. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet involves making small lifestyle changes to see a big difference to your health. Rosanne, who specialises in nutrition communications, says when it comes to dieting it’s typical for us to take the path of least resistance. “I do think it’s human nature to avoid pain,” she admits. “Making changes in routine or lifestyle is painful for many people and it is difficult because it initially takes time and thought.

“Humans are drawn to the ‘quick fix’ or ‘magic bullet’ idea because they want to avoid the pain or discomfort of having to go through a multiple-step process. If it sounds like they only have to do this ‘one thing’ to get results, it’s easier to try and accept it.”

Co-writer Sarah, who is a physician partner at the Baylor Heart Hospital, US, and has been recognised as a Texas Super Doctor by Texas Monthly for the past five years, agrees. “I think women have so many competing demands on their time and energy that a quick fix is often the most appealing solution,” she says. “The truth is that it’s much easier to gain weight than it is to lose it. Even a pound of weight loss can seem like 
a daunting task.”

Sarah says it doesn’t help that the way we live often encourages weight gain. “Easy access to fast food, sedentary activities like TV and surfing the net, and family demands that have us caring for others before looking after our own health all put us on the fast track to weight gain.”

Both Rosanne and Sarah advocate setting realistic goals and making a few small changes each week, along with regular exercise. “Using an evidence-based diet like DASH as a guide can help you set goals and focus on a specific framework of the diet,” Rosanne says. “I don’t recommend a one-size-fits-all approach. There are too many variables such as gender, age, body composition, genetics and fitness levels.”

The question is though, would these seemingly quick-fix solutions actually help us lose weight by getting us into the right zone to tackle dieting? “A ‘quick fix’ or fad diet only works short-term,” Rosanne explains. “In many cases people who lose weight rapidly typically gain back a percentage of that weight or more. In the US only about 20 per cent of obese people who lose weight keep it off!

“There is possibly a placebo effect, however. If avoiding bread or drinking a juice once a day helps someone feel in control or on the right track, it may help them make other healthy lifestyle changes even though that one action itself isn’t the magic bullet.”

Sarah says that although there are no quick fixes, there are clever cheats to shed pounds, such as tricking the brain into believing we’re getting what we crave. “Using a smaller plate can make it look like there is more food and easily cut a couple of hundred calories off a meal,” she says. “And since the sense of fullness often doesn’t kick in for a good 30 minutes after eating, using chopsticks can help by extending the amount of time it takes to finish a meal.”

In the UK, studies suggest that one in four women are currently on a diet, and statistics reveal that half of all Americans are on some kind of weight-loss plan. Though there are no dieting facts for the UAE, 60 per cent of women here are overweight or obese, so it would be fair to assume getting thinner is high on the list of priorities. But while we all know we should be making food sacrifices and sweating off the pounds, we’re all looking for the Holy Grail of diets – or the ultimate NERD plan (No Effort Required Diet).

We’ve rounded up some ideas to get you started and we promise there isn’t a tapeworm or trough of clay 
in sight.

Sleep naked

Waking up thinner sounds like a dream come true but apparently it could become a reality – as long as you’re sleeping with as few clothes on as possible. A study by the US National Institutes of Health found that being cold in bed can actually help you shift the pounds because the body burns fat to help you stay toasty while you snooze. Researchers found that people sleeping naked, under a thinner duvet or in a cooler room, burned more calories than those who were warmer at night as metabolism speeds up when you’re chilly. So crank up the air con and keep clothes to a minimum, because while you’re snoozing, you could be losing.

Not to be sniffed at

Your nose is a powerful weapon when it comes to losing weight, and if you’re sniffing the right smells it can affect your waistline in a good way. A German study revealed that just a whiff of extra virgin olive oil can lead to a great feeling of fullness, while a study at St George’s Hospital in South London found that vanilla-scented patches on the back of people’s hands significantly reduced their appetite for sweet foods and drinks – so fire up those vanilla candles and drizzle some olive oil on your salad. Peppermint is also a well-known appetite suppressant and a calming aroma, so if you’re an emotional eater, who reaches for food when you’re unhappy or stressed, chew some gum or brush your teeth for minty freshness – it could help curb that desire to overindulge.

Get the right plate

Colours can have a big influence on the way we feel – and it seems they can also impact the results we get when we jump on the scales. Some scientists believe that if you serve food on a plate that has a contrasting colour, like rice on a blue plate, you dish up a 10 per cent smaller portion. This could be explained by the phenomenon Delboeuf illusion, which affects our perception of an object’s size by what’s placed on or near it. Food will look bigger and more substantial when placed on a smaller plate than if it’s floating around on a large one. According to a study by Brian Wansink, a professor at Cornell University in the US, if you serve your dinner on a 25cm plate instead of a 30cm one, you’ll eat 22 per cent less food over the course of a year. Smaller plates, smaller tummies! And back to the blue plates, stock up on them. The colour blue is believed to suppress the appetite by making food seem less appealing – very few blue foods occur naturally.

On reflection

A weight-loss study revealed that those who ate in front of a mirror slashed their food intake by a third, while researchers from Arizona State University and Erasmus University Rotterdam found watching ourselves eat is a powerful way to get us to eat less. This was explained by not wanting to see ourselves overeat, and it also helps us become more aware of our bodies. If you’re overweight it’s a good reminder of what you’re trying to change. And before you munch on your meal, take a photo of it on your phone. Experts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found dieters who kept a visual diary of their food were more successful in losing weight.

Slip into something a bit... tighter

Avoid eating dinner in tracksuits bottoms or worse, your pyjamas. Wearing loose clothing gives you the illusion of being slimmer and making you think less about the pounds you need to shed. Ancient Egyptians used to tie a cord around their waist as a physical reminder to stop overindulgence; too much in the stomach and the cord tightens for the ultimate motivation. Carrying too much weight around the waist can also lead to problems such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, so it’s also a good indicator of your health. Some French women tie a ribbon around their waist under their clothes when they go for dinner, so take the hint, and losing weight could be a cinch.

Switch hands

Researchers from the University of Southern California found that eating with the ‘wrong’ hand – left for right-handers and right for left-handers – made a difference in how much popcorn their participants ate during the study. When eating with the non-dominant hand, the consumption was less. Slowing down how fast you eat gives your body more time to tell your brain it’s full, so chew more, use chopsticks, and take smaller bites. Avoid eating in front of the television because the distraction will have you spooning food into your mouth without thinking about what you’re doing. Savour your meals – and relish the results.