As lockdowns begin to ease across the world, plenty of us have only interacted with friends and colleagues on video calls for the last few months. It's no surprise people are now looking to lose weight: without having to leave the house (or even dress properly from the waist down), "lockdown weight gain" has become a real worry for many.
Some people might want to lose belly fat to get back to the way things were, while others might be using this lockdown period to make a real lasting change to their health and fitness habits. With gyms currently off-limits, here are a trio of common sense, science-backed health hacks to start losing weight faster.
1. Drink one pint of water
It sounds almost too simple, but drinking a single pint of water can have an immediate weight-loss effect.
The scientific Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (opens in new tab) found drinking just one pint of water increases your metabolic rate, which means your body will burn more calories while at rest. After drinking 500ml of water, the study recorded metabolic rates improving by up to 30%, with the benefits lasting for one hour.
It's a great way to lose belly fat: often, we confuse thirst with hunger and get "snackish" when dehydrated, so drinking lots of water also curbs our appetites in addition to raising our metabolic rate. Drinking pints of water in regular intervals throughout the day will result in you feeling less hungry and burning more calories, all without lifting a finger.
2. Get eight hours of sleep a night
It's long been thought there's a link between a lack of sleep and increased appetite. If you have less energy while you're tired, you're naturally going to try and grab more energy from food. However, the connection between sleep and appetite runs even deeper than we thought.
One researcher from the University of Washington (opens in new tab) found lack of sleep interferes with the production of leptin and ghrelin, the two hormones in our bodies responsible for regulating appetite. Sleep doesn't just recharge our batteries, preventing us from getting that energy elsewhere: it also has a direct hand in appetite regulation.
Second Nature (opens in new tab), a new online habit change programme commissioned by the NHS, recommends getting between seven and nine hours sleep each night.
3. Reduce your alcohol intake
With the stresses of a global pandemic outside your door, it's easy to turn to a glass of wine, beer or gin and tonic to take the edge off. However, the more we drink, the more we disrupt our body's approach to food.
A study in the journal Nature Communications (opens in new tab) reveals why so many drinking sessions end up with a late-night burger or kebab: alcohol switches the brain into "starvation mode", simulating hunger and encouraging us to eat more.
Combined with the fact lots of alcoholic drinks like beer and wine are chock-full of calories, and it's easy to see why an increase in our alcohol consumption also increases our waistline,