7 Simple Weight-Management Moves to Make Every Day

Changes like these can add up to greater overall wellness. 

Updated on January 2, 2024

three office workers, a Latina woman, a white woman, and a Black man, enjoy eating lunch outside on a spring day
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If you're crunched for time and looking to burn a few more calories each day, there's good news: You don’t have to overhaul your diet or spend hours in the gym. By making a few simple diet tweaks and fitting in more movement when you can, you can stay on track toward getting fit and managing your weight.

Matthew Metz, MD, a bariatric surgeon with the Denver Center for Bariatric Surgery in Denver, Colorado, shares some simple steps to help you maintain a healthy weight—and each of them can be done in a minute or less at a time.

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Rethink Your Drink

If you sip a latte to start your day or pop a can of soda to make it through the mid-afternoon slump, you may be drinking more calories than you realize. One 16-ounce whole-milk latte contains more than 200 calories, which is comparable to the number of calories in a small meal. To enjoy a brew with fewer calories, consider ordering a hot coffee with 1/4 cup of steamed nonfat milk, at just under 26 calories. If you enjoy that effervescent afternoon sip, consider swapping regular sweetened soda for plain or flavored seltzer to save up to 156 calories. Even better, drink good-old H2O throughout the day.

Some research shows a link between better hydration and a healthier body composition. One 2019 study published in Nutrients looked at 358 people in Spain between the ages of 18 and 39. The women in the study who stayed well-hydrated were more likely to have a lower body mass index (BMI), lower body fat, and a smaller waistline than those who drank less water throughout the day.

a middle aged Latina woman walks during her lunch break
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Move More During The Day

The average American spends most of their waking hours sitting, which can be harmful to health over time. But simply moving your body at regular intervals can help you burn calories, maintain your cardiovascular fitness, and may even improve your longevity.

“When you're sitting at your desk, stand up periodically and do squats, whether 10 or 30, whatever you can. These can be done anywhere in the office,” Dr. Metz recommends. “Or, when you're going for a walk, stop and do 10 or 20 jumping jacks.”

Adding other forms of movement—even walking—throughout the day can also help you burn calories. You’ll be surprised by how quickly even one-minute bursts of activity can add up. In as few as 30 minutes, a 155-pound person can burn 175 calories walking at a brisk pace (roughly 15 minutes per mile). 

What’s more, swapping 30 minutes of sitting each day for 30 minutes of low-intensity physical activity (like walking) could lower your risk of death by 17 percent, suggests a 2019 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Kick that up to moderate to vigorous-intensity exercise and the mortality risk goes down by as much as 35 percent. If you don’t have 30-minute blocks, breaking up periods of sitting with exercise of any duration still has some benefit.

Research suggests we should ideally be sitting for no more than 30 minutes at a time. So twice each hour, take a break and move, even for a few minutes. If you can’t remember to get going, set a reminder on your phone or computer.

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Swap your sandwich wraps

If you are looking to cut calories, you can still enjoy the foods you love while making a few simple and tasty tweaks.

A large flour tortilla wrap contains around 215 calories and 35 grams of carbohydrates, while two large slices of whole-wheat bread have about 220 calories and 37 grams of carbs. Instead of stacking sandwich ingredients between bread or inside a wrap, fold them into fresh, crispy leaves of lettuce. Metz recommends wrapping a crunchy romaine leaf—with just 2 calories—around your protein and veggie filling. Bibb and iceberg lettuce also work well, with just 1 calorie per leaf.

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Take a minute to unwind

Diet and exercise are important for maintaining a healthy weight, but getting a handle on stress is also essential, says Metz. Studies have suggested a link between long-term stress and higher rates of obesity.

The connections between weight and stress are complex and managing weight is not as simple as relaxing more. But there are simple ways to start reducing everyday stress. In 60 seconds or less you can:

Tracking your stress with apps like Sharecare, available for iOS and Android, can also help manage tension. Remember: Not all stress is bad, but chronic stress can be. Speak with your healthcare provider about the best options for you if stress interferes with your daily life.

a closeup of healthy restaurant salads and appetizers
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Be Mindful of Restaurant Portion Sizes

Dining out is a great way to spend time with friends and loved ones while trying new foods or enjoying old favorites. It’s important to be mindful that restaurant meals tend to contain more calories and higher levels of sodium and fat than comparable dishes you might make at home. Studies have shown that people tend to consume more calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium on days when they eat out than when they eat at home.

If you’re seeking to reduce your calorie intake when eating out, consider downsizing your portion. This might mean ordering an appetizer instead of an entrée or splitting a selection of apps with your friends. Or ask for a to-go bag with your main course: Enjoy half of the dish at the restaurant and bring the rest home for tomorrow’s lunch.

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Unplug Before Bedtime

Research suggests that insufficient slumber is linked to higher body weight and an increased risk of obesity. Like too much stress, too little sleep increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which causes the body to hold onto extra calories. Inadequate sleep affects other hormones, as well, including those responsible for regulating hunger. That means you may feel hungrier on less sleep than you’d be with adequate sleep. Feeling generally exhausted can make exercise less appealing, too, and increase cravings for foods higher in sugar, salt, and fat.

There are a few things you can do to get better sleep. “I suggest stopping screen time at least two hours before going to bed, and if you're able to, put your phone in another room when you're sleeping,” Metz says.

You can also:

  • Avoid food and drinks that disrupt sleep.
  • Go to bed at the same time each night.
  • Use your bedroom for sleep and sex only, so you don’t associate the space with potentially stress-inducing activities, like work.
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Treat Yourself

You don’t have to deprive yourself of sweet treats, even if you’re trying to manage your weight. Some research suggests that indulging in less-healthy bites on occasion can help you stay on track—and may even yield comparable weight loss to following a low-calorie diet each day.

If you have a hard time limiting yourself to sweet treats every once in a while (and doing so is often easier said than done), Metz recommends swapping typically high-calorie desserts with fruit or nuts. Enjoy an apple with a tablespoon of sugar-free peanut, almond, or cashew butter, for example. Or toss a tablespoon of sliced almonds in a cup of blueberries and add a sprinkle of cinnamon.

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Daniels MC, Popkin BM. Impact of water intake on energy intake and weight status: a systematic review. Nutr Rev. 2010;68(9):505-521.
Laja García AI, Moráis-Moreno C, Samaniego-Vaesken ML, Puga AM, Partearroyo T, Varela-Moreiras G. Influence of Water Intake and Balance on Body Composition in Healthy Young Adults from Spain. Nutrients. 2019;11(8):1923. Published 2019 Aug 15.
Yang L, Cao C, Kantor ED, et al. Trends in Sedentary Behavior Among the US Population, 2001-2016. JAMA. 2019;321(16):1587-1597.
Matthews CE, Chen KY, Freedson PS, et al. Amount of time spent in sedentary behaviors in the United States, 2003-2004. Am J Epidemiol. 2008;167(7):875-881.
Harvard Health Publishing. Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights. March 8, 2021.
Diaz KM, Howard VJ, Hutto B, et al. Patterns of Sedentary Behavior and Mortality in U.S. Middle-Aged and Older Adults: A National Cohort Study. Ann Intern Med. 2017;167(7):465-475.
NIH Research Matters. Light activity may lower harmful effects of sitting. February 5, 2019.
Diaz KM, Duran AT, Colabianchi N, Judd SE, Howard VJ, Hooker SP. Potential Effects on Mortality of Replacing Sedentary Time With Short Sedentary Bouts or Physical Activity: A National Cohort Study. Am J Epidemiol. 2019;188(3):537-544.
Mayo Clinic. Chronic stress puts your health at risk. August 1, 2023.
Tomiyama AJ. Stress and Obesity. Annu Rev Psychol. 2019;70:703-718.
Mayo Clinic. Relaxation techniques: Try these steps to reduce stress. April 28, 2022.
Mayo Clinic. Stress relievers: Tips to tame stress. August 3, 2023.
Jackson SE, Kirschbaum C, Steptoe A. Hair cortisol and adiposity in a population-based sample of 2,527 men and women aged 54 to 87 years. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2017;25(3):539-544.
An R. Fast-food and full-service restaurant consumption and daily energy and nutrient intakes in US adults. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016;70(1):97-103.
Harvard Health Publishing. Why stress causes people to overeat. February 15, 2021.
Bleich SN, Soto MJ, Dunn CG, Moran AJ, Block JP. Calorie and nutrient trends in large U.S. chain restaurants, 2012-2018. PLoS One. 2020;15(2):e0228891. Published 2020 Feb 10.
MyPlate. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dine Out/Take Out. Accessed January 2, 2024.
Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. The Nutrition Source: Sleep. Accessed January 2, 2024.
Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Obesity Prevention Source: Sleep. Accessed January 2, 2024.
Mayo Clinic. Sleep tips: 6 steps to better sleep. May 7, 2022.
R Coelho do Vale, R Peters, et al. The benefits of behaving badly on occasion: Successful regulation by planned hedonic deviations. Journal of Consumer Psychology. Volume 26, Issue 1, January 2016, Pages 17-28.
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