Whether you've vowed to lose 5 kilograms or 50, the following advice will help make achieving your weight loss resolution a little easier.
We scoured research journals and spoke with diet and fitness experts to find a year's worth of practical and effective methods to rev your metabolism, torch fat and flatten your belly.
Here are 32 simple, but effective, ways to cut the fat.
1. HIT THE GAS EARLY DURING YOUR WORKOUT
College of New Jersey researchers found that men who started a 30-minute running workout at high speed, working at 70 per cent of their VO2 max, and then eased up to 50 per cent of VO2 max burned five to 10 per cent more fat than those who started slow and then revved up the pace. The after-burn of the high-intensity workout seems to carry over into the lower-intensity period, increasing overall fat burn.
2. USE PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Turns out taking the bus or train is as good for your body as it is for your wallet and the environment. In one recent study from two Pennsylvania universities, researchers found that people who switched from driving everywhere to using a light-rail system lost an average of about 2.7 kilograms in a year. Walking the extra blocks it takes to get to and from bus stops and train stations increases your activity level enough to result in weight loss, says Jessica Cassity, author of Better Each Day: 365 Expert Tips for a Healthier, Happier You.
3. DRINK TWO CUPS OF COFFEE, BLACK
A study in the journal of Physiology and Behaviour found that drinking two cups of caffeinated coffee can boost your metabolism by 16 per cent compared with the decaf kind. Make sure to drink it black though. The 67 calories in a spoonful of sugar and a tablespoon of cream can negate caffeine's calorie-burning benefits.
4. BLOT YOUR PIZZA WITH A NAPKIN
You'll dab off about 4.5g of fat - or close to 30 calories per slice. Of course, depending on the pizza and your toppings, the amount of excess oil you can remove varies, notes Keri Gans, author of The Small Change Diet. If you want a healthier slice, she prefers one loaded with veggies.
5. HAVE A GLASS OF WINE
Rat studies show that resveratrol, a compound in red wine, may help fight weight gain when eating a high-fat diet. The same seems to hold true in humans. Harvard researchers found that women who drank about two glasses a day gained less weight and were less likely to become overweight than teetotallers.
6. BUT AVOID VODKA
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that drinking even as little as 28.35 grams of vodka can slow your metabolism by as much as 73 per cent.
7. DOUSE YOUR FOOD IN TABASCO
Capsaicin - the spicy compound found in the white membrane of chilli peppers - has been shown to rev up your metabolism and can torch somewhere near an extra 50 calories. Eating salsa may boost fat burn a little bit, says Cassity, but don't let that give you licence to pile on the chips and guacamole. You still need to watch out for overall calorie intake.
8. FUEL UP ON FIBRE
In addition to making you feel full, longer (and therefore helping you eat less), fibre can help you burn through as much as 30 per cent more calories, according to a study in the Journal of Nutrition. "Fibre has roughage," says Gans. "And roughage takes a longer time for your body to break down and requires more energy to digest."
9. SLEEP MORE
Researchers found that dieters who logged 8.5 hours of shut-eye burned more fat than those who slept 5.5 hours. While both groups lost a similar amount of weight (2.99 kg), those who got a full night's rest dropped the majority of their weight from fat while those who slept less lost most of theirs from muscle.
10. INCREASE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY OUTSIDE OF THE GYM
In a recent UK study, 34 overweight women completed the same 150-minute-a-week exercise program, and while some women lost up to 3.18kg of body fat, others gained up to 2.27kg. Researchers think that the women who lost the most were the ones who maintained or increased their physical activity beyond the gym; those who gained weight had cut back on their everyday activity.
11. EAT BREAKFAST
A study conducted by the US Navy found those who ate breakfast daily helped boost their metabolisms by as much as 10 per cent.
12. PUMP IRON
Lifting weights can help you torch a few more calories even after you finish your session, according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Women who did an hour-long strength-training program burned 100 more calories in the next 24 hours than when they didn't hit the weights.
13. CHOOSE TUNA SWIMMING IN WATER
Stick to tuna packed in water not oil. Eighty-five grams of water-packed tuna contains 109 calories and 2.5g of fat compared with 158 calories and 6.9g of fat in the oil-soaked kind. Plus, it's a good protein source that's rick in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce your risk of heart disease and help prevent depression, says Gans.
14. DRINK CHOCOLATE MILK
McMaster University researchers compared the effects of downing low-fat chocolate milk, fat-free soy protein drink, and a traditional carbohydrate recovery drink after exercise. Not only did the milk drinkers gain more muscle than those who drank the soy and carbohydrate beverages, but they also lost twice as much fat.
15. DRINK COLD WATER
German researchers found that your metabolism can increase by as much as 30 per cent during the 10 minutes after you drink a cold glass. Why? They speculate that your body burns more calories as it tries to warm the water.
16. BREW A CUP OF GREEN TEA
A 2010 Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics study found that after three months, people who drank two glasses of decaf green tea a day lost 1.18kg more than those who drank an herbal brew. Researchers believe that catechin compounds in green tea may prevent fat formation and stimulate your metabolism.
17. SAY YES TO YOGURT
A study in the International Journal of Obesity found that eating yogurt as part of a low-calorie diet may help burn more fat. People who tucked in three one-cup servings a day lost 22 per cent more weight and 61 per cent more fat than those who dieted without including yogurt. Even better - most of the fat lost was from the belly.
18. EAT AN ORANGE
People who don't get enough vitamin C burn 25 per cent less fat when working out than those who have adequate levels, say researchers. They also found that people who are vitamin-C deficient can quadruple their fat burn after taking 500mg of the nutrient.
19. DO INTERVALS
You've probably already heard it, but doing interval training - alternating between periods of intense exercise and recovery - burns more fat and calories than exercising at a steady rate. University of Guelph researchers found that cyclists who switched between cycling for four minutes at 90 per cent of their max and two minutes of recovery for an hour burn up to 36 per cent more calories after their workout than those who biked at a moderate pace for the same amount of time.
20. GO ORGANIC
Canadian researchers found that people with the highest levels of organochlorides - a chemical found in pesticides - were more likely to have slower metabolisms.
21. MUNCH ON ALMONDS
Spanish researchers found that people who eat a diet high in MUFAs lose more fat from their middles than people who follow a high-carb diet or a high-fat one.
22. OUTSMART THE ELLIPTICAL TRAINER
The calorie-count mechanisms on cardio equipment are often off by 20 to 30 per cent. So if the readout says that you've cranked out 260 calories' worth of exercise, a more accurate estimate could be 200 calories burned. To even things out, aim to burn off 30 per cent more than your target, notes Cassity. Even if your machine's calorie tally is accurate, ramping up your workout will help you achieve your weight loss goal.
23. PICK A SMARTER SPREAD
Rather than smear a tablespoon of butter over your morning toast (102 calories, 11.5g of fat), try light cream cheese (60 calories, 4.5g of fat). It tastes delicious and packs less fat and calories.
24. TRY MEATLESS MONDAY
Vegetarians usually have a lower body mass index than those who eat meat. For instance, lacto-ovo vegetarians have an average BMI of 25.7, whereas meateaters check in at a BMI of 28.8. Not ready to forgo meat entirely? Incorporate Meatless Monday into your eating routine. You'll still be able to reap the benefits as vegetarian diets tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, and higher in fibre, potassium and antioxidants than other diets.
25. SEE THE SUN
Researchers from the University of Minnesota found that people who had higher levels of vitamin D were able to lose more weight on a reduced-calorie diet than those who had inadequate levels - even though both cut 750 calories from their diets. Your body generates vitamin D naturally through sunlight, and it's also found in foods like salmon, tuna, fortified milk and cereals and yogurt.
26. BROADEN YOUR CIRCLE OF FRIENDS
Having a lot of friends might not just help you live longer - it may make you leaner, too. A study in Cell Metabolism found that having a more active social life can turn regular white fat into calorie-torching brown fat, increasing overall calorie burn. Researchers found that when lab rats were placed in a living environment with 15 to 20 other mice and had greater opportunity to play, they lost weight due to increased brown-fat stores.
27. HAVE HALF A GRAPEFRUIT
There's no need to go on an all-grapefruit diet, but incorporating the fruit into your diet can help you lose weight, say researchers from Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California. They found that people who ate half a grapefruit before every meal lost 1.36kg more than those who didn't. Why? Not only is grapefruit a good source of fibre, but it also seems to help regulate insulin levels.
28. SWEETEN WITH CINNAMON
An in vitro study by the USDA found that the spice can increase the rate at which sugar is metabolised by 20-fold. Eating up to one tablespoon of cinnamon a day has also been shown to lower blood sugar levels. The spice is also a great low-calorie alternative to sugar to sweeten your coffee.
29. CLEAN YOUR HOUSE
A tidy home may translate to a fit body. A recent study found that how clean a house is - or isn't - is a better indicator of the occupant's fitness level than the home's proximity to safe walking trails and sidewalks. "Scientists really don't know if it's because you burn calories while cleaning the house or if it's a reflection of how you take care of your body," says Cassity. "It's probably a little bit of each."
30. AVOID BOXED BAKED GOODS
Store-bought cookies, cakes and mixes are often loaded with saturated fat. Make your own dessert at home for less.
31. SWITCH TO SORBET
Sorbet has half the calories and less fat than a serving of ice cream.
32. SKIP FRIED FOOD
It's a no-brainer. Deep-frying adds loads of fat and calories.