By Tina Haupert

Last winter, I put on a few extra pounds. It was probably 5 pounds or less, but my clothing fit differently and I didn't like it. Usually, when I notice the pounds creeping on, I pay a little more attention to what I put into my mouth and spend a little more time at the gym. The weight usually comes off slowly, but eventually I'm back to my Feel Great Weight.

But this time, after a few weeks of small lifestyle tweaks, the scale still hadn't gone back to "normal." I didn't want to drastically change my life by cutting out my favorite foods or spending hours and hours at the gym, so I focused on revving up my metabolism to jump-start my weight loss efforts.

Here's what I did:

I ate breakfast
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast within an hour or two of waking up jump-starts your metabolism because your body is running on empty after a night of not eating. Plus, eating early can help curb cravings and hunger throughout the day.

I went to bed earlier
When I didn't get enough sleep, I felt myself reaching for snacks a lot more often. Research shows that people who don't get enough sleep are more likely to gain weight over time. My lack of sleep messed with my hunger hormones, so I tended to overeat when I felt sleep-deprived.

I pumped some iron
A lot of women steer clear of strength training because they think they'll bulk up, but this is not the case! I started taking Body Pump classes, and within a couple of months, I noticed a difference in my weight and how my body looked. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so adding a couple of full-body strength training workouts to my weekly routine definitely helped me tone up.

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I kicked up my cardio
Incorporating intervals into my cardio workouts maximized my calorie burn. Intervals vary the energy that your body uses, which keeps it guessing and ups your metabolic rate. You even benefit from an "after-burn" of calories when you finish your workout.

I added some protein
Instead of just winging it in the kitchen, I built my meals around low-fat protein, like tofu, beans, eggs, and lean meats. Protein helps your muscles recover after a workout and makes them stronger. It also takes more energy to digest protein, which means you're burning calories without even trying! Plus, adding protein to my meals satisfied me for long stretches of time, which meant that I'd consume fewer calories overall.