You snack on fruit, check calorie counts, and start most days with a walk or swim. So when you step on that scale and the needle stays put, you wonder what the heck you're doing wrong. Even with such healthy habits, sometimes a seemingly inconsequential snack choice or a larger (but common) food myth can keep pounds in place. Take heart: A simple, slight adjustment in how you eat and think can help you reach your weight loss goal.
Healthy Habit: You Count Calories
The key to weight loss: Take in fewer calories than your body needs to maintain your current weight and you will drop pounds. But only 11% of Americans correctly estimate their ideal daily calorie requirements, according to a recent survey. The rest of us tend to overestimate, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, and that's what keeps you from losing weight. Let's say you assume that a target of 2,000 calories per day will allow you to get to your weight goal, but it really takes 1,800: Those extra 200 are enough to keep an additional 20 pounds on your frame.
Do It Better
Determine the right number of calories you need each day — and stick to it
Get Your Max Intake
Go to prevention.com/caloriecalculator and plug in the weight you want to be (as well as your height, age, and activity level) to get your daily calorie allowance.
Divvy it Up
Set limits on your meals and snacks. If 1,800 calories is your max, split it into three 500-calorie meals and one 300-calorie snack.
Create a Custom Meal
If your favorite frozen entre has 500 calories, that's all you get. Find one for 300, however, and you can have some fresh fruit and a small salad with it.
Healthy Habit: You're Consistently Active
Spend a few hours running errands and it feels like you've worked off some serious weight. But even between the aisle laps at the mall, hauling around shopping bags, and loading and unloading the car, you burned only about 400 calories — that's about 1 10 of a pound.Do It Better
Rev your routine. Short bursts of intense activity burn more calories — and up to 36 percent more fat, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology
. Strolling around the mall or the park for an hour works off about 150 calories; pick up the pace 1 minute out of every 5 to burn over one-third more calories (try a similar method if you bike). Swimmers can switch from freestyle or breaststroke to a more challenging crawl every few laps, or just go a little faster. Even small steps make a difference: Skip the elevator and carry your groceries up the stairs to burn 128 more calories, or instead of hitting an automatic car wash, do it yourself and zap 204 calories.