Losing weight—and keeping it off—requires dedication, patience, and trading your bad habits for pound-shedding, get-fit ones. Here are 16 easy steps to help you cut calories and drop weight with ease:
1. Make a PlanKnow what you plan to eat and then...eat it. Yes, a novel idea, but it works. Having no plan is the equivalent of planning to fail. Life will throw you curve balls in the form of office parties, dinners out and impromptu cravings. But you can dodge those curves by keeping healthy snacks on hand, practicing portion control, and get to know your eating habits.
2. Eat OftenEat the right foods often, that is. Eat donuts five times a day, and you'll have little chance of getting or staying thin. Instead, eat small, healthy meals every three hours to keep hunger at bay and your metabolism working for, not against, you.
3. Learn to Love Fruits and VeggiesIf most of your meals consist of meat and potatoes or pasta and cheese, swap these high-calorie choices for more fresh produce. You'll learn to crave fruits and veggies in no time. Ideally, your breakfast should be half fruit, and your lunch and dinner, half veggies. Keep your snacks to a similar ratio, too.
4. Avoid TemptationIf you keep your pantry loaded with chips, cookies and other high-calorie snacks, and then dare yourself NOT to eat them, then you are walking directly into the lion's den. Instead, keep your kitchen stocked with healthy foods to avoid temptation.
5. Rotate Your MealsDon't eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday. Three times a week, rotate three meals of your choice. For breakfast, cereal is okay, as long as it's one high in fiber and grains and low on sugar. Oatmeal, Greek yogurt or eggs are good choices, as well. Fun tip: always include fruit.
For lunch, rotate meals more frequently. Need ideas? Salads with low-calorie dressings, sandwiches on whole grain (minus the mayo), eggs (unless you had them at breakfast), and broth-based soups (no cream allowed). Again, always include fruit or a side of vegetables.
For dinner, rotate five healthy meals that include foods like chicken, fish and whole grains. Make veggies a staple. You can get creative, just be sure to stick to the proper ratio or fruits and veggies.
More: Your 7-Day Meal Plan$Pagebreak$
6. Hold the SauceBeware of the hidden calories in sauces. Use tomato sauce instead of alfredo on pasta; substitute hummus or mustard for mayo on a sandwich; and make your own low-calorie salad dressings: Add a little ranch seasoning to plain Greek yogurt, or a dash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
7. Go Easy on the Nut ButterAlmond butter, peanut butter and other whole raw nuts are a great source of protein, healthy fats and fiber. However, a low-calorie serving size is two level tablespoons; anything above that and you start racking up the calories fast. Measure your nut and nut butter servings carefully.
8. Make Fiber Your FriendIf you want to eat less and feel full, then aim for fiber, at least 25 grams a day. Good sources include beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Just make sure to eat high-fiber meals or snacks at least two hours before you run or work out.
9. Don't Shop When HungrySimply put: You'll be less likely to put tempting foods into your shopping cart if you shop when you're full, not hungry.
More: 30 Foods That Fight Fat
10. Eat SlowlyStudies suggest that when you eat more slowly, you eat less because your brain has a chance to figure out that you're full. The best way to slow your pace? Avoid distractions while you eat: no computer, no television and no newspaper. You'll pay attention to every bite, eat more slowly, and satisfy your hunger with less.
11. Make Your Own MealsWhen your schedule allows, cook for yourself. Sure, it's easier to grab something to go from a restaurant, but it will definitely be calorie laden. Control what you eat, right down to the ingredients you put into every dish. Your diet will allow you to grab the occasional meal out, but cut down on that practice and you'll save on money and calories, both.
12. Eat Real FoodMuch of our food comes highly processed in packaged or pre-packed meals. But half of a homemade sandwich is a better weight-loss snack than a handful of pretzels; nuts are more filling than animal crackers. Keep yourself armed with healthy whole foods so you can snack on the go. Also, pay attention to what your body is really telling you. Eat only when hungry; not when you're bored, sleepy or restless.
13. Monitor Your IntakeEven if only for a few days, keep track of what you eat in a journal and write down the calorie count for each. Many people tend to uncover patterns of eating that they can change once they begin a serious diet plan. Can't hurt to track the number of weekly workouts in your diet journal, as well. Carry a small notebook or use apps like Loselt, MyFitnessPal and MyPlate.
14. Keep Yourself HonestThis is where your diet journal helps: Did you work out three days or four? Did you take an extra cookie or not? Being honest will help you track the ways you may be inconsistent in your diet and exercise plan. Follow a training plan. If you need help, consult with a professional fitness trainer to help construct your unique training and nutrition plan. You'll reach your goals faster and more likely achieve long-term success.
15. Add MileageThe more you run, walk or work out, the more calories you will burn. It's that simple. Start adding miles to your runs or minutes to your workouts in small doses. Can't run a mile yet? Then add a quarter mile at a time until you hit your 1-mile goal. Split your time between morning runs and evening runs, so the increased distance won't seem so overwhelming. That method helps your recovery, as well.
16. Crank the IntensityOnce you have recovered and began to add more to your running or workout routine, don't rest on your laurels. Take your intensity to the next level.
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