So, let's say you stepped on the bathroom scale this morning and you realized your weight had creeped up to a number you really weren't comfortable seeing. Now your clothes are too tight, you're feeling sluggish and you're afraid your health might suffer, so it's time to lose weight.
Dieting to lose weight isn't fun and there aren't any short cuts -- you need to eat less. It can be tedious, and progress is slow. You may feel deprived without your favorite high-calorie goodies to get you through another day.
Sadly, most people who try to lose weight either don't lose any, or lose some weight and then gain it all back later. Sounds depressing, doesn't it?
But all hope is not lost. In order to lose weight successfully, you need to have a plan.
Weight Loss Plan
You already know your weight (or if you don't - go hop on a scale). Determine how overweight or obese you are by calculating your body mass index (BMI).
How much weight should you lose? That really varies from person to person, but you can aim for about 10 percent of your current weight to start.
Once a week, get back on the scale and recalculate your BMI so you can keep track of your progress.
If you have any health concerns, you should speak to your doctor before starting a weight loss program.
You need to eat less or move around more. Better yet, do both. Exercise will help you lose weight and improve your health. You don't need to do anything fancy, just get out for an hour of walking five days each week. Or you may prefer the intensity of weight training or exercise classes at a health club. Just choose what works to keep you motivated.
Let's get back to your diet. Taking care of your nutritional needs is important so make it a priority in your life. First you need to know how many calories to take in every day. Use a calorie calculator to help you figure this out. You'll need to eat fewer calories than you are currently eating every day to lose weight, but please don't go under 1,200 calories per day without speaking to your doctor.
You need to keep track of the calories you take in (and the calories you burn during exercise). Use a food diary to keep track of all the foods you eat, or join Calorie Count, which has a huge database of foods to make diet record-keeping easy.
Choose Healthy Foods
There's more to dieting than just cutting calories. You need to eat nutritious foods and in the correct amounts so that you get enough carbohydrates, protein and fats, plus lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, while avoiding excess saturated fats, trans-fats, added sugars, and sodium. The best way to do this is to plan your meals ahead of time, every day.
You need to understand how much food you are actually eating. Many of us tend to underestimate the actual volume of food we eat during the day, so it's best to measure all your servings, at least until you become more skilled in estimating portion sizes by sight. Invest in a digital kitchen scale and use measuring cups and spoons and measure everything.
Make a Meal Plan
- Five to 11 servings of grain (half your servings should be whole grain).
- Two to three servings dairy or foods high in calcium.
- One or two servings of protein sources such as meat, eggs, poultry, fish or legumes.
- Five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
Limit the amounts of extra fat, sodium, and sugar found in condiments, dressings and sauces.
Strive to fill your daily meal plan with a variety of good foods and leave room for a small treat so you'll feel less deprived. Remember that beverage calories count too.
You can sit down with paper and pen to make up your meal plan or use Calorie Count to build one -- log in, choose your foods and mix, match, add and subtract items for one day until you find a meal plan you like.
Make your meal plans for a few days at a time so you can go to the store and buy all the foods you need. Planning meals can actually help you save grocery money when you eliminate impulsive purchases from the snack aisle.
Here's an example of a daily meal plan. It provides about 1,800 calories for the whole day, with plenty of fiber and nutrients. If you wish to whittle away some more calories, you can omit the glass of wine, dark chocolate, honey, mayonnaise, oil and vinegar dressing, and the butter to save about 450 calories. You can also look for reduced calorie varieties of your favorite condiments and dressings and use non-nutritive sweeteners to tame your sweet-tooth.
What you don't want to do is cut back on the healthy fruits, vegetables, and whole grains because they're packed with nutrients and fiber.
- Three-fourths cup oatmeal
- One tablespoon honey
- One-half cup non-fat milk
- One-quarter cup blueberries
- Six ounces orange juice
- One cup black coffee
- One apple
- Twelve almonds
- Sparkling water with lemon
- Sandwich with three ounces tuna, a thick tomato slice, one tablespoon mayonnaise and lettuce on two slices whole wheat bread
- One cup raw baby carrots
- Sparkling water or diet soft drink
- One cup plain non-fat yogurt
- One-quarter cup crunchy whole grain cereal
- One tablespoon honey
- Salad with one cup raw spinach, one ounce cheddar cheese, one-half cup cherry tomatoes and one tablespoon oil and vinegar dressing
- One three-ounce steak
- One-half cup mashed potatoes with one pat butter
- One cup green beans
- Four ounces red wine
- One and one-half ounces dark chocolate
Does this meal plan look like it can keep you feeling satisfied all day? If not, you can alter your meal plan to include more nutrient-dense, low calorie foods like green and leafy vegetables. If your meal plan leaves you feeling hungry every day, maybe you are cutting your calories back too severely.
Remember that it's okay to lose weight slowly.
Drink more water, it has zero calories and you can flavor it with a slice of lemon or lime, or choose sparkling water if you like the fizz.
Dieting isn't easy, so if you fall off your diet for a day or two (or even longer), don't get upset with yourself -- I can help: