When it comes to successful weight loss, I know what to do because I've done it. I was a chubby kid and I was overweight for many of my pre-nutritionist adult years. Losing weight isn't difficult, but it takes dedication and patience because it's a slow process that has to last a lifetime. Let me share my top tips - I'll tell you what to do to lose weight and how I did it.
1. Determine How Many Calories You Need Every Day
You can use a calorie calculator to estimate how many calories you need every day and you can adjust that number if you like. Each pound of fat on your body is equivalent to 3,500 calories, so if you cut your calorie intake by 500 calories each day, you'll lose about one pound per week. Don't cut your calories too low, however; you need to get enough food so you get all the daily nutrients you need. Plus that type of crash-dieting doesn't lead to permanent weight loss. You need to choose a calorie level that you can follow comfortably.
I'm not very big person, so I aim for 1,500 calories every day. I choose healthy foods and I watch my portion sizes carefully.
2. Track Your Calories - In and Out
This is the crucial step - the one that will help you reach your weight loss goal. Keep track of everything you eat and drink every day - and the amounts - in a food diary. It's very easy to lose track of how much food you're really consuming so a food diary keeps you in control of your diet.
3. Choose Nutrient-Dense, Low-Calorie Foods
You can cut calories by either eating smaller amounts of calorie-dense foods (the ones that got you fat) or by choosing foods that are low in calories, but rich in nutrients and fiber, like fruits and vegetables. When you eat nutrient-dense foods, you can eat a large volume of food, so you don't feel deprived. Maybe today the idea of eating an apple rather than a donut as a mid-morning snack doesn't sound appealing, but you'll get used to it.
I replaced the greasy, sugary foods I liked as a young adult with fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts, and I cut back on fried foods and processed meats. It wasn't easy at first, I missed the junk food for a while, but today I'll take a crisp, sweet Gala apple over a greasy, icky donut any day.
4. Drink Plenty of Water
You might be drinking a lot of your daily calories. Sugary soft drinks, alcoholic beverages and even healthy beverages like milk and fruit juice can be high in calories. Water has no calories, so it's a good beverage to drink when you're watching your weight. For variety, you can add a slice of lemon or lime to a glass of water or buy sparkling water if you like fizz. You can also choose "vitamin water" beverages that add a little more flavor and a few vitamins, but look at the labels - many contain a lot of sugar and calories. Alternatively, you can choose diet drinks sweetened with zero-calorie sweeteners.
When I was overweight, I drank a lot of sugary sodas. Today I prefer the vitamin waters that are sweetened with a bit of stevia.
5. Get Some Exercise
Exercise burns calories and keeps your muscles strong, so choose a combination of cardiovascular training and resistance exercises. You can join a health club, or buy a few fitness DVDs and set up your own workout room at home. I think the best part about exercising is how good your body feels as you get stronger. And when your body feels good, you're going to be more motivated to take care of yourself by eating right.
I like walking the best. Most of the year, all I need is a good pair of walking shoes, but during the winter I go to a health club to walk on a treadmill.