By EatingWell editors, EatingWell.com
You’ve made the decision to take control of your weight, so congratulations! Now, take a few minutes to think about what you’ll gain from losing weight. Better health? More energy? A boost in self-confidence? Reminding yourself what you stand to gain by losing weight can be a powerful motivator. But first things first: You’ve committed to a healthier lifestyle and eating habits, but now what?
Here’s a guide to success:
1. Calculate your daily calorie target.
To estimate how many calories you need each day to stay at the weight you are now, multiply your current weight by 12. If you want to lose about a pound per week, subtract 500 calories from the number you calculated with the (x12) formula; to lose about two pounds per week, subtract 1,000 calories.
For example, if your current weight is 160 pounds and your goal is to lose 1 pound per week, your calculation would look like this: 160 (pounds) x 12 equals 1,920 calories, minus 500 calories equals 1,420 calories per day. If you calculate a daily calorie goal that’s less than 1,200, round up to 1,200 calories per day. Below that level, it’s hard to get all the nutrients your body needs.
2. Assess and adjust.
Are you eating enough? If you’re losing weight rapidly but also feeling very hungry, you might want to increase your calories slightly. We all burn calories at different rates, and if you exercise regularly you may need to bump up your calorie intake.
Are you eating too much? If you’re sticking to your daily calorie count but the scale isn’t budging, make sure you’re not underestimating your portion sizes: measure, or weigh, everything you eat for a week and see if that jump-starts your weight loss. If not, consider dropping to a lower calorie level, making sure not to dip below 1,200 calories per day.
Tip: You need at least 1,200 calories per day to get all the nutrients your body needs, so if your daily calorie target is less than that, round up to 1,200.
3. Track what you eat.
A food diary is a great way to stay on track with healthy habits. When you write down everything you eat (yes, even that miniature candy bar you swiped from the office candy jar) it helps you track calories and identify any not-so-healthy eating habits.
Moving more is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and exercise makes weight loss much easier. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends an average of 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise at least five days a week, plus strengthening moves.
You don’t have to be a dedicated gym rat to stay active. Try walking, team sports, swimming, or any other vigorous activity you enjoy. And remember that lifestyle exercise — like housework or gardening — counts!
Remember to give yourself credit for your small successes and don’t get down on yourself when you slip. Just acknowledge any mishaps and move on. Little lapses are part of every journey toward healthier habits. You’re on your way!
(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.)