Realistic weight loss goals

Every year, as December comes to a close, we all lay out what we want to accomplish in the new year. For many people, losing weight is at the top of the list. But unless you know how to set realistic weight-loss goals, you may be getting in your own way from the get-go.

Let’s be perfectly clear here: There’s no rule that says that you should want to lose weight just because everyone else seems to be making that a priority in the new year. For some people, such as those who have a history of disordered eating, the basic strategies for weight loss (eating fewer calories, exercising more, or both) might not be a healthy choice, and they should check in with a doctor before making changes to their diet or workout habits. If you do want to start a weight-loss plan, it is important to keep a few things in mind. For one, setting your intentions and understanding your motivation for wanting to lose weight helps keep you focused on what you need and want out of the journey, so that you never lose sight of what matters most: your health and happiness. Plus, there’s so much that goes into weight loss that we often don’t think about. How much sleep you get, your stress levels, and health issues such as medications and hormones all play important roles in losing and maintaining weight. There’s a lot to consider and no quick fix or magic bullet to give you lasting, sustainable change.

To put it simply: Losing weight takes planning, commitment, and time. As a rule of thumb, if a method promises weight loss that seems extraordinarily fast, it’s probably not a good idea. “Most experts agree that losing more than 2 pounds per week is difficult to sustain and an unhealthy way to manage weight loss,” June Kloubec, Ph.D., a professor in the department of nutrition and exercise science at Bastyr University, tells SELF. By looking at what’s healthy, where you’re at currently, and what it’s going to take to get there, you can figure out what a reasonable weight-loss goal looks like for you.

If you want to lose weight in the new year, here’s how to set a realistic weight-loss goal that you can actually follow through with.

1. Figure out your ideal body weight.

Everyone has a different ideal body weight. Most medical calculations for women are based around height: 100 pounds for the first 5 feet, then 5 pounds per inch above it. By that math, if you are 5’6″ your ideal would be 130 pounds. This is just a ballpark number, though. For a more accurate number, Kloubec suggests getting a body composition scan to find out how much adipose tissue (fat) you have. A DEXA scan and underwater weighing are both good options, but can be costly and hard to find. “Other methods, such as skinfolds or bioelectrical impedance can be easier to find and are typically offered at heath clubs and can give an approximation of body composition, but usually have a 3 percent +/- variation,” she explains. Whether you get a scan or calculate yourself, having a range helps put things into perspective rather than going in blindly.

2. Understand what you need to do to get there.

If you’re trying to lose weight, you need to operate off a calorie deficit. That means burning more calories than you consume. To do this, focus on changing both your diet and exercise habits—just paying attention on one or the other isn’t going to give you the results you want.

Contents

Losing Weight

What is healthy weight loss?

It’s natural for anyone trying to lose weight to want to lose it very quickly. But evidence shows that people who lose weight gradually and steadily (about 1 to 2 pounds per week) are more successful at keeping weight off. Healthy weight loss isn’t just about a “diet” or “program”. It’s about an ongoing lifestyle that includes long-term changes in daily eating and exercise habits.

Once you’ve achieved a healthy weight, by relying on healthful eating and physical activity most days of the week (about 60—90 minutes, moderate intensity), you are more likely to be successful at keeping the weight off over the long term.

Losing weight is not easy, and it takes commitment. But if you’re ready to get started, we’ve got a step-by-step guide to help get you on the road to weight loss and better health.

Even modest weight loss can mean big benefits

The good news is that no matter what your weight loss goal is, even a modest weight loss, such as 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight, is likely to produce health benefits, such as improvements in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugars.1

For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, a 5 percent weight loss equals 10 pounds, bringing your weight down to 190 pounds. While this weight may still be in the “overweight” or “obese” range, this modest weight loss can decrease your risk factors for chronic diseases related to obesity.

So even if the overall goal seems large, see it as a journey rather than just a final destination. You’ll learn new eating and physical activity habits that will help you live a healthier lifestyle. These habits may help you maintain your weight loss over time.

In addition to improving your health, maintaining a weight loss is likely to improve your life in other ways. For example, a study of participants in the National Weight Control RegistryExternal* found that those who had maintained a significant weight loss reported improvements in not only their physical health, but also their energy levels, physical mobility, general mood, and self-confidence.

What Are Some Realistic Weight Loss Goals To Aim For?

Are you looking to lose some weight over the next few months?

If so, then it makes sense to go into it with a firm plan of action, in order to maximize the chances of your success.

This, of course, means having a clear sense of what you’re going to be doing with your workouts and your diet in order to reach your weight loss goals.

But it also means defining more specifically what your weight loss goals actually are.

Most people have a rough sense of this – wanting to lose a certain number of pounds, often within the shortest amount of time possible – but beyond that it often amounts to a shot in the dark, hoping that they reach this end goal by some arbitrary date.

In reality, this approach will often set you up to fail. This type of broad goal is simply too vague to work with, not allowing you to measure the progress you’re making along the way.

Like other goals you might have in different areas of your life, you want your weight loss goals to be ‘SMART’ – meaning that they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Based.

By breaking down your weight loss goals in this way, you’ll put yourself in a position to be successful with them, and will save yourself a lot of stress along the way.

So, in this article, I’m going to walk you through exactly how to set realistic weight loss goals for yourself, and show you how to pick the approach that makes the most sense for you.

Why You Don’t Want To Lose Weight Too Quickly

Before we get into everything here, I want to first address what I’m sure is on a lot of your minds…

The High Protein Cheat Sheet

If you want to build muscle and strength, getting enough protein is key. The High Protein Cheat Sheet is a handy reference guide that shows you which foods are highest in protein, so you can easily add more protein to your diet!

That is, why not just do everything possible to lose weight as quickly as possible.

This is how a lot of people tend to approach losing weight, and while it definitely sounds good in theory, the reality doesn’t tend to be quite as rosy for several reasons.

At the end of the day, how quickly you lose weight will come down to how much of an energy deficit you’re creating each day.

Put simply, this is the difference in the amount of energy that you’re taking in (through what you eat and drink), and the amount of energy that your body is burning (your basal metabolic rate, in addition to energy burned through exercise and other non-exercise activity).

So, all things being equal, with a larger deficit you’ll end up losing weight faster than with a smaller deficit.

However, there are various downsides that can come from working with too large of a deficit, such as:

  • Feeling too hungry each day, making you more likely to abandon your diet
  • Increased risk of metabolic slowdown, making it harder to lose weight longer-term
  • Increased risk of muscle loss and reduced performance in the gym

Given all of this, let’s look at the pros and cons of working with different energy deficits, so that you can figure out the most realistic weight loss goals to set for yourself.

Option 1: Weight Loss Goal Of Less Than 1 Pound Per Week

This is a fairly conservative weight loss goal that you could set for yourself, which requires an energy deficit of only 10-15% per day.

Pros

  • Often requires only very minimal changes to diet (small, qualitative changes are often enough)
  • Very tolerable from a hunger perspective
  • Very low risk of muscle loss
  • Very low impact on athletic performance / strength in the gym
  • Very low risk of metabolic slowdown

Cons

  • Takes a long time to lose a meaningful amount of weight, which can be discouraging if you have a lot to lose
  • Requires meticulous attention to diet, since even 100 excess calories each day can have a pronounced impact

Who Is This Best For?

This is most suitable for people who are already quite lean, who are very concerned with maintaining muscle and performance, and who are experienced with dieting.

Option 2: Weight Loss Goal Of Between 1-2 Pounds Per Week

This is a more moderate weight loss goal that you could set for yourself, which requires an energy deficit of between 15-25% per day.

  • Not too drastic of a dietary change required for many people
  • Reasonably tolerable in terms of hunger
  • Reasonably low risk of muscle loss
  • Reasonably low impact on athletic performance / strength in the gym
  • Reasonably fast rate of fat loss, especially when measured over a period of several months
  • Manageable risk of metabolic slowdown
  • Somewhat resilient to inaccurate food logging
  • May feel too slow if you have a lot of weight to lose
  • May be too fast to adequately maintain lean muscle mass and performance if you’re already quite lean

This is most suitable for people who have a moderate amount of weight to lose (between 5 and 50 lbs), and who care about maintaining their overall body composition vs strictly losing weight.

In my opinion, this is the best option for the majority of people.

Option 3: Weight Loss Goal Of More Than 2 Pounds Per Week

This is a more aggressive weight loss goal that you could set for yourself, which requires an energy deficit of 25% or more per day.

  • Maximal rate of fat loss
  • Most resilient to inaccurate food logging, while still staying in a deficit
  • Large scale dietary overall required, often resulting in very little flexibility
  • Significant hunger if not structured very well
  • Difficult to adhere to longer-term
  • Significant risk of metabolic slowdown
  • Significant risk of muscle loss (dependent on body fat percentage)
  • Significant impact on athletic performance / strength in the gym (dependent on body fat percentage)

Who is this best for?

This is most suitable for people who have a lot of weight to lose (more than 50 lbs), and who aren’t as concerned with overall body composition or athletic performance.

Even in these cases, however, it should only be used for short periods of time, like at the beginning of the diet.

The Bottom Line On Weight Loss Goals

As you can see, out of the 3 options that we just went through, option 2 has the most ‘pros’ and the fewest ‘cons’.

And as I mentioned above, this is the option that I would recommend for the majority of people as a realistic weight loss goal.

It is sustainable, generally tolerable in terms of hunger, and doesn’t risk significant metabolic slowdown or performance/muscle losses.

What’s more, at between 1-2 lbs per week, you are still able to lose a considerable amount of weight in just a few months.

For example, if you lost an average of 2 lbs per week consistently, you would ultimately be down 24-25 lbs in just 3 months.

And if you set up the diet correctly, and do what you can to preserve lean muscle mass, the majority of this weight should come from fat loss, and not muscle loss.

As for how to go about losing the weight, that is outside the scope of this particular article, but this article on choosing the right diet approach is a good place to start.

And of course, if you’d like some personal help with this, feel free to check out our online fitness coaching program, and one of our expert trainers will design a custom workout and nutrition plan to help you reach your weight loss goal successfully.

Do you have a question about setting weight loss goals that wasn’t covered in the article? Just let me know in the comments below, and I’ll be happy to help!

Work out how much weight you need to lose


Healthy weight

Use the BMI calculator to work out how much weight you need to lose before starting the NHS weight loss plan.

The BMI calculator will tell you if you’re in the healthy weight range and, if necessary, how much you need to lose to achieve a healthy weight.

Ideally, you should aim for a target weight that gives you a BMI in the healthy weight category for your height (18.5 to 24.9).

The BMI tool will also provide you with your own personal “daily calorie intake” to help you lose weight at a safe rate.

Having a weight loss goal to work towards is a useful way to stay focused and motivated on your weight loss journey.

Once you’ve worked out your weight loss target, download week 1 of the NHS weight loss plan, a 12-week diet and exercise guide.

If you have lots of weight to lose, losing enough weight to achieve a healthy BMI may seem pretty daunting.

Some people like to set themselves small weight loss goals to stay motivated as they work their way towards their overall target weight.

When trying to lose weight, it’s tempting to want fast results. But studies show people who lose weight too fast end up putting it back on again.

The NHS weight loss plan is designed to help you lose weight at a safe rate of 0.5kg to 1kg (1lb to 2lb) per week by sticking to a daily calorie allowance of 1,900kcal for men and 1,400kcal for women.

Unless done under medical supervision, losing weight faster than this can increase the risk of health problems, including malnutrition and gallstones. It can also make you feel tired and unwell.

Find out about getting started on the NHS weight loss plan.

Week One Report

I ended the first week of my Keto Diet Reboot down three pounds. On Monday, September 25, I weighed in at 227.5 pounds. On Sunday, October 1, I weighed 224.6 pounds. So, to be precise, I lost 2.9 pounds.

But hold on — Monday morning to Sunday morning isn’t quite a week. It’s 144 hours. There are 168 hours in a week. One more full day.

The weigh-in that counts, then, is this morning’s, not Sunday’s. How much did I weigh this morning (Monday, October 2)?

I weighed 225.4 pounds.

Yup, I gained back almost a pound in the final 24 hours of the first week.

Officially, I lost 2.1 pounds for the complete first week of my Keto Diet Reboot. I went up and down during the week, for no obvious reason. Yes, my dietary intake fluctuated some, but not in a way that screamed, “You’ll pay for that!”

Consider my carbs minus fiber consumption statistics for the week:

My target for net carbs was 25 grams or fewer per day. For the week, my range of daily net carbs was 15 to 30 grams, with a standard deviation of five grams. Both my daily average and median for net carb intake were under my target of 25 grams.

It could be that the small deviations in my daily carb intake are enough to account for the small ups and downs in my weight loss. The question is, what is a reasonable rate of weight loss on a low carb, high fat diet?

As I’ve said before, this is not my first LCHF rodeo. Back in 2011, when I first began eating low carb, I lost at least 20 pounds in two months. I wasn’t keeping detailed weight or intake records in those two months. In the first month for which I kept such records (May – June 2011) I lost another nine pounds. Figuring an average of 4.3 weeks in a month, my weekly weight loss rate for those first three months of LCHF eating was 2.33 pounds (30 lbs./ 12.9 weeks).

Which is not much better than my weight loss rate this past week. And back in 2011, I was going from a very high carb diet (that is, the typical American diet) to a very low carb diet. I probably cut my average daily carb intake by at least 90%. You’d expect that sort of drastic dietary change to produce results of some kind, and it did.

This time, I’m going from a low carb diet to a very low carb diet. I doubt that I’ve cut my average daily carb intake by more than 40%. The big change is that I’m keeping track, and trying to be more consistent. And, yes, more ketogenic. So, the change may be significant, but it’s not as drastic as in early 2011.

As for calorie intake, I averaged 1,826 per day. Eating LCHF, I could easily drop my daily calories from that level without discomfort. However, my past experience is that such calorie restriction doesn’t help, and may hurt. I can lose weight on 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day. I’ve done it. (I may reduce daily calories via intermittent fasting, but I’ll wait a couple weeks for that.)

The standard view seems to be that averaging a weekly one or two pound weight loss over the long haul is reasonable. Of course, you might lose three pounds one week, and nothing the next.

If I keep losing 2.1 pounds a week, I’ll be fine. That would be nine pounds for a full month of 4.3 weeks. It would be 27 pounds lost by Christmas.

Somehow, I don’t think my weight loss will be that simple and straight forward. But I’ve been through the ups and downs before.

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When I first started thinking about making the behavior changes required to follow the federal Dietary Guidelines and Physical Activity Guidelines for a full year, I naively imagined that I could simply flip a switch one morning and follow all the rules. Bagels with cream cheese would magically turn into egg white omelets. Slices of pepperoni pizza would transform into chicken, brown rice and a multitude of multicolored veggies. I would somehow transport from my living room couch onto a treadmill.

Why I thought I could so easily turn off the lifestyle of eating poorly and getting inadequate physical activity that caused me to weigh 245 pounds in the first place, I’ll never know.

There is no magic switch that makes you suddenly love running and eating kale. It takes some trial and lots of error to get to a place where healthy choices are second nature, and even then, it takes work every day. I realized that in order to get to where I wanted to be, I had to take a stepwise approach to behavior change. While it’s continually challenging, it’s also proven to be surprisingly manageable.

Changing a Bad Diet: The Evolution of My Nutritional Intake

Months 1 and 2

I started by focusing only on my total calories and the amount of fat, carbohydrates and protein I consumed each day. I did my best to be mindful and evaluate each meal and snack I ate. After hearing about my project, friends and family members started asking me how they can get started on the path to lifestyle change. My advice is twofold:

  1. Count. Take the time to count your calories. There are a lot of free apps available that will help you track your daily intake. You might be surprised at how much you’re really eating. Not only that, you will likely identify patterns and habits that you had never noticed before.
  2. Cut. Every time you eat, try to eliminate some fat and add some protein to your plate. If you’re anything like me — and most Americans are — your diet is too high in fat. Making small changes like swapping higher-fat proteins for lean chicken or fish and cooking with less oil or eating less salad dressing will add up over time.

Lifestyle change is about making the best choice you can, as often as you can.

Months 3–5

It’s important to remember that lifestyle change is not just about weight loss. If it were, cutting calories would be the only requirement. My goal is to improve my overall health, which means looking at the types of calories and nutrients I’m eating. That’s why, two months into my lifestyle change, I decided it was time to incorporate some additional rules from the Dietary Guidelines:

  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fat. For me, that equals 250 calories, or 28 grams (250 calories/9 grams of fat per calorie).
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugar. For me, that equals 250 calories, or 63 grams (250 calories/4 grams of carbohydrate per calorie).
  • Consume less than 2300 mg per day of sodium.
  • Limit the intake of trans fats to as low as possible.

There are reasons why these four nutrients — saturated fat, added sugar, sodium and trans fat—are highlighted in the Dietary Guidelines. Saturated and trans fats are associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular-related deaths. Consuming high amounts of added sugar (note that this does not include naturally occurring sugars like those in fruits and milk) makes it extremely difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits. High levels of sodium consumption can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.

Why You Should Eat More Protein at Breakfast

July 26, 201701:07

As You Lose Weight, You Have to Adapt Your Meal Plan

After a few months of adhering to all of the rules I’ve described thus far, I decided it was time to take a deep dive into the Dietary Guidelines and start living by all of the remaining rules. In addition to lowering my calorie allotment from 2500/day to 2100/day (this was due to the fact that I had lost 25 pounds in the first five months of this project!) and adjusting my carbohydrate, fat and protein targets accordingly, I began monitoring my intake of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, seafood and oils.

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Here is what my plan looks like at 2100 calories per day:

  • 6 ounces of grain each day, at least 3 ounces of which are whole grain
  • 2.5 cups of vegetables per day.
  • 2 cups of fruit per day
  • 3 cups of dairy per day
  • 8 ounces per week of seafood
  • 6 teaspoons of oil per day

Back when I started The Lifestyle Project, this set of rules sent me into a bit of a panic — it’s a lot to keep track of. How was I going to balance all of these elements while staying within my calorie limit? The answer: You take it one step at a time.

Now that I’ve been sticking with my lifestyle changes for several months, I feel like I’m more equipped to manage this. I’ve learned what a healthy day of eating feels and looks like and I’m much more mindful about my food consumption. I keep a checklist on my kitchen counter and mark things off as I prepare each meal or snack. It’s a great reminder to add some veggies to my lunch or eat some low-fat dairy as an afternoon snack.

When Daniel J. Green got bored, he switched up his workout routine, which boosted his results.Jennifer Mesk Photography / Jennifer Mesk Photography

The Importance of Progressive Workouts

Even though I work with the American Council on Exercise and know how important it is to keep moving, an ever-growing list of aches and pains repeatedly derailed my exercise efforts in the past. For that reason, I started at the low end of the recommendations of the Physical Activity Guidelines.

Day 1

My weekly goals at the outset were as follows:

  • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise, usually on the treadmill, elliptical machine or hiking trails
  • Two full-body resistance training sessions, which in the early stages consisted primarily of functional training movements, flexibility training, and core strengthening

Months 2–4

I learned pretty quickly that building up the duration of my cardio workouts was going to be key, so my goal in these early months was to increase duration rather than intensity. The longer I could sustain a cardio workout, the fewer sessions I’d have to try to fit into a week. To reach 150 minutes, I could do five 30-minute workouts, four 40-minute workouts or three 50-minute workouts. For some context, when I first joined the gym about 18 months before beginning this project, I could only perform eight minutes of exercise on the elliptical machine at a time.

When I first joined the gym, I could only perform eight minutes of exercise on the elliptical machine at a time.

When it came to resistance training, I finally felt comfortable (after years of starts and stops) with adding more intensity and lifting heavier weights. I kept my focus on proper function and good form, but decided that it was time to push myself a bit by slowly and steadily progressing these workouts.

Change Up Your Workouts to Avoid Boredom

After five months I’d grown a little bored with my gym-based workouts, as 40 or 50 minutes of churning away on the elliptical machine performing a steady-state workout was getting less and less inspiring.

In an effort to reinvigorate my cardio workouts, I decided to introduce interval training to my routine. Interval training involves performing periods of vigorous-intensity exercise, alternated with periods of moderate-intensity recovery. Adding interval training to the mix also means that I’m moving into the vigorous portion of the Physical Activity Guidelines.

Similarly, my resistance-training workouts now feature some power training and light plyometric movements in addition to some traditional strength-training exercises.

How Do You Lose Weight? Take it One Step at a Time

The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my quest for lifestyle change, is that sweeping changes are not the solution. Instead, it’s about making small adjustments to your routine and sticking with them until they become habits.

I challenge you — as I challenge myself every day — to find small ways to make positive changes to your lifestyle. Can you add five minutes to your cardio routine? Can you modify a strength-training exercise to incorporate the need for balance or core strength? Can you eat a new vegetable or re-try one you’ve shunned in the past? Can you add some protein to your afternoon snack?

Small changes add up over time, but that’s true whether the changes are moving you in a positive or negative direction. It’s up to you to make sure you’re on path to better health.

I’m proud that NBC News BETTER invited me to share my journey with you through the completion of The Lifestyle Project and beyond, and now I want to hear from you.

Do you have any tips to share? Tell me about them. Have questions about my journey? Ask me on Twitter or follow me on Instagram.

Setting Goals for Weight Loss

Losing weight also may help you have more energy, less joint pain, and a better night’s sleep. Setting goals can help you lose weight and keep it off in a healthy way. Try these steps for creating weight loss goals that help you stay focused and motivated.

Think Long-Term

Goals can help you work toward a healthier lifestyle. Aim to develop lifestyle habits that will help you keep your weight in a healthy range now and in the future. Research shows that a short-term diet that you go on and then go off is not the answer to long-term weight loss and management. Healthy weight loss means having a lifestyle that includes long-term changes in eating and exercise habits.

Take It Slow

Studies show that people who lose weight gradually and steadily are more successful at keeping weight off. Health experts recommend 1 to 2 pounds a week over the long run for healthy weight loss. That’s better than trying to lose a lot of weight all at once.

Set Small Goals

Break down a long-term goal into a series of smaller, short-term goals to make your plan more manageable and keep you accountable over the long haul. For example, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds in three months, you might have separate goals for each month. Perhaps aim for 4 pounds in the first month and 3 pounds in each of the next two months because early weight loss often is faster.

See the Big Picture

Eating healthier and being more physically active is good for your health, even if you don’t lose weight. Try setting goals beyond weight loss, focusing on how your body feels better and what it can do. Think about the other things healthy eating and physical activity might do for you, like learning how to cook healthier, trying new foods, and having more energy.

Track Your Progress

Keep track of progress toward your weight loss goals. Keep track of progress toward your weight loss goals. There are lots of tracking tools available that can be used online or on your smartphone. Visit iTunes’ app store or Google Play to explore tools to track your progress on your smartphone.

Adjust Goals as Needed

Relying on healthful eating and physical activity most days of the week can help you achieve your weight loss goals in a healthy way. Holidays, vacations, and special events can mean setbacks on your weight loss journey. Losing weight involves using up more calories than you take in. One way to do that is to increase your physical activity. Here are some rough estimates of how much exercise it takes to burn off the calories of some favorite treats:

  • Snack-sized bag of chips: 1 hour and 30 minutes of strength training
  • Medium order of fries: Biking 1 hour and 35 minutes
  • Energy bar: Climbing stairs for 25 minutes
  • Large vanilla latte with whipped cream: Jogging for 50 minutes
  • Large frozen yogurt with no toppings: 1 hour and 5 minutes on an elliptical machine

How to Set Weight-Loss Goals You Can Actually Achieve

You’re ready to lose weight. No, really. This time you mean it. But you have no idea where to start. Perhaps a goal or two would help. But how do you know if they’re realistic? Can you really drop two dress sizes in time for that big reunion? How long does it take to lose 10 pounds, anyway? This goal-setting business is hard. In fact, maybe you should have a caramel latte first.

Sound familiar? For help, we turned to Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and the author of You Are WHY You Eat: Change Your Food Attitude, Change Your Life. Here’s her advice for setting the best weight-loss goals.

Try These: The Best Dinner Foods for Weight Loss

What are some things to consider when setting weight-loss goals?

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Recipe to Try: Spring Roll Salad

RD: I’m a big fan of holistic goals-not everyone can lose weight at the same rate and pace. Somebody who has time to do all kinds of meal preparation and go to the gym may have a very different path from somebody who’s busy taking care of aging parents or children. So I think you need to be realistic.

I always tell people, “Be careful not to just steal someone’s diet plan.” You say, “I’m gonna do this whole hog,” and then you do it for four days and before you know it, it’s something at your kid’s school or your church or something with your mother. And you feel like you’ve failed the whole thing. So I often tell people to spend a week getting to know their own rhythm. Everyone has great intentions on Sunday afternoon-and by Wednesday they’re buried in a bowl of ice cream. So it’s about taking real stock of what you can do. And what that means then, in using holistic goals, is that you may go slower than somebody else.

What else?
Talk to your health care provider, especially if you have any other kind of health conditions. Because before anyone makes a radical change in how they eat or how active they are, they should check in with a medical professional.

What’s a reasonable time frame for meeting my goals?

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Recipe to Try: Cauliflower Rice Pilaf

RD: I think six months is a reasonable amount of time. Six months is enough time to make some significant changes in routine and habit. In six months you may go through a couple of seasons. You might experience a couple of holidays or other typical weight-loss challenges. Six weeks is not enough. But by six months, even if all you’ve done is dump the soda, or you’re no longer getting the afternoon Frappuccino or cupcake, that’s huge.

How should I track my progress?

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Recipe to Try: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Protein Shake

RD: These days we can keep so much data on our weight loss. We have apps on our phones and our fitness trackers. It’s a blessing and a curse. It can be very rewarding to see that you’re meeting your goals and doing what you’re supposed to. You can say, “Hey look, I’ve done my steps, I’ve done my workouts, I’ve eaten this and I drank that.” The risk is-and I say this as somebody who has studied and worked around eating disorders-is if we get too caught up in the benchmark, it can almost get obsessive. You want to make sure you don’t get so caught up in the numbers and all the rest that you lose the forest for the trees.

You lost 85 pounds in 17 months. Did you start by setting certain goals?

RD: I was so convinced I was going to fail, I didn’t tell anyone. That way if it didn’t work out, I wouldn’t embarrass myself. I couldn’t even go up a flight of stairs when I started. But we had a treadmill at home and I said, “Any week I don’t lose weight, I’m going to up my time on the treadmill by 5 minutes.” I literally started with 5 minutes, and then 5 became 10, 15, 20. And I stopped all the stuff I knew to stop, like drinking soda. I used to eat birthday cake for breakfast. I cut out all fast food. And then I let myself eat whenever I was hungry, but I could only snack on fruits and vegetables.

Try These: The Best Breakfast Foods for Weight Loss

Should I share my goals with other people?

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Recipe to Try: Mediterranean Chickpea Quinoa Bowl

RD: Some research has shown that engaging in weight-loss and exercise goals with a group helps, because everyone motivates each other. But other studies have shown that it can actually be difficult for some people if they’re not losing weight at the same rate as others. Even if they’re doing beautifully, they get discouraged and give up. Sometimes mixed-gender groups are tricky because men tend to lose weight a lot more easily than women do. Once again, it really depends on who you are and how you work.

Do my weight-loss goals ever need to change?

RD: I’m a big fan of assessing your goals every month. Go back and see what works and what doesn’t. If you find yourself thinking, “If I have to eat one more carrot, I’m going to kill someone,” you’ve got to reassess (and probably pick a different vegetable). Maybe you change jobs, or your schedule changes. A lot of people get stuck thinking, “Once I start doing this, I’ve got to see it all the way through.” Not necessarily. It’s like when you’re doing your bills for the month. You sit down and see what’s working and what’s not.

Keep Reading: How Diet Changed One Woman’s Cholesterol Numbers

What if I don’t hit my weight-loss goals?

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Recipe to Try: Mexican Cabbage Soup

RD: Everybody loses weight at a different pace. Weight loss is one of many things to measure on your way to better health. Other measures can be things like, how much did you exercise today? How many steps did you take? Or how many stairs did you climb? How much water did you drink? How much soda didn’t you drink? We forget to pay attention to things like that. And those goals are equally important, because those are the kinds of goals that can stay in place for a lifetime.

Maybe you didn’t lose 10 pounds in six weeks. But maybe you did hit your gym goals. And before you know it, that becomes a habit. You may not end up a size zero, but you may be setting yourself up for diabetes prevention, stronger bones and going into older life with a sharper mind.

So the real key is habit formation. That’s why it’s such a good goal. Because if someone said, “Hey, I stopped drinking soda. I don’t drink any soda, or I drink just one soda a week.” I’d be like, “You did great. That’s wonderful. I don’t give a damn if you haven’t lost weight.” Or a person says, “Now I’m cooking at home five nights a week when I used to eat fast food three nights a week.” That’s huge.

It’s about taking stock of all of your healthy and unhealthy habits, making modifications and creating new habits. If weight loss comes as part of that, consider that a bonus.

Read More: 10 Weight-Loss Tips That Actually Work (According to Science)

How easy is that for women-to think of weight loss as a bonus rather than the goal?

RD: I think it’s probably hard for women. At the end of the day, so many women want to be a certain size or look a certain way. In my clinical work I’ve seen so many people believe, “If only I were thin, then all these wonderful things would happen.” And sometimes they do. But usually life stays the same, only you’re just the thinner version of yourself.

But if you make healthy changes and get into the habit of eating fruits and vegetables, of packing the carrots for work and maybe hitting the gym or going to yoga class, whatever it may be-you’ve just put money in the bank account of health. To me, weight loss is almost the icing on the cake.

Watch: How to Make Metabolism-Boosting Cabbage Soup

5 Weight-Loss Goal-Setting Tips from SpineUniverse

Goal-setting is the first step in establishing your personalized weight-loss plan that may help you better manage your back pain and/or sciatica and improve your health. Goals help you focus, direct you to take your next steps, and keep you motivated because they are a tool to measure your success.

A goal without a plan is just a wish. Plan now for successfully adding healthy choices during 2020 to your life. Photo Credit: HAKINMHAN. Source: iStock.com.

Break up your long-term weight-loss goal into manageable and attainable short-term segments. Here are 5 tips to help you get started.

Tip #1. Be Specific

First, you have to figure out what you really want. For example, you may ask yourself, “How many pounds do I want to lose,” or “How many pounds do I need to lose to reduce my back pain?” or “I want to learn how to eat better to control my weight and pain.”

Tip #2. Set Short- and Long-Term Goals

Short-term goals are those you can expect to reach within a couple of weeks. They are stepping stones to your long-term goal. So, if your long-term goal is to lose 35 pounds, your short-term goal might be to lose 5 pounds in a month.

Other short-term goals that can help you reach your long-term weight-loss goals may include:

  • Buy healthy foods cookbooks
  • Build a collection of lower-calorie and lower-fat recipes from online sources
  • Take a healthy cooking class
  • Switch from caloric beverages to water at meals and throughout the day
  • Eat 3 vegetables every night with dinner

Aside from your long-term weight-loss goal, consider regularly cooking with ingredients that help reduce inflammation and pain, such as turmeric. In this case, your short-term goal is to start collecting recipes that incorporate these spices.

Tip #3. Stay Realistic

Don’t set yourself up for failure. That means—set goals that are realistic and achievable. For instance, if you normally eat a lot of convenience and fast foods, and your goal is to cook healthful dinners from scratch 5 nights a week, make sure your schedule allows for the extra time it may take to cook.

Be sure to factor in the time it takes to find recipes, make a shopping list, get all the ingredients you need during the week, and clean up after cooking. If that’s not realistic right now, set your goal for, say, 3 nights a week until your schedule lightens up or cooking from scratch becomes an established habit and therefore, easier to accomplish more often.

Tip #4. Establish Your “State of Mind”

Remember that weight-loss goals can also be behavior goals, or “state of mind” goals. These types of goals include:

  • Eat slower
  • Pay more attention to the Nutrition Facts labels and ingredient lists on food products
  • Stop negative “self-talk,” such as telling yourself you’re fat or incapable of change
  • Change the direction in which you walk or drive to avoid food temptations

A behavioral change could include meditation classes to help alleviate stress, which in turn could help you eliminate stress-related behaviors such as eating junk food for comfort. It could also be staying abreast of new research that relates to diet, pain, and the connection between the two. And, of course, when it comes to weight control and overall health, any physical activity you can safely do, including walking, is much better than no exercise at all, can help boost your spirits, and could give you a little more leeway in your diet.

Tip #5. Stay Open-Minded

Keeping an open mind means being flexible—a key to successful change. It takes time to break old habits and make healthy changes permanent. Trying new things—even if they don’t involve diet or pain relief—can help you stay open-minded in general.

You may find it helpful, and even therapeutic to keep a journal and write about your journey toward weight-loss and healthier living. A journal can help you keep track of your goals, recognize your own eating patterns, explore your feelings from day to day, and look back at your successes when you need motivation in the future.

Lastly…

Don’t belittle yourself if you fall off the wagon and back into old, less healthy ways of eating. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to learn damage control. When you’re ready to try again, simply reset your goals and review your options.

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Changes You Can Live With

You can lose weight on virtually any diet. But to send those extra pounds packing without a round-trip ticket, you must find healthful strategies that you can stay with forever.

The reason we call the food component of the Weight Loss Clinic program an “eating plan” is because it is not a diet. A diet is something you can go on and off of; an eating plan is for life.

Adopting a new lifestyle means finding the behaviors and attitudes that led to weight gain and, once you’ve figured out your bad habits, gradually changing them into healthier patterns.

For example, are you a member of the “clean plate club”? Do you mindlessly consume your food in record time? Do you eat in front of the television? Are you always eating or drinking something?

Start to adopt more healthful behaviors such as leaving a few bites of food on your plate at each meal, slowing down and tasting every bite, eliminating interruptions to your meals, and filling your spare time with activities other than eating.

Or your own “better behaviors” might include wearing a pedometer and walking 5,000-10,000 steps each day; switching to fat-free or light food products; giving up fried foods; starting each day with a nutritious breakfast — the options are endless. The trick is finding changes that are easy for you to incorporate into your life. And when you do something repeatedly, it soon becomes automatic.

So set “process goals” (such as eating five servings of vegetables each day or logging 10,000 steps three days in a row) instead of “outcome goals” (such as losing 30 pounds). Process goals are key to changing behaviors, and that’s what will ultimately lead to permanent weight loss. Besides, a healthier lifestyle is more important in the long run than the number of pounds you shed.

Weight Loss Calculator by Goal Date

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Usage Instructions

Are you trying to lose weight? This calculator will help you determine a daily caloric intake for your desired goal.

First input your health details including gender & height. Then choose a daily activity level from the available pull-down menu. Enter how much you’d like to lose and a time period that you would like to achieve your goal during.

Press CALCULATE, and you’ll see estimated calorie requirements for losing weight, as well as a number for maintaining.

The above should give a fairly accurate calorie number for reaching your goal, but to get a most accurate Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), get your body composition tested and enter your stats in the “body fat percentage” field.

Please seek the help of medical & nutritional professionals before drastically altering your exercise or diet.

SUGAR: The Bitter Truth

Here is the backstory on the following fantastic educational video which explains why sugar is so horrible for your health.

Sugar & other fast acting carbohydrates spike your blood sugar level, which in turn leads to your blood sugar level later crashing & thus making you hungry again sooner. No matter how hard you work out, it is hard to lose body mass if you have metabolic syndrome & are resistant to leptin. You can’t outrun your fork & it is hard to get your fork under control if you are leptin resistant.

People tend to eat more calories when their diets contain processed foods:

His studies suggest that a dramatic shift in how we make the food we eat—pulling ingredients apart and then reconstituting them into things like frosted snack cakes and ready-to-eat meals from the supermarket freezer—bears the brunt of the blame. This “ultraprocessed” food, he and a growing number of other scientists think, disrupts gut-brain signals that normally tell us that we have had enough, and this failed signaling leads to overeating. … An estimated 58 percent of the calories we consume and nearly 90 percent of all added sugars come from industrial food formulations made up mostly or entirely of ingredients—whether nutrients, fiber or chemical additives—that are not found in a similar form and combination in nature.

9 Quick & Easy Tips to Lose Weight

  • Set Practical Goals: Short term changes are typically driven primarily by water. For most people it is hard to lose more than 1 to 2 pounds per week. Trying to lose too quickly can lead to serious health issues.
  • Quick Rule of Thumb on Calories: Each pound is equivalent to 3,500 calories, so a 500 calorie daily deficit would lead to losing 1 pound per week.
  • Beware of Sugar: Your body processes carbohydrates differently than fats and proteins. Eating foods with a high glycemic index (those heavy in sugar and other quick-acting refined carbohydrates) will cause your blood sugar to quickly spike then crash, making you hungry again sooner. Whereas fats and proteins are processed slower and give you a sense of satiety which lasts longer. Calorie counting doesn’t work for most people because it requires too much time, effort, and discipline. Eating vegetables and foods with a higher fat and protein content and less carbohydrates means you shouldn’t need to count calories, as your body won’t tell you that you are hungry when you don’t need food. There are literally sugar candies in grocerie stores which are marketed using the label “a fat free food!” The “low fat” healty food marketing gimmicks came out of large agribusinesses creating demand for their frankenfood products.
  • Skipping & Binging: If you skip meals it often leads to binging later at night.
  • Diet & Excercise: Most of what drives gain or loss is what you eat, but it is hard to function by cutting calories excessively. If you have reduced your calories to 1,200 per day, then rather than trying to reduce calories further it is better to try to increase calorie expenditure. Exercising will both make you feel better and make it easier to sleep at night.
  • Sleep Well: If you don’t get enough sleep you may crave more food to offset the lack of sleep.
  • Measure it: If you want to improve something, measure it. While a pedometer can seem utterly arbitrary, wearing one and holding yourself to a daily goal can lead to forming powerful habits. Fitbit devices also allow you to create an online account where you can track yourself against friends and co-workers, so you can push each other to exercise. The nice thing about measuring exercise rather than weight is one can become a habit that leads to the desired goal, whereas the other is a lagging and fluctuating indicator. Each day you do your daily exercise you will be aware of what you did and how it made you feel. And those who exercise may have slightly elevated serotonin levels which lead to improved satiety, diminishing hunger.
  • Make it Fun: If exercise is boring, not fun, and/or painful most people won’t keep at it. This is why joining a gym and losing 10 pounds are common new year’s resolutions which are quickly forgotten by February each and every year. Make exercising easy, convenient and fun and you will keep at it.If walking or something simple like that is too boring, consider adding an MP3 player and listen to songs or podcasts, or add some other form of entertainment into your mix.
  • Anything is Better Than Nothing: If you can’t do high impact stuff, then start with lower impact exercises. If you don’t have much endurance, then exercise in shorter increments and gradually increase them over time.

How to Lose Weight and Keep It Off

Losing & keeping it off isn’t just diet and exercise, it’s a complete lifestyle change. Rather than following fad diets or hoping for a quick fix, losing in a healthy, lasting manner is much more likely with careful diet change and the right exercise regimen. Lifestyle and habit changes don’t happen in a day, but because of the amount of effort that goes into making those changes, you’re more likely to develop habits that give you lasting results.

This step-by-step guide takes a look at how to alter your eating habits and your workout habits to maximize your weight loss most effectively. Identifying bad habits and working hard to change them over time is key to both weighing less and remaining healthy once you’ve reached that goal. On top of breaking bad habits, learning healthy habits and implementing lifestyle changes will improve your overall health.

Creating a Healthy Diet

Changing How You Eat

It is easier to control WHAT you eat rather than HOW MUCH you eat. If you eat the right kinds of foods then portion control happens almost automatically. It is hard to eat 1,000 calories of lettuce as it only has 5 calories per shredded cup.

Losing weight and eating healthy foods go hand-in-hand, and if most of your grocery store purchases are prepackaged or prepared foods, you might be consuming food additives that aren’t doing your waistline any favors. The best way to avoid this is to stick to as many whole, unprepared ingredients as possible and to cook your food at home. That way, you know what’s going into your meals.

However, many people lead busy lifestyles, and if you don’t have time to prepare every meal at home, start reading ingredient labels. Don’t just stop at the calorie count because harmful additives may be hiding in ingredient lists. One of the worst culprits for weight gain is trans fat, and you have to be diligent when looking out for it. The nutrition information may say 0 grams trans fat, but if a food contains 0.49 grams or less, the company is allowed to list it as 0 grams. Look for partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients, and put the food back if you see that ingredient. Look for hidden sugar as well. Fructose, Dextrose, and Sucrose are all sugar ingredients that add up quickly.

Reading ingredients and preparing food at home might seem exhausting, and it isn’t easy at first to adjust. Many have lost temporarily on fad diets, and it may be tempting to buy diet food instead of preparing your own. However, fad diets are focused on quick weight loss, not long-term solutions and health management, so many people gain back everything they lost (and more!) when the diet is over. You also may be causing holes in your nutrition by cutting out certain foods completely without ensuring that you replace the vitamins elsewhere. Getting healthy and staying slim is a lifestyle change, and fad diets just don’t cut it.

Many people who struggle with weight gain & sugar cravings have issues with how carbohydrates spike their blood sugar & later cause it to crash. Fats are metabolised slower than sugar, which extends the perception of satiety – vastly different than the sugar roller coaster.

Dr. William Davis wrote a popular book series and blog dedicated to spreading the message about how grains are a problematic caloric source.

If you stay away from fast food & do not have fast carbs in your house, you can’t eat them. A couple great tip for grocery shopping are:

  • buy from the perimeter and avoid shopping in the middle aisles
  • avoid drinking empty calories like soda & highly processed fruit drinks

Developing Healthy Habits

One source of fatigue from altering one’s diet is trying to cut out too many favorite foods at once. You can develop a taste for healthier foods and lose your sugar cravings, but it’s not going to happen overnight. While it might be tempting to raid the pantry and throw out everything that’s bad for you, that’s not the way to create lasting habits.

Instead, slowly cut out one bad food at a time as you introduce new, healthier options into your lifestyle. One great way to do this is to “crowd out” the bad foods with the good. Focus on getting your daily vitamins and nutrients, and fill up on those foods first. You may find that you’re not hungry enough for a snack later, and even if you are, you’ve already met your day’s nutrition goals.

Realizing that eating unhealthy food is a bad habit, like smoking or biting your nails, will help you break the cycle. Going cold turkey on favorite snack foods isn’t possible for everyone, and if you relapse and chow down on some chocolate, the first step is to forgive yourself for the lapse. Identify the times of day or the activities you engage in that tempt you to reach for the junk food. Being aware that it’s going to happen will help you stave off the cravings and gives you the chance to substitute in a healthier option. Don’t be afraid to let your friends and family know what you’re doing so they can support and cheer you on, and so they can help you avoid cravings.

Portion Control

Nobody likes counting calories, but it’s no secret that portion control is one of the key factors in losing body mass. Changing your diet doesn’t have to revolve around calorie counting, however. Other methods of portion control exist to help you manage how much you eat in a day.

This may at first seem counter-intuitive, but don’t skip meals. When you skip a meal, you’re likely to eat more later because of how hungry you become. Instead, make sure you eat at least three meals a day, and try not to go more than five hours between meals. Some people have more luck eating smaller meals throughout the day, but you have to be careful with this trick. It’s not an excuse to eat a full meal five times instead of three times a day. Instead, you eat very small portions of healthful foods every few hours to keep yourself from getting hungry and grabbing a bad-for-you snack.

The size of your plates and bowls may also have a lot to do with portion control. If you have large dinner plates, the temptation is there to fill them up. Try dining from a side plate instead, and eat slowly so your body has a chance to register that you’re no longer hungry. Measuring cups are also useful. If you want a snack, allow yourself half a cup. Measure it into a bowl and don’t refill. It’s a lot easier to manage portions when you measure them.

If you’re still feeling confused about how to manage your portions and how much of which types of food you should eat, a nutritionist can help. A nutritionist will give you information specific to your body and your dietary needs. Nutritionists are also great for telling you what foods you should absolutely cut out all together and where you might have room to cheat a little for favorites once in a while. They can also direct you on moderation. Dark chocolate and red wine, for example, have health benefits when consumed in moderation, even though chocolate and alcohol in general aren’t very conducive to dieting. If you spike your blood sugar then when it crashes you will once again be hungry quickly. This is one of the reasons many nutritionists recommend low glycemic index diets with limited carbohydrate consumption.

Write it Down

A food journal is much more than just recording what you ate in a day. Food journals help people see how much they’re truly eating, and identify any patterns that lead to overeating or snacking on unhealthy foods. You may want to organize your food journal into a graph or a table, or simply record everything diary-style. Just like with your diet, think of writing in your food journal as one of the healthy eating habits you need to pick up.

Write what you ate (including seasonings, garnishes, and sauces,) and how much of it you had. Record the time, the place, the company you kept, and how you were feeling at the time. You also might want to include if you were engaging in any activity, like working at your desk while you had lunch. This is a great way to see where your main concerns lie. You might be snacking too much in mid-afternoon, or running for fast food when on a time crunch at work. Though it might seem tempting to skip this step, especially if you think you can already identify your bad habits, try it out anyway. Putting down every detail will most likely illuminate areas ready for improvement you didn’t know existed.

Mastering an Exercise Regimen

Pick a Venue

One of the great things about gyms is trial memberships. You do not have to join the first gym you try, and you want to find somewhere you’re comfortable returning to. Different gyms have different atmospheres, and feeling comfortable while you work out is important. Take advantage of trial memberships, single-visit fees, or free classes to try out your options before you settle on something.

Some people prefer to work out with help. Taking a weekly cardio class or hiring a personal trainer are two great ways to keep yourself on track. If you’ve never been to the gym before, you should start with a personal trainer. Trainers will help you develop an exercise regimen that works for your body and your goals. They also explain how to use the machines, how long you want to stay with each one, and how to vary your workouts. Lastly, trainers will motivate you as you work out and will push you to do more than you may have thought yourself capable of.

You may not be the kind of person who can work out in the gym. Not everyone likes that atmosphere, and thankfully, you have plenty of options when it comes to getting exercise that don’t involve running on the treadmill. If you’re a fan of the water, try swimming laps instead. This is great for people who have joint pain or bone issues, as it doesn’t put pressure on the limbs. Join a sports team, take a dance lesson, or join a hiking group. If you’ve ever dreamed about adding a physical hobby to your life, now is the time to do it.

Slow and Steady

When the pounds start coming off, some people are tempted to increase their amount of gym time to accelerate their progress. Don’t give in. As with your dietary changes, working out is a lifestyle change, and those don’t happen in a week. While it is possible to increase the amount of time you spend at the gym, you don’t want to do it all at once in such a way that you either get injured or burn yourself out & start to hate the gym.

Over-exercising can actually cause adverse health-effects. Someone who goes from zero physical activity to two hours at the gym, four times a week is at risk for serious injury. A pulled muscle, a torn tendon, broken bone, or any number of things can happen if you push yourself too hard too fast. Then, instead of moving forward with your exercise routine, you’ll be facing weeks of healing time, which can be discouraging if you set specific goals for yourself. Gretchen Reynolds’ The First 20 Minutes is a great starter guide to healthy exercising.

After you’ve settled into the workout routine, and the excitement of those first ten pounds has worn off, your challenge will be keeping yourself from plateauing. If you’re getting bored with your exercise or feeling frustration that your body mass has hit a plateau, don’t start skipping the gym. If anything, substitute the physical activity. Go to the park. Take a martial arts class. Spend an afternoon kayaking with your friends. Dance or play basketball. Working out doesn’t have to be boring, and when you feel that fatigue, it’s time to change things up a little. Plus, finding your exercise in an alternate venue will take your mind off losing and put you in the mood for some fun.

It is hard to be healthy by focusing exclusively on the mechanics of health without including activities you enjoy in the process. If what you are doing feels like a chore you will find ways to skip it. We are, after all, pleasure seeking creatures. If we don’t get what we want we take shortcuts.

Happiness is hard to achieve by chasing it. Longterm happiness can only come as a biproduct of other choices. Chasing pleasure comes at the expense of undermining longterm happiness.

Cardio and Muscle

Aerobic activity is the best way to create the calorie deficit you need to lose body mass, says WebMD. So focus on whatever kind of cardio you’re interested in doing. Just because running or biking burns a lot of calories doesn’t mean that’s what you should do. So focus on cardio activities that interest you. You’re more likely to keep returning to the activity if you like doing it, rather than if it feels like a chore.

Don’t just concentrate on cardio, however. It’s important to bring in muscle-building exercises as well. Since you’re focusing on losing and maintaining weight, you don’t need to spend as much time building muscle as doing cardio. Your personal trainer can help you decide how often you need to focus on muscle-building. Just remember not to leave any muscle groups out. People usually do this by training with the upper body one day and the lower body the next time. To switch it up, do your limbs during one session and your back and core during the next.

Working out isn’t just about losing weight. It’s about overall physical health. So, just because muscle-building exercises, like lifting or strength training, don’t burn as many calories, that doesn’t mean you should cut them out. Building muscles is good for your bones and your overall physique. Developing muscles will also help change your shape as the mass comes off. No, you won’t look bulky if you lift. That bodybuilder effect takes a very specialized diet and weight-training regimen. Plus, having strong muscles makes playing a variety of sports easier, which in turn helps you burn calories.

500 Calories a Day

Losing a pound requires burning an extra 3,500 calories. Since there are 7 days in a week, this would mean losing a pound a week would require a 500 calorie daily deficit.

How long would I have to ___ to burn 500 calories?

Approximate minutes of exercise needed to burn 500 calories, by personal weight.

The exercise time columns can be sorted from high to low or low to high by clicking on a weight. All times are in minutes. You can also use this calculator to see how many calories you will burn over x minutes of exercise.

Exercise 100 lbs 125 lbs 150 lbs 175 lbs 200 lbs 250 lbs 300 lbs
Aerobics: low impact 114 91 76 65 57 45 38
Aerobics: high impact 89 71 60 51 45 36 30
Aerobics, Step: low impact 89 71 60 51 45 36 30
Aerobics, Step: high impact 63 50 42 36 31 25 21
Aerobics: water 156 125 104 89 78 63 52
Bicycling, Stationary: moderate 89 71 60 51 45 36 30
Bicycling, Stationary: vigorous 60 48 40 34 30 24 20
Circuit Training 78 63 52 45 39 31 26
Rowing, Stationary: moderate 89 71 60 51 45 36 30
Rowing, Stationary: vigorous 74 59 49 42 37 29 25
Ski Machine 66 53 44 38 33 26 22
Stair Stepper 104 83 69 60 52 42 35
Weight Lifting: light 208 167 139 119 104 83 69
Weight Lifting: vigorous 104 83 69 60 52 42 35
Basketball: playing a game 78 63 52 45 39 31 26
Basketball: wheelchair 86 77 64 55 48 38 32
Bicycling: BMX or mountain 74 59 49 42 37 29 25
Bicycling: 12-13.9ph 78 63 52 45 39 31 26
Bicycling: 14-15.9ph 63 50 42 36 31 25 21
Boxing: sparring 69 56 46 40 35 28 23
Football: competitive 69 56 46 40 35 28 23
Football: touch or flag 78 63 52 45 39 31 26
Frisbee 208 167 139 119 104 83 69
Golf: carrying clubs 114 91 76 65 57 45 38
Golf: using cart 179 143 119 102 99 71 60
Gymnastics 156 125 104 89 78 63 52
Handball 52 42 35 30 26 21 17
Hiking: cross-country 104 83 69 60 52 42 35
Horseback Riding 156 125 104 89 78 63 52
Ice Skating 89 71 60 51 45 36 30
Martial Arts 63 50 42 36 31 25 21
Racquetball: competitive 63 50 42 36 31 25 21
Racquetball: casual 89 71 60 51 45 36 30
Rock Climbing: ascending 57 45 38 32 28 23 19
Rock Climbing: rapelling 78 63 52 45 39 31 26
Rollerblade (inline) Skating 89 171 60 51 45 36 30
Rope Jumping 63 50 42 36 31 25 21
Running: 5ph (12min/mile) 78 63 52 45 39 31 26
Running: 5.2ph (11.5min/mile) 69 56 46 40 35 28 23
Running: 6ph (10min/mile) 63 50 42 36 31 25 21
Running: 6.7ph (9min/mile) 57 45 38 32 28 23 19
Running: 7.5ph (8min/mile) 50 40 33 29 25 20 17
Running: 8.6ph (7min/mile) 43 34 29 25 22 17 14
Running: 10ph (6min/mile) 38 30 25 22 19 15 13
Running: pushing wheelchair 78 63 52 45 39 31 26
Running: cross-country 69 56 46 40 35 28 23
Skiing: cross-country 78 63 52 45 39 31 26
Skiing: downhill 104 83 69 60 52 42 35
Snow Shoeing 78 63 52 45 39 31 26
Softball: general play 125 100 83 71 63 50 42
Swimming: general 104 83 69 60 52 42 35
Tennis: general 89 71 60 51 45 36 30
Volleyball: non-competitive 208 167 139 119 104 83 69
Volleyball: competitive 156 125 104 89 78 63 52
Volleyball: beach 78 63 52 45 39 31 26
Walk: 3.5ph (17min/mile) 156 125 104 89 78 63 52
Walk: 4ph (15min/mile) 139 111 93 79 69 56 46
Walk: 4.5ph (13min/mile) 125 100 83 71 63 50 42
Walk/Jog: jog <10min. 104 83 69 60 52 42 35
Water Skiing 104 83 69 60 52 42 35
Water Polo 89 71 60 51 45 36 30
Whitewater: rafting, kayaking 89 71 60 51 45 36 30
Exercise 100 lbs 125 lbs 150 lbs 175 lbs 200 lbs 250 lbs 300 lbs

Staying Slim Once You’ve Slimmed Down

Keep Track of Your Weight

When you’ve finally reached your goal and size, it can be tempting to throw your scale at the garbage and never look at it again. That scale, however, is essential to keeping excess body mass off once you’ve gone through all the hard work to lose it. While maintaining your weight, you need to be aware of how much you actually weigh. Pick a day of the week and weigh yourself every morning on that day. Write it down. This way, you’re aware if you’ve gained any back and can curb it before it snowballs into anything serious.

Watching the scale will also help you calibrate your diet again. You won’t be eating quite the same way when you’re trying to maintain a stable body mass, since your focus isn’t creating a calorie deficit but maintaining a healthy level of calories each day. Your nutritionist and personal trainer can help you with this. Even if you’re going it alone, slight eating habit alterations will show up during your weekly weigh-in.

Keeping track of your weight also helps you remain aware of any bad habits that may have led to small gains. Did you skip the gym or partake of the donuts during a work meeting last week? While gaining a few pounds isn’t a big deal, and is easily fixable, you don’t want it to become more than that. At the same time, don’t beat yourself up if you did gain a few pounds back because it happens to everyone, and you can do something about it. Weight management will be different from week to week, so it’s important to keep up a good attitude. Feeling good about yourself and how you look will make getting on that scale every week easier.

However, don’t put all of your stock in the number the scale shows. Keep in mind that muscle weighs more than fat, so you should do body fat assessments in addition to weekly weigh-ins.

There are a number of popular activity trackers like the Fitbit which can help you lose by automatically recording your steps & exercise activity and displaying them on an onlinine profile. People can share their data with friends and make a game of setting daily or weekly goals and competing with one another at work or in other social environments.

Eat Breakfast

At some point, you’ve probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That’s a very true statement, yet many people don’t have either the time or the desire to eat a well-balanced meal first thing in the morning. However you feel about eggs and toast, breakfast is essential to maintaining your weight.

Firstly, your breakfast should be healthy. Grabbing a high-calorie sugar-smothered coffee drink or a couple of donuts won’t do anything for maintaining your body mass and will probably send you back in the other direction. Focus on sources of proteins, vitamins, and minerals. The purpose of eating a good breakfast is to provide your body with the fuel it needs to get through the day and to prevent you from experiencing cravings later in the morning before lunch.

Eggs are a fantastic source of protein, and if you’re worried about cholesterol, nix the yolks. Other great breakfast foods include whole-grain oatmeal, grapefruit, wheat germ, yogurt, bananas, and tea. Coffee is fine, too, as long as you don’t load it up with cream and sugar. If you’re a bacon and sausage lover, try substituting turkey bacon or turkey sausage.

One breakfast staple you should probably avoid is orange juice. Most store brands contain a considerable amount of sugar. The same goes for all juices, so if juice is your drink of choice in the morning, have water instead. If you’re dead-set on juice, your best bet is to squeeze it yourself, but even that doesn’t have the same health benefits as eating whole fruit. When craving the taste of oranges, go for the real thing: peel one and eat the segments whole.

Keep up Physical Activity

Now that you’ve dropped the pounds, concentrate on becoming a more active person in general. Your activities no longer revolve around dropping inches from your waistline, but staying active and avoiding sedentary activities is a great way to keep your body healthy without constantly worrying about a relapse.

Pick your hobbies around their activity level. Rather than sitting around and watching television for entertainment, get an audiobook from the library and take a long walk. Stretch out your new leanness in a yoga class. Learn to build things, or get started on some of those DIY home improvement projects you’ve been meaning to do. Even something as simple as taking the stairs at work or parking far away from the entrance in the store parking lot adds small bits of physical activity to your daily life that add up over the course of the week.

Don’t forget about the gym, either. By now, you’ve probably developed a pretty serious workout routine, so keep up that momentum. If you fall out of the routine, getting back into it will be harder. Your body is already used to being active, so stay where you are and take advantage of your newfound health. Keep getting in your cardio and your strength training because these things will not only help maintain your current body mass, they’ll also ensure your health for years to come.

Altering your habits and changing your lifestyle isn’t easy, but the improvements you make will last you for far longer than any fad diet or quick weight-loss fix will. If you’re serious about losing in a healthy way and staying at your goal once you reach it, then focus on your lifestyle. Think of it as long-term improvement. You may not drop dozens of pounds in a week like some fad diets claim, but your body will be healthier and your lower body mass will be much easier to maintain.

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