Losing weight is one of the most difficult things to do. (Well, actually losing weight is easy; it's keeping weight off that's hard.) But if you want 2012 to be the year that you do it successfully, here's how:
Figure out the "why." Just saying you want to lose weight isn't enough. Dig deep to discover why you want to lose pounds and make a list of reasons you can refer to when times get tough and you need a little motivation.
Leave a few bites behind. A realistic weight-loss goal is to shoot for one pound per week, which averages out to be about 500 fewer calories per day. (Of course, the amount will vary, based on your size, your gender and how active you are.) This may be as simple as reducing the portion size of the foods you commonly eat. So do the opposite of "clean your plate," and aim to leave some of those oversized portions behind at every meal.
Spread out your calories. Weight maintenance is a simple equation of calories in versus calories out. In other words, what you eat is balanced (or not) by how active you are. However, doesn't it make sense to consume the most calories when you're most active, so you can keep your energy level high when it needs to be? This is why a good, healthy breakfast is so important. Lunch, too. But if you're like many of us, you eat the majority of your calories in the evening, as you're winding down. Instead, think of dividing your daily calories into thirds — morning, afternoon and evening — and plan your meals to match.
Snack proactively. Smart snacking between meals will help prevent you from getting so hungry that you can't think straight. And the next thing you know, you're making poor food choices ("donuts in the break room!"), eating too quickly ("three down the hatch and still hungry!"), and gaining weight ("stupid scale must be broken!"). Instead, choose raw vegetables, fruit, low-fat yogurt, a handful of almonds or whole-grain snacks, cereal or crackers to satisfy your cravings between meals.
Ask yourself: How little do I need? Instead of "how much can I eat to get my money's worth" ask yourself how little is needed to get through the next couple of hours. If it has been 3 hours, it's time for a healthful snack or your next meal.
Decide if you want "waste" or "waist." If you're contemplating one more piece of pizza or finishing those fries, ask yourself this question: "Would I rather have it go in the trash bin or around my waist?" The answer is pretty obvious, isn't it?
Drink calorie free. This can be one of the easiest ways to cut calories and lose weight. Drink enough water to keep your body and brain adequately hydrated. It plays a large role in staying healthy. And water is inexpensive, thirst-quenching, and 100 percent calorie-free.
Eat from a smaller plate. It's estimated that the average plate size has increased 36 percent since the 1960s. If you're eating from a larger plate, it's likely you'll put more on it.
Slow down and talk to yourself. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to recognize that your stomach is full. So eat slowly and wait a while before cleaning your plate or going for seconds. Then check in with yourself and ask if you really need more, or if you'll be satisfied with what you've already eaten.
Choose wisely. The best food choices start with how they're prepared: best bets are foods that are grilled, broiled, baked or steamed. Plant-based foods are often a better choice than meat because they're often lower in fat, lower in calories, and higher in fiber, which is a good thing! Finally, if you have to choose between nutrition and convenience, consider which will have the biggest impact on your life 10 years from now.
Enjoy the journey. Perhaps a better way to approach this year's resolution is to focus on the process instead of the end result, the journey rather than the destination. See what you can do to make these goals a lifestyle improvement rather than a temporary fix. Good luck!