Planning to lose weight this year?

Many people make a resolution to lose weight or get healthy in this new year. Those are among the most popular resolutions. But losing weight is hard and takes time. That’s why so many people fail.

But if you’re determined to lose the fat, there are some things you can do that will help. First, you have to understand what losing weight is all about. It seems like it should be a simple formula: calories eaten should be less than the calories burned. But we’re finding out it’s not that simple. The kind of calories matter. That doesn’t mean you should ignore the calorie count. But it means you have to take into consideration balance, the food pyramid, carbohydrate counts AND calories burned through daily work and exercise. In other words, losing weight is a two-step process. You have to reduce the number of calories consumed. But you also have to increase the number of calories burned. While many people pale at the idea of joining a gym or doing regular exercise, burning more calories doesn’t have to be that hard. A simple walk after lunch or dinner will do a lot of good.

First, figure out where you are. I know that sounds simple, but it’s not. I’ve advocated for some time we plan ahead for our meals, what we’re going to cook and what and when we’re going to eat. But it also helps to know how you’ve been doing and use that information to figure out where the problems are. Keep a food diary. There are lots of ways to do that and even web sites that can help you. I know just how tedious that can become. But I also know that it’s the only way to find out where you really are. Record what you eat and when. Yes, you have to count everything, even snacks or grazing. Then you can figure out how many calories and carbohydrates that is. It won’t take long for you to see what’s happening. You’re less likely to cheat if you know you have to write it down somewhere. Also, record your activities and exercises. Write down what you did and for how long. There are resources available on the internet that can help you figure out how many calories you’ve burned.

Next, figure out where you want to go. To calculate how many calories you need to eat to stay at your current weight, take that weight in pounds and multiply by 12. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, you need 2,400 calories a day to stay at that weight. If you’re gaining weight, I bet you’ll be amazed at just how much you must be eating. The government says the average American should have 2,000 calories a day. Now, does that make the obesity epidemic in our country more clear? If you want to lose one pound a week, you have to reduce your intake by 500 calories a day.

Successful weight loss takes time. If you have to cut your eating plan by 500 calories, that’s almost a whole meal. That means you can’t lose a lot of weight in just a few weeks or even a few months for those of us who are really overweight. Make your goal realistic and give yourself some wiggle room. Weight loss experts say you should plan on losing only one to two pounds per week. Any more than that is not healthy and won’t last. Trying to lose weight too fast leads to yo-yo dieting which is very dangerous to your health. It’s actually better to be a little fat than always going up and down in weight. So, if you want to lose 20 pounds, plan on that taking about five months.

Figure out an eating plan. Doctors say you shouldn’t have a diet that’s under 1,500 calories. Less than that and you won’t be getting all the nutrients your body needs to function. I think going that low is not only dangerous but it leads to failure. If you’re hungry all the time, you’re more likely to go on an eating binge. Then the guilt could lead to serious emotional problems that put your life in danger. Take time to do it right. If you lower your eating plan by just a few hundred calories a month, you can make changes that can be maintained for the rest of your life.

Work out meal menus that work. Figure out how many calories you need in four to six eating times per day. That means three full meals and at least one snack. The more you can spread out your food intake in small amounts, the less likely you are to be hungry and the less likely you are to overeat when meal time comes around. So, if you plan on eventually getting to an 1,800 calorie a day eating plan, that works out to two 600 calorie meals, one 500 calorie meal and one 100 calorie snack. In terms of carbohydrates, that’s no more than 60 grams per meal with a 10 gram carbohydrate snack.

Make sure your meals are balanced. Figure out how much of each nutrient you need. I’ve already talked about calories and carbohydrates, but the foods that provide those things matter. You need a certain amount of protein each day. You need to make sure you’re getting enough fruits and vegetables. So, for example, you should plan on a dinner that includes one main dish that meets your protein needs, one starch, one green vegetable and one fruit.

Plan to splurge. You might think that sounds bad. But you need to be realistic. You know you’ll be tempted by donuts at the office, cookies you keep around for the kids or cheesecake on that restaurant menu. From time to time, it’s okay to indulge yourself. But plan for it. The more you deny yourself, the more you want it. But if you allow yourself to have that treat, you won’t feel deprived and be less likely to binge.

Grazing is for cows. I know it’s tempting. The problem is it’s very hard to calculate how much you’re eating when you have a little here and a little there. Figure out a plan and stick to it. If you’re going to snack, then do it, then stop until the next planned meal.

Don’t rush your meals. It’s true that we lead busier lives these days. But much of that is self-imposed. We are all trying to do too much. I know it seems like there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done that you need to do. But maybe that’s just because we’re not giving ourselves a chance to get the really important things done. Take time to enjoy what you eat. The more conscious you are of your eating, the better you’re likely to eat.

Include activity in your plan. Doing something as simple as a walk once or twice a day can make a big difference in how you burn your calories. And it does more than that. It can help you deal with depression, anger, anxiety and other emotions that make you turn to food for comfort. Plan some small amount of activity every day. If you decide to do some real exercise, make sure you get checked out by your doctor first. Then devise a plan, with the help of a professional, to slowly build up to a full exercise routine to be done at least three days a week. Don’t go too fast or you’ll get sore and then stop. Plan just a little more each week.

Stash the snacks. Seeing food actually makes us want to eat it. So keep tempting foods, and all food, really, out of sight. Not only will this make them less tempting, but being forced to find and prepare them makes them less appealing. It gives you an opportunity to ask yourself, “Am I really hungry? Do I really want this?”

Using these tricks and tips can help you keep that resolution or even get healthier during the year. Just don’t give up so easily. Everyone falls off the wagon now and again. The trick is to get back on it. Losing weight is a lot harder than most people believe, so just take it one step at a time and don’t be too hard on yourself.