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20 Tips for Dieting

Healthy Man

If you have a weight problem, you can find many programs to help you lose extra pounds, but the only proven method to lose weight and keep it off is to eat less and become more active. A calorie- and fat-restricted diet that follows the Food Guide Pyramid (see page 5) recommendations, combined with a regular exercise program, will help you reach your target weight range safely. You should realistically aim to shed only 1 to 21/2 pounds per week by consuming about 500 calories less per day than usual. During your weight-loss regimen, periods may occur during which you may not lose any weight at all, but don't get discouraged. This is normal. The pounds will start to come off again in a week or two.

Avoid crash or fad diets because they may not provide all the nutrients you need, and extreme diets can be harmful to your health. Even worse, such diets often do not work over the long term. Here are some suggestions that can help you lose weight successfully:

  • Don't skip meals, including breakfast, because you will be tempted to eat more later in the day.
  • Keep a diary of your food intake before and after you begin your diet, so you can compare the difference and make sure you are getting enough nutrients.
  • Start an exercise log so that, as you build stamina and endurance, you can see your progress and stay motivated.
  • Don't consume fewer than 1,400 calories a day, to make sure you get all the nutrients you need.
  • Cut back on fat by buying low-fat substitutes for mayonnaise and other higher-fat foods. Trim fat from meat. Drink 1 percent or fat-free milk.
  • Reduce your intake of sugar by having fresh fruit or yogurt for dessert.
  • Experiment with herbs and spices to add flavor to food and to make up for less sugar, salt, and fat.
  • Ask your family to support your diet and exercise program by encouraging you or participating with you.

How Exercise Helps You Lose Weight

Reducing your intake of food is only half of the weight-loss equation. The other half is becoming more physically active. To lose 1 pound, you have to burn 3,500 calories. Exercise burns calories quickly, helping you shed those excess pounds even faster. Physical exercise builds muscle and lean body mass (see The Body Mass Index, page 18). Having more muscle gives you a higher metabolism (the process in your cells that produces energy), so you naturally burn more calories, even when you are at rest. Your metabolism stays especially high for several hours after you exercise, meaning that your body burns additional calories after you are physically active. Regular exercise also can suppress your appetite, so you don't feel like eating as much as usual. The following table lists various types of sustained physical activity. Each of these activities, which vary in time and level of intensity, can help you burn an additional 100 to 200 calories per day.

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