But it doesn't have to be that hard. The basic rule of weight loss is that you take in fewer calories than you burn -- and if you want to turn a positive calorie balance into the calorie deficit you need to lose weight, just make some smart choices in what you eat and drink, and how you burn calories.
The second rule of weight loss is that if you take in 3,500 fewer calories than you burn, you'll (generally) lose a pound of fat. So if you can have a calorie deficit of 500 calories a day, you'll burn a pound of fat a week (7 times 500 is 3,500), which is about 50 pounds a year.
If you have been maintaining the same weight for a little while, you are taking in the same amount of calories as you're burning. So you just need to choose a few of the options below to lose 50 pounds in a year. However, if you've been gaining weight, you'll need to choose a few more of the options below to go into calorie deficit.
Remember that 50 pounds a year is only about 4 pounds a month, so you won't notice a huge drop in the first month. Be patient, stick with it, and you'll start to see weight loss in the following months.
Also remember that with any of the changes below, it's hardest for the first few days. After that, you get used to it, and it gets easier.
- Drink water. If you typically drink lots of juice or soda or alcohol, replacing these calorie-filled drinks with water will cut a few hundred calories a day.
- Exercise for 15-20 minutes. If you have a weight problem, chances are you also have a problem with regular exercise. That's probably because you tried to do too much. Just commit to 15 minutes a day. That's not hard at all. And don't do anything intense, especially for the first month. Take it easy -- do a few crunches, a few push ups, jog in place for a few minutes. If you do this every day, you'll burn 100-150 calories, depending on your size and metabolism.
- Replace a fatty snack with veggies. Potato chips, fries, anything that's greasy -- those are laden with calories. Fat is the most calorie-filled food type there is. If you eat a snack like this every day, replace it with cut-up carrots, broccoli, celery, or a salad (with low-fat dressing, not anything fatty).
- Replace a sugary snack with fruits. If you eat Twinkies, Ding Dongs, donuts, candy bars, a carton of ice cream ... you know you need to cut those out. Try fruit instead.
- Eat a healthy breakfast. If you eat eggs and bacon, or something covered in syrup, or anything else sweet or fatty, replace it with something healthier. Steel-cut oatmeal with blueberries, ground flaxseed and almonds is a great choice that is delicious. Also try whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk or soy milk.
- Walk, and use the stairs. Park 5-7 minutes away from work, which adds up to about 10-15 minutes of walking a day, to and from work (in addition to the exercise mentioned above). Use the stairs instead of the elevator. That's about 100 calories total.
- Use non-fat milk in your latte. If you use half-and-half in your latte, using non-fat milk will save you about 250 calories.
- Skip butter. If you put butter on your toast, your roll, and your baked potato, you can save 200-300 calories a day if you skip the butter.
- Plan snacks, don't snack randomly. Munching on little things here and there, throughout the day, can add up to hundreds of calories. Instead, plan on a midmorning and mid afternoon snack, and make at least one of them healthy. Don't snack in between snacks.
- Go with red pasta sauce, not white. Marinara sauce instead of Alfredo will save you a couple hundred calories. Skip the meat too.
- Eat baked chicken, not fried. Fried chicken contains a lot of fat absorbed from frying oil, as well as the fatty skin. Skip the skin, and bake the chicken. Herb it up good, with some pepper, and it tastes great.
- Skip seconds, and eat slower. If you go back for an extra piece of meat and buttered bread, you're adding another few hundred calories. Instead, eat slowly, and you'll get full faster. Also, even if feel hungry after the first helping, wait for 20 minutes. Often, the feeling of hunger will go away.
- Air-pop popcorn. Movie popcorn is full of oil and butter. Tons of fat. Instead, air-pop the popcorn. You can put salt on it, but not butter.
- Go for pretzels, not peanuts. Nuts contain tons of calories. Instead, snack on mini-pretzels (not the soft kind), which can satisfy the salt craving without all of the fat.
- Skip the muffin. Muffins are just cake, if you buy them at a coffee shop, donut shop, or grocery store. You can make your own muffins that don't contain all that fat and sugar, but instead, try eating the healthy breakfasts.