With a master’s degree in nutrition, focused in weight management, I know what you need to do to lose weight: Pay attention to portions. Plan healthy meals and snacks. Write down what you eat. Exercise. Effective, yes. But also booooooring. I’ll admit it. So why not just do the latest diet fad, the one that promises faster weight loss with less effort? Answer: The pounds will come creeping right back. The better solution is to embrace those arguably “tedious” diet rules and make them more fun and inspiring—and with cool, new tools. (Find oodles of weight-loss tools and techniques here.)
Diet rule #1: Set goals. We know that if you really want to get thinner, you need to set goals that are specific, measurable and realistic. How much will you lose? By when? (Don’t forget the realistic part! Your answer should not be 20 pounds by next week.) Weigh yourself and calculate your body mass index (BMI), an estimate of percent body fat calculated from height and weight. Click here for our BMI Calculator and 5 more essential weight-loss tools. Next, calculate your daily calorie goal by multiplying your current weight by 12; subtract 500 calories from your result to lose 1 pound per week. For healthy weight loss, we don’t advise losing more than two pounds per week. If you calculate a daily calorie goal that’s less than 1,200, set your calorie goal at 1,200 calories. Below that, it’s hard to meet your nutrient needs—or feel satisfied enough to stick with a plan.
Cool tools:The Biggest Loser Cal-Max Electronic Scale ($29.99, amazon.com, target.com) calculates BMI and a “maintenance” calorie intake level. Tanita’s Fitscan Body Composition Monitor ($67.95, tanita.com) calculates the number of calories needed to maintain your current body weight; it also computes your body composition: fat versus lean mass.
Diet rule #2: Plan your meals. If you don’t want life to get in the way of your good-eating intentions, you have to anticipate and outsmart obstacles: namely, high-cal fatty foods that seem to be lurking around every corner. One way to do this is to plan what you eat in advance.Cool tools: Log into EatingWell’s Interactive Menu Planner to drag and drop your favorite recipes, plus healthy snacks, into a weekly grid that calculates calories (and other nutrients, including saturated fat, fiber and sodium!) and creates a shopping list. The SnackApp (free, everydayhealthy.com) for the iPhone offers hundreds of ideas for snacks that are 50, 100 and 200 calories. Search by your craving (e.g., salty, sweet, crunchy) or pick the Surprise Me! option.
Diet rule #3: Keep track. Studies show that people who keep food diaries tend to lose more weight and keep it off longer than those who don’t.
Cool tools: Track your intake with an app or online site. The free Lose It! iPhone app (or its new Web-based platform, loseit.com) remembers foods you’ve entered so it’s easy to find what you’ve enjoyed before and apply it to a new day. Tweetwhatyoueat.com (also free) lets you set up a Twitter-based food diary and track your weight and caloric intake. Foodpics Log ($2.99, foodpicslog.com) uses your smartphone’s camera to capture what you really eat—in a nicely organized daily format—and allows you to add notes for each meal and snack.
Diet rule #4: Keep an eye on size. In the world of football-sized burritos and snack packs that serve six, you constantly need to ask yourself: Is that portion actually one serving? (Looking for full-meal deals that you know are 500 calories? We’ve got ’em!)
Cool tools:Slimware melamine dinnerware ($36.50 for 4 plates, slimware.com) helps remind you of recommended portion sizes with correspondingly sized “food placement areas” (think: flower or swirl) for protein, a whole grain or other carb and vegetables. Use a souped-up kitchen scale, like Escali’s Cesto Portable Nutrition Tracker ($79.99, escali.com), to find out precisely how many calories are in your serving. Put your snack on the scale and, pulling from its database of common foods, the Cesto calculates its calories.
Diet rule #5: Move more. Exercise makes weight loss easier—but more important, people who move more are more likely to keep the pounds off. Aim to burn at least 1,000 calories/week through exercise.
Cool tools: Download the app for MapMyFitness.com or RunKeeper.com—which, despite its name, isn’t limited to running—and take your phone for a run or a ride or a hike. Using the GPS in your phone, these apps calculate how many calories you burned (not to mention your pace, elevation and more). Don’t want to exercise with your phone? Use these products’ free online sites.
Diet rule #6: Get support. Study after study shows that teaming up to lose weight is more effective than going it alone. Supportive friends and family members not only can encourage you, they also keep you accountable.
Cool tools: Take part in EatingWell’s Diet Challenge, where you can connect with fellow dieters as you all follow the EatingWell Diet. If you’re looking for social support along with individualized feedback from a trained weight-loss expert, check out Vtrim.org, an online weight-loss program developed at the University of Vermont by Dr. Jean Harvey-Berino, co-author of The EatingWell Diet.
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