First: Ditch the Calculator and the Food Scale
We all know that the key to weight loss is to eat fewer calories than we burn, but stressing out about numbers is enough to make even the best of us reach for a brownie for comfort.
Rather than counting each bite that passes through your lips, focus on eating reasonable portions of low-calorie, nutrient-dense fare. This means choosing fruits and vegetables over those unsatisfying 100-calorie packs, and filling up on fiber-rich whole grains like oatmeal and popcorn. Opt for lean proteins like seafood and tofu, and get small amounts of fat from olive oil or other healthy sources--without any fat, you'll probably become grumpy and hungry, spelling disaster for your diet.
Remember to Be Mindful in Your Eating
Speaking of stress and brownies...the most successful dieters eat only when they're truly hungry, not when they feel overwhelmed or emotional. It can be hard to tell the difference sometimes, so pay attention to your moods and eating habits to learn what triggers false hunger impulses.
Savor the Food and Don't Rush
Along with food choices, the way you eat can have a major impact on weight loss. Rather than rushing through meals, savor each bite by chewing slowly and deliberately. Note the way the food feels in your mouth and how the flavors satisfy your senses. Avoid staring at the TV set or your laptop screen as you eat--mindless munching leads to overeating.
Beware of Hidden Sugars
You probably already know to avoid sugary foods like cookies and candy, but it's also important to look for hidden sugars where you least expect them, like in whole-wheat bread and seemingly unsweetened cereals. Simple sugars cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash, so you crave food sooner.
And What About Eating at Restaurants?
Even if you have at-home eating habits down pat, going out to eat can be a challenge. When restaurants are unavoidable, steer clear of fried foods or anything that comes covered in cheese or a creamy sauce. Order salad dressing on the side, and dip your fork in before spearing your greens rather than drenching your entire plate.
Finally, Don't Forget to Exercise
Get 30 to 60 minutes of cardio most days of the week--it may be hard at first, but after a couple of months you'll probably start to crave the activity. Keep your expectations reasonable; for example, start with a refreshing walk around the neighborhood, and eventually work up to a jog.
Losing weight may never be a breeze, but people do it all the time--and so can you. Be patient with yourself, follow these tips and when you feel tempted to give up, think about how great you'll feel once you look in the mirror at the new, lighter you.
Nina Kate is a certified fitness nutrition specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). She also studied journalism at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and has contributed to numerous major publications as a freelance writer. Nina thrives on sharing nutrition and fitness knowledge to help readers lead healthy, active lives. Visit her wellness blog at BodyFlourish.com.