The jeans don’t lie. You knew you let yourself go a little bit, and after throwing the stupid bathroom scale away because it said you were (insert red-flag number here), you went for the true test — slipping on last year’s jeans. Ugh. Not being able to pull your pants past your thighs sure does tell you something. If you’re at a loss as to how to begin, here’s a no-fuss, straightforward, 11-step guide to losing weight.
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- Calories per day: Losing weight is all about creating a calorie deficit. One pound equals 3,500 calories, which breaks down to 500 calories a day. Do a combo of exercise and cutting calories to reach 500, and you’ll lose a pound a week. You can meet with a nutritionist or your doctor to find a more specific daily calorie count, but don’t dip below 1,200, as it will slow down your metabolism.
- Keep track: Monitor your calories as accurately as you can. Look up calorie amounts and write them down in a food journal, or use a weight-loss app. Everything you put in your mouth gets written down—yes, even that handful of M&Ms you grabbed off your co-worker’s desk! It may not seem like much, but at 70 calories, those little nibbles will add up. Then weigh yourself once or twice a week to keep track of your progress.
- Measure and repeat: Have measuring cups, spoons, and food scales on hand to measure correct portions. Eyeballing a cup of cereal is not exactly accurate, and you’d be surprised how easy it is to overestimate when you’re hungry. In the first few months, you’ll need to measure everything from the milk you pour into that bowl of cereal to the dressing you drizzle on your salad. After a while, you’ll become familiar with what correct portions look like.
Eat five times a day: In order to prevent that famished feeling that drives us to overeat, plan on eating three meals and two snacks a day, timing them so you eat every two to three hours. Here’s a sample schedule:
7 a.m. — Breakfast
9:30 a.m. — Snack
12:30 p.m. — Lunch
3:30 p.m. — Snack
6:30 p.m. — Dinner
Don’t skip meals or snacks to save calories since it’ll slow down your metabolism and cause weight gain. If you’re up late, enjoy a snack after dinner, but be sure to finish it at least an hour or two before bed so digestive issues don’t keep you up—getting enough sleep will help you lose weight.
- What to eat: Every time you nosh, be sure to include protein to satisfy your hunger, fiber to fill you up, and healthy carbs to sustain your energy. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner can be between 300 and 500 calories each, and the two snacks 150 each. Break them down to fit your needs, but you might want your midday meal to be the biggest to ensure you have enough time to burn off those calories.