Sure, you can hit the gym and attempt to eat nothing but salads all day, but if you're serious about shedding the pounds—and keeping them off—you'll need to get on a healthy eating plan. Choosing the right diet is one key to your success, but whether you're into cutting carbs or eating like a viking, you'll greatly up your chances of hitting a goal by following these expert-tested strategies.
Step 1: Set Multiple Goals
You’ve probably already got a big goal in mind—like losing 25 pounds (or more). That’s great. But according to Joy Bauer, R.D., a best-selling author and diet and nutrition expert for NBC’s Today show, short-term goals help get you there more easily. “These should be daily or weekly checkpoints,” she says. “Things you can achieve and work toward to help you stay on track.” Your goals don’t have to be elaborate or life-changing, either. Set a few simple goals every morning—getting in 30 minutes of training; skipping your regular afternoon junk-food binge—meet ’em and then build off of 'em for even bigger accomplishments tomorrow.
Step 2: Keep It Simple
“The worst mistake you can make when starting a new program is scheduling yourself for more than you can handle,” says Fred DeVito, a trainer and co-creator of the Exhale: Core Fusion DVD series. “You want to make changes to your lifestyle that you can live with long-term. Otherwise, whatever you’re doing won’t have lasting effects,” he says. Do you really want to work out three hours a day or never eat carbs again? Then don’t do it now. Your overall approach to getting fit should always mesh with how you live— and how you want to live in the future.
Step 3: Start With Your Mouth
Exercise is obviously important,” says DeVito, “but in the beginning, the most essential thing you can do to lose weight is to adjust your eating habits.” Most men can drop five pounds or more in no time, he says, just by cutting back on portion sizes, having more snack-size mini-meals instead of three full plates, and ditching processed foods. Think high-protein, high-fiber, natural, plant-based options.
Step 4: Step Away From the Scale
"Muscle weighs more than fat, so it’s easy to think you aren’t making head-way,” says Bauer. Instead of gauging your progress by the pound, track the size of your waist or simply look at the way your clothes are fitting. Or monitor tests of your fitness. “Track how long it takes you to run a mile or how many pushups or situps you can do,” says author and celebrity trainer Kathy Kaehler. You can also measure everything you’re eating each day and make sure the amount of calories and fat are going down while the protein and fiber rise.
Step 5: Never Give Up
Cave in and hit Taco Bell? “Accidentally” order a couple of doughnuts at Dunkin'? It’s OK. Really. “In order to successfully lose weight and keep it off, you’ve got to learn to forgive slipups,” says Bauer. “Everybody indulges too much once in a while. It’s human nature.” Shake it off and come back hard. Never allow slipups to snowball into a binge of bad eating. Says Kaehler: “If you’ve had a bad day, a bad month—even a bad year—you can still turn it all around and get the body you want. But you’ve got to get started now!”