10 Essential Steps to Losing Weight

Follow the steps below—all proven to help you lose weight and keep it off—and watch the pounds, along with your blood pressure, drop.

1. Stick To Real Foods

If you make fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, and even meat the mainstays of your diet and eschew processed foods, including cakes, chips, candy, and stripped-of-nutrients grains, you’ll find the pounds dropping with little or no effort.

2. Forget About The Fat

It’s not the fat that makes you fat, but the calories. And some fat, particularly omega-3 fatty acids and the monounsaturated fats found in olive oil and many nuts, provide significant health benefits. Plus, if you compare the calorie content of regular and low-fat versions of the same foods, you’ll find there’s often little or no difference. Ultimately, as you know, losing weight is all about calories.

3. Pay Attention To Portions

American portions have morphed from normal to super-size in the past 20 years, yet we’ve kept right on cleaning our plates as if our mothers were still standing over us. And it’s not just Big Gulps and Biggie fries; consider that identical recipes in old and new editions of classic cookbooks such as The Joy of Cooking or those for tollhouse cookies yield fewer servings today than in the past. If you train yourself to eat half or even three-quarters of what’s put in front of you, and eat it slowly so your brain gets the message that you’re full, you’ll find the pounds slipping off effortlessly.

4. Eat Breakfast Every Day

Studies find it’s a sure step to weight loss. The best breakfast includes some kind of high-fiber food, such as whole-grain toast or cereal; a protein food, such as peanut butter or low-fat cheese; and a piece of fruit.

5. Never Let Yourself Get Hungry

If you’re starving, you’re going to eat whatever is available as quickly as you can get it. If you keep packets of peanuts, small cartons of yogurt, cubes of cheese, and other healthy snacks at home or in the office (or even in the car) and have a snack midway between meals, you’ll take the edge off your hunger and be able to wait until you have a healthier meal option instead of scarfing down that bag of pork rinds.

6. Go For Low Energy Density

One of the newest buzzwords in weight-loss circles is energy density, or how much water a food contains. The higher the water content, the lower the energy density. The lower the energy density, the more you can eat and the fuller you’ll feel, while consuming far fewer calories than if you chose a food with higher energy density. For example, you can have a bowl of condensed chicken soup for the same number of calories found in an ounce of pretzels. We guarantee the soup will stick with you longer.

7. Monitor Your Liquids

The average American consumes an extra 245 calories a day from soft drinks. That’s nearly 90,000 calories a year. Divide that by the 3,500 calories it takes to gain or lose a pound of fat, and you could lose 25 pounds a year just by switching from Coke to water or fat-free milk.

8. Think About Why You’re Eating

Too often, we reach for food as a way to assuage a hunger that has nothing to do with our stomachs. Food soothes hurt feelings, comforts us when we’re sad, and releases frustration when we’re having a bad day at work. But this emotional eating, or unconscious eating, packs on the pounds with almost hideous efficiency. The next time you find yourself reaching for the Ben & Jerry’s, stop and think about why you want to eat it. Maybe taking a bath, writing in your journal, or even going for a walk would help you cope with those feelings better than the butterfat.

9. Write It Down

That means every bite you put into your mouth. People who are successful at weight loss keep an accurate food diary even after they’ve reached their goals. They write down every morsel that enters their mouths, from a can of soda to a bag of pretzels.

10. Up Your Movement

The formula for weight loss is simple: Calories in must be fewer than calories out. Other than starving yourself (proven time and time again to fail as a weight-loss approach), your best bet is to move more. Look for hidden opportunities for activity, such as going to the bathroom upstairs instead of the one down the hall, buying a push mower and ditching the riding one, and using a snow shovel rather than a snow blower.