You're smart enough to see through trendy crash diets -- only healthy weight loss provides lasting results. The best fitness plans help you lose a pound or two per week through nutritious, reduced-calorie meals and plenty of heart-healthy exercise. Diets that omit entire food groups or severely restrict calories are bad news for your health, and rapid weight loss usually involves shedding water and muscle instead of fat.
To lose weight, you must respect the almighty calorie. There are roughly 3,500 calories per pound of fat, so create that much of a deficit to lose a pound. Estimate your daily calorie usage, which is about 15 times your body weight if you're moderately active. So if you weigh 145 pounds, you probably burn 2,175 pounds daily. Subtract 500 to find your daily calorie goal to lose a pound per week: 1,675 calories in the example. If you have a lot of body fat or are inactive, you need fewer calories -- but women should not get less than 1,200 calories per day.
Sure, you could eat nothing but doughnuts and still lose weight if your calorie intake was low enough -- but that's certainly not healthy. By volume, half of your food should come from fresh or steamed fruits and veggies in an assortment of colors: red, green, orange, purple, blue, white and yellow. A rainbow of foods ensures an assortment of nutrients. The rest of your diet should come from grains and proteins. Whole grains such as corn tortillas, whole-wheat bread and brown rice have the most nutrients. Opt for lean proteins such as black beans, tempeh, salmon and nonfat cottage cheese.
Get your fitness groove on with regular aerobic, or cardio, exercise, which torches calories for faster weight loss. Engage in 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate cardio exercise such as salsa dancing, walking briskly or mowing the lawn with a rapid stride. Alternatively, perform intense cardio exercise such as running, climbing stairs or vigorous cycling for 75 to 150 minutes per week, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Each cardio session should last at least 10 minutes to improve heart and lung efficiency, one of the healthiest perks of aerobic activity.
Strength training builds strength and bone density, and adds muscle mass to boost your metabolism -- muscle tissue burns calories at rest. Options include using exercise bands or balls, dumbbells, barbells or weight machines or performing body-weight moves such as crunches and lunges. Perform 12 repetitions of each exercise, working up to two or three sets over time. Include all major muscle groups: arms, legs, back, chest, abs and hips. Fit strength training into your schedule at least twice weekly, allowing 24 hours of rest before working the same muscles again.
- HelpGuide.org: How to Lose Weight and Keep It Off
- ShapeFit.com: Basal Metabolic Rate - Learn How To Calculate & Find Your BMR
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Fruits and Vegetables
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need?
- MayoClinic.com: Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.