Naturally, you want to lose weight fast -- but you're smart enough to put health over vanity. Fad diets, which tend to drastically reduce calories, deprive you of essential nutrients and almost never lead to lasting success. Your body responds to the starvation by slowing down your metabolism, so when you start eating normally again, the pounds come back fast. Smart calorie cuts and an exercise routine will cause healthy weight loss. Talk with your doctor before beginning any weight-reduction program.
Yes, you need to slash calories to lose weight, but it doesn't need to be painful. Multiply your weight times the number 12; you can eat that number of calories each day and still shed fat if you're moderately active. So, a 150-pound woman can consume 1,800 calories a day, which is both healthy and manageable. However, this formula is only a rough estimate because it doesn't take body composition into account. If you have a high percentage of body fat, as most severely overweight people do, cut a few hundred calories more from the number you get.
Cutting calories will do the trick for weight loss, but for good health it's also important to balance meals with nutritious foods. Pile fruits and vegetables onto half of your plate at every meal, and split the other half between lean proteins and whole-grain carbohydrates. Good carb choices include oatmeal, whole-wheat or whole-rye breads, whole-wheat spaghetti, corn tortillas and popcorn. Lean protein options include tofu, beans, nonfat cottage cheese, egg whites and tuna packed in water. Include some fats from nuts and avocado; these help quell cravings and are weight-loss treasures when used in moderation.
Physical fitness is key to good health, and aerobic exercise whips you into shape while incinerating calories for weight loss. Perform moderate cardio an hour a day, five days a week. Walk briskly, mow the lawn or go for a bike ride. If you up the ante with vigorous cardio, such as running or playing singles tennis, you can get away with just half an hour a day, five days a week and get the same benefits.
Strength training revs up your metabolism by building muscle tissue, which uses calories throughout the day. The exercise also increases bone mass, helping to prevent osteoporosis. Weight machines and barbells are great, but you don't need the gym for strength training; body-weight moves, such as pushups, squats and crunches, will do just fine. Dumbbells and resistance tubes also work. Warm up with five to 10 minutes of mild cardio, then perform 12 repetitions of each exercise, working all major muscle groups. Avoid overuse injuries by allowing a full day of rest between strength-training workouts.
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.