Counting calories can be tedious. Eating bland meals, skipping desserts and facing an endless string of grilled, skinless chicken breast salads can get any woman down. It doesn't have to be like this, however. While you must consume fewer calories than you burn to lose weight, you can cut calories in a less arduous way.
Daily Calorie Intake
Active women need 2,000 to 2,400 calories a day to maintain their current weights. To lose pounds, you must reduce these figures slightly. A safe, healthy amount to lose is 1 to 2 pounds a week. Weigh weekly. If you don't reach your weight-loss goal, reduce your daily calories a little bit more; if you've lost more than 2 pounds, increase your calories a touch.
An easy way to cut back on calories is by making small changes to the foods you eat regularly. You don't have to completely overhaul your diet and eat nothing but egg whites and spinach; a weight-loss plan must be enjoyable and sustainable. Simple tricks, such as switching from half-and-half to skim milk in your coffee, ordering grilled bacon instead of sausage at breakfast, using sandwich thins rather than bread, buying plain instead of fruit yogurt and substituting low-fat cottage cheese for mayo can shave hundreds of calories a day, advises Melissa Daly in "Fitness Magazine."
Keeping a food journal also can help you achieve weight-loss success. According to the IDEA Fitness and Health Association, women who keep food diaries consistently lose more weight than those who don't -- up to 6 additional pounds in some cases. The key is to be honest with yourself and write down everything you eat. Then count the calories, either using the information on packaging or an online calorie counter or an app.
Beware of fad diets, which can cause nutrient deficiencies. While the initial weight loss might be quick, people generally won't stick to these types of diets for the long run, notes the American Heart Association. Rather than living off lettuce leaves, maple syrup or baby food for a month -- then slipping back into pizza, doughnuts and other bad food habits -- make small, sustainable changes to your diet to reduce your calorie intake and help ensure enduring weight-loss success.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- MayoClinic.com: Counting Calories -- Get Back to Weight-loss Basics
- Fitness Magazine: The No-Hunger Way to Cut 100s of Calories
- IDEA Fitness Journal: Food Journals Can Help Women Lose Weight
- American Heart Association: Quick-Weight-loss or Fad Diets
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images