The best way to shed pounds is with a healthy combination of strength training, aerobic exercise and a balanced, reduced-calorie diet. Avoid fad diets that severely restrict calories, as they may cause you to lose valuable muscle or water weight when you really want to ditch the fat. Expect to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week on a sensible diet and exercise plan, but don't strive for more.
Eat 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day. That amount allows most women to lose a couple of pounds per week according to the University of Minnesota Medical School.
Eat fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, lean proteins such as kidney beans, tofu, low-fat string cheese and whole grains such as whole-wheat noodles and brown or purple rice.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and limit calorie-dense sodas, juices and alcoholic beverages. Women need about 9 cups of fluid per day, and if you skimp you may get false hunger pangs.
Write down every morsel that passes through your lips, and measure portion sizes carefully. This will cause you to feel accountable for and aware of the food you eat.
Sit down at the table as you eat, focusing on chewing instead of staring at a TV screen or magazine. Chew slowly, and stop eating before you're stuffed.
Perform cardio one hour a day, five days per week to burn serious calories. Options include walking briskly, running or swimming. If you're a gym bunny, hit the elliptical trainer, stationary bike or stair stepper.
Switch up your cardio routine every two or three weeks to stay challenged. You'll lose more weight and prevent boredom, according to "Shape" magazine.
One or twice weekly, substitute high-intensity interval training for regular cardio to torch calories all day with less workout time. Warm up, then sprint or cycle at maximum effort for 30 seconds. Switch to an easier pace for four minutes, then return to full throttle for another 30 seconds. Repeat the cycle for a total of five high-intensity intervals.
Perform weight training three times weekly for 20 to 30 minutes. Weight training boosts metabolism, encouraging faster fat loss. Weight can refer to body-weight exercises such as pushups and crunches in addition to hand-held weights exercises.
Work all major muscle groups on certain days. For example, on day one, focus on back, shoulders and biceps. On day two focus on chest and triceps. On day three, focus on legs, hips and abs.
Perform 12 repetitions of each weight-training exercise; by the twelfth rep, your muscles should feel worn out. Once you grow stronger, increase the number of reps you perform her set. If you can breeze through 15 reps, increase the weight or resistance.
- HelpGuide.org: How to Lose Weight and Keep It Off
- University of Minnesota Medical Center: Weight Loss Recommendations
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need?
- MayoClinic.com: Strength training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier
- MayoClinic.com: Water: How Much Should You Drink Every Day?
- American Physiological Society: Minutes of Hard Exercise Can Lead to All-Day Calorie Burn
- American Council on Exercise: High-Intensity Interval Training
- Shape.com: Fitness Workouts: Break the Fat Barrier
- ExRx.net: 3 Day Split Workout
- American Council on Exercise: Flexible Benefits
- Warm up fand cool down for five to 10 minutes before workouts.
- If you desire greater flexibility, stretch for five to 10 minutes after the warmup.
- If you have any health conditions or haven't been active in a few years, see your doctor before starting a new weight-loss program.
- Allow at least 24 hours of recovery between weight-training workouts.
- After six weeks of high-intensity interval training, switch to traditional cardio for a month or two to avoid overuse injury.
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.