The rate of people in the United States and around the world that are overweight and/or out of shape is very high. We’ve all seen articles around the web written by doctors and nutritionists recommending how to lose weight, but those techniques don’t work for everyone and each person is going to be a little bit different.

For example, I could never do one of those restrictive diets that tells you you can’t eat this or that. You can only eat things that are on an approved foods list and you must keep a detailed food diary. That’s just too much for me, and I am proof that all that is not necessary. In fact, restricting your diet too much can actually be unhealthy.

I’m going to give examples of the things that I have done to lose  weight, and hopefully they will be of benefit to anyone who reads this. Even if these techniques won’t work for you, hopefully you can take at least a few of them and mold them into your own weight loss plan.

The first thing I have done is watched calories. I don’t count every
single calorie. That just isn’t something I have the energy to do, and counting every single calorie is not necessary anyway. What I do is estimate. There is an iPhone app called MyFitnessPal which has helped with that. MyFitnessPal allows you to create a diary of the foods you eat and keep track of your calories consumed, as well as exercises you’ve done and calories burned.

As mentioned earlier, I don’t have the motivation to keep a diary of my meals all the time. However, I did use MyFitnessPal for a while and it was able to give me a good idea of what foods were full of calories and which were low in calories, as well as which foods had calories that were worthwhile and which were empty calories. Now I am able to reasonably estimate my calorie intake without writing it in the app or reading nutrition labels.

The average daily diet of a person who is not trying to gain or lose weight is around 2000 calories. This is the allotment that nutrition labels are typically based on. According to MyFitnessPal, it is unhealthy to eat less than 1200 calories per day. Knowing this, I met somewhere in the middle, and estimated my daily calorie allotment at 1500. This was modified with exercise, but more about that when I get into the exercise section.

In addition to the calorie estimating and monitoring, I tried to watch my portions. I have not eaten large portions or gotten second helpings. If I have something that is high in calories such as potatoes, I typically eat just a small amount, but I don’t cut them out like many diets would call for. People love to eat, and often gorge themselves on much larger portions than are necessary or healthy, hence the weight gain.

That said though, if I am feeling more hungry than usual and feel I need a large portion of food, I try to make it something that will be lower in calories and where every calorie can count. For example, I love a nice chicken salad. I mix Iceberg and Romaine lettuces, grilled chicken, shredded carrots, a bit of shredded cheese, some fruit like strawberries or pineapples, occasionally black olives, and a small amount of low-fat Zesty Italian dressing. Even in a large portion, this salad can have the same amount or fewer calories than a small personal frozen pizza, and the calories are of higher value because of the nutritional content of the salad.

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I personally love a good chicken salad. I’m picky about them and don’t like a lot of things restaurants put in them, which is why I prefer them at home, but these are great nutritionally rich meals for me.

I have cut out a few things completely, and those are mainly things that are completely empty calories. What I mean is their calorie count is high with no nutritional value to speak of whatsoever. Examples of these include sugary cereals that are not whole grain or have no substance short of the sugary pieces and sodas.

I used to be a fairly heavy soda drinker. However, I’ve cut them out almost completely in favor of flavored water. I had already cut down on sodas when I had a big revelation moment that made me even more unwilling to drink them. I decided to splurge once and get a medium Sprite from a restaurant.

When I looked in MyFitnessPal, I discovered that the medium Sprite was 275 completely empty calories. There is no nutritional value in a soda, and that is almost a fifth of my daily calorie estimate just in one drink. That’s when I decided sodas would be cut down even more, to the point now where I only drink them less than once a month, just when I feel like having something different and rewarding myself for sticking to my goal and remaining motivated.

Sugary cereals are another thing I’ve pretty much cut out. Two of my favorite cereals when I was younger were Golden Grahams and Cocoa Puffs. However, these cereals are not whole grain, have no nuts or oats or things to give them nutritional value, and they are almost purely sugar and very high in calories. This is why it is foods like these that I have completely or almost completely cut from my diet. Instead I prefer things like Multi Grain Cheerios, Honey Bunches of Oats, or Frosted Mini Wheats. They taste good and are nutritionally better than most cereals.

Along with diet modification, exercise is a wonderful thing. MyFitnessPal as well as another app, a step counter called Striiv have also helped with this goal.

When I go for walks, Striiv counts my steps and estimates my calories burned. It even gives examples of things you’ve burned when you hit certain milestones, for example a can of soda or a cupcake. It’s great that it gives you realistic examples of what you’ve burned, and gives you an idea how much you have to walk to burn it. There are also social features on the app.

Swimming is another thing I like to do that burns good calories. I particularly like to swim laps. Since Striiv won’t keep track of this, MyFitnessPal comes into play. You can enter what type of swimming you did, leisure, or a specific pace, or any number of options they have, as well as the length of time you did it, and it spits out an estimate of calories burned.

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MyFitnessPal also has a huge database of other exercise activities, some obvious like aerobics, running, swimming, and other similar things and other less obvious things like house cleaning, moving furniture, and other tasks you might do. As with the food, I only used MyFitnessPal to estimate calories burned on different activities and have gained a decent understanding of what activities burn calories and how much they burn, but if I find a new activity I’m not sure of, I can always check it.

This is where calorie estimations are modified due to exercise. Let’s say I estimate my daily calorie allotment at 1500, but then I walk enough to burn an extra 200 calories.

What I do is take half of that and add it to my daily estimate for a total of 1600. This way I can treat myself on days I work out more than others, but still maintain my weight loss efforts. I’ve found this to be a good motivator. If I’m in the mood for that cupcake Striiv tells me I’ve burned, I simply need to burn double the calories it is worth and then I can treat myself to that one, completely empty calorie treat.

If you don’t have many calories left in your daily estimate, try eating a handful of grapes or strawberries, or other low calorie fruit. You’ll be able to have a good snack for under fifty calories that way, and you won’t go over your limit.

Finally, I always check my weight regularly and try to keep track of it. I don’t obsess about it or check every day, but once every week or two is enough. This will give you an idea if you’re on target or not and allow you to modify your plan accordingly. Remember though that healthy weight loss is typically no more than one to three pounds a week, so if you’re losing more steadily than that, you might want to change your plan a bit. You can also try an app called Diet Bet where you can bet real money basically against yourself that you can lose a reasonable amount of weight in a certain amount of time.

You’re not competing against others but there are other betters. If you don’t reach your goal, you lose your money, but if you do, then you’re into a pool that splits the pot with all the other winners, so you make money off those who failed to reach their goal. I once used this app and made $17 on it, with a $25 bet that I was paid back $42. It was another great source of motivation and I might do it again sometime.

I hope that the tips included in this post are helpful to anyone who is trying to lose some weight, whether it is five pounds or one hundred, and get back in shape. Good luck with all of your weight loss and nutritional goals.

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