How do I eat and exercise to lose weight?

Once you have a safe and effective plan to follow, you'll need to start looking at what you eat and how often you exercise. You have three basic steps to remember when it comes to food.
  • Eat fewer calories.
  • Consider portion sizes.
  • Think about what you can stick with for a long time.

No one likes to think so, but you'll need to make healthy choices about what you eat even after you reach your goal weight. Think of the time that you spend losing weight as the training period for how you will eat to maintain your weight loss once you've reached the weight you've desired.

Make Some Cuts in Calories

To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit. That is, you need to burn more calories than you eat. One way you can achieve this is by cutting back on the calories you take in each day. Try eating smaller portions of the foods you already eat. You do not need to deprive yourself of all the foods you like. If you reduce calories, it's important that you still get all the nutrients, such as vitamins and protein, that you need. For some guidance, consider the ideas below. Cut back on the amount of fat you eat. Fat is high in calories. Each gram of fat contains 9 calories, while each gram of carbohydrate or protein contains only 4 calories. So reducing the fat in your diet is an effective way to reduce calories and lose weight. To learn some strategies for eating less fat, see How Can I Cut the Fat in My Diet? One way to eat a low-fat diet is to follow the DASH diet. DASH is short for the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension study. In this study, people ate a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in salt, total fat, and saturated fat. As a result, they significantly reduced their blood pressure. See What Is the DASH Diet? to learn more about it. See What Can I Eat on the DASH Diet? and How Much Can I Eat on the DASH Diet?

Read food labels. To lose weight, it's not enough to simply eat foods labeled low-fat or nonfat. Many processed food products that are low in fat are loaded with sugar. This means they are high in calories. When you're trying to lose weight, all calories count, not just calories from fat. Get in the habit of reading food labels, and look for foods that are low in total fat, saturated fat, and calories.

Choose a diet you can live with. Losing weight doesn't mean you always have to feel hungry. Replace foods high in fat with foods high in carbohydrates and low in fat. When you do, you'll be cutting calories without reducing the amount of food you eat. Foods that are high in carbohydrates help you feel full. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains also contain a lot of fiber, which can prevent hunger. So there's no need to starve yourself. Also, don't deprive yourself of all your favorite foods. If you do, you're setting yourself up to fail. Work at including favorites less often or in smaller amounts. Try new healthier foods, too. You may find that some of these become your new favorites.